January 6 is Dreikönigstag (Three Kings Day) and is the 12th and final day of Christmas. Time to pack up your decorations and officially say goodbye to another yuletide season... after one last sweet pastry of course.
Before moving to Switzerland I was not familiar with the celebrations for Dreikönigstag. I remember purchasing one of the special breads with the crown in it simply because it looked tasty. It was only after biting into my breakfast roll and nearly losing a tooth that I discovered the 'hidden surprise' and the meaning behind it.
In Switzerland, Dreikönigstag is celebrated with Dreikönigskuchen, a sweet, rich bread containing candied fruit that is formed into a ring of buns and topped with crunchy sugar crystals. It comes with a paper crown and a 'hidden surprise', often a figurine of a king or a coin baked within one of the buns. If you are 'lucky' enough to get the bun with the figurine (and your teeth are still intact) you become 'King or Queen for the day'. This means that you are officially excused from any household drudgery and can order around your family, while enjoying the rest of your sweet bun and wearing a snazzy crown.
Although this tradition has been celebrated in one form or another for centuries, the Swiss bread crown itself is relatively new. In 1952, as a result of the collective lobbying by Switzerland's bakers to drive sales, the bread crown of Dreikönigskuchen was born. Before this, the celebratory cake took the more traditional form of a 'galette', a flatter version made with pastry, almond paste and pastry creme, often going by the French name, 'Galette des Rois'.
Both versions are widely available in Basel in bakeries and supermarkets. Manor takes it one step further and even hides gold coins in select bread crowns that can be redeemed for actual gold. It is said that across Switzerland approximately 1.5 million Dreikönigskuchen are sold every January 6. If you are a keen baker and prefer to try your own, La Pâticesse has a recipe for Dreikönigskuchen and Französisch Kochen has one for 'Galette des Rois'.
I hope you enjoy this tasty treat and find the hidden treasure to rule your household for the day. Try and have it coincide with laundry day 😉.