Monday, November 2, 2015

Pan de Muertos (Mexican Bread of the Dead)

Dead bread (pan de muerto)
a traditional Mexican sweet bread eaten during Dia de los Muertos.

This bread is made for the November 2 celebration known as the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in Mexico. Celebrants make a sweet bun-shaped bread that is decorated with finger-shaped pieces to represent the bones of the deceased.

My daughter will be celebrating Dia de los Muertos in her Spanish club today. She volunteered to make and bring this bread in for the celebration.

I absolutely love making yeast breads so I couldn't wait to give this bread a try with my daughter. 

The bread is light and airy. a bit sweet with a hint of anise and orange. It is absolutely delicious with a bit of butter. I think it would be a great bread for any holiday or celebration.

 pan de muerto

 We adapted the pan de muerto recipe from  

Bread ingredients:
  • 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 packets (1/4 oz. each) rapid-rising dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1-2 teaspoons of anise seeds
Bread glaze ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • Granulated or coarse ground sugar
  1.  Combine 1-1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, anise seeds, salt and yeast in large mixing bowl. Heat evaporated milk, water and butter in the microwave until mixture reaches 115 to 120 degrees and butter is melted. (Temperature is critical as too much heat could kill the yeast and not enough heat will cause it not to activate).
  2. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; pour in milk mixture. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until blended. (No need to use a dough hook). Add eggs and 1-1/2 cups flour; mix well. Gradually add remaining 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 cups flour , a 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition until dough is smooth but not sticky.
  3. Place dough on lightly floured surface; knead 10 to 15 minutes or until dough is moderately stiff, smooth and elastic. Additional flour may be needed to help prevent sticking. Place dough in large greased bowl; turn over. Cover with greased plastic wrap.
  4. Let rise at room temperature for 60 to 75 minutes.
  5. Punch dough down. Cut dough into 3 equal portions to make 2 loaves and 1 for decorations. On lightly floured surface, kneading as necessary, shape 2 of the portions into round loaves. Place on greased baking sheets. Keep all dough portions covered with greased plastic wrap to prevent drying of dough.
  6. Shape remaining dough portion into 2 small balls and braids or bones. To decorate, place 1 small ball on top of round loaf, surrounding each ball with the remaining braid or bone decorations. 
  7. To adhere shapes to dough with dabs of water.
  8. Loosely cover bread loaves with greased plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature for another 30 minutes.
  9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, prepare  the glaze. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and orange juice in small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until syrup is formed, about 5 minutes. (Mixture may bubble up; remove from heat if it does, stir and then return to heat.) Remove from heat.
  10. Bake loaves for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and brush loaves with syrup glaze. Sprinkle with sugar; return to oven. Continue baking for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

Bread after applying the glaze. You can leave it like this or sprinkle with sugar


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