Dia de los Muertos

Last week was Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), if you missed it do not worry you have a year to prepare for the next one.  I have always loved attending Day of the Dead events and was able to find one in New York to participate in.  There is so much history and tradition tied to DoD that I will not get into – you can google it if you are curious. I just wanted to share the highlights of the event I attended and a recipe.

The thing I loved best about the event was that at the end of the night when the alters were taken down everything was distributed among the crowd. It was more than encouraged but expect of you to take something away with you whether it was a flower or some of the Pan de Muerto.  For me it established more of a sense of community than what was already present as bouquets of flowers and loaves of bread were separated and divided amongst each other. There was also Mariachi’s and the best Mexican food I have had since moving back to the East Coast.  I ordered some Al Pastor tacos and some Mexican Hot Chocolate. Everything was delicious.

One of the most common traditions for Dia de los Muertos is Pan de Muerto.  It is a bread made to be shared with the dead that you are remembering. There are different variations on the recipe, but here is one that you can use for next year. I recommend dipping it in your hot chocolate – so good.

Pan de Muerto

Prep Time: 3 hours
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours, 40 minutes
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 packets dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons whole anise seed
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • Glaze (see below)
Bring all ingredients to room temperature (except for the water which should be very warm) before beginning.In a large bowl, mix together butter, sugar, anise, salt and 1/2 cup of the flour. In a seperate bowl combine the eggs and the water. Add the egg/water mixture to the first mixture and add in another 1/2 cup of the flour. Add in the yeast and another 1/2 cup of flour. Continue to add the flour 1 cup at a time until a dough forms.

Knead on a floured surface for about 1 minute. Cover with a slightly damp dishcloth and let rise in a warm area for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Bring out dough and punch it down. Remove about 1/4 of it and use it to make bone shapes to drape across the loaf (see below.) Or divide the dough into smaller pieces to create other bone shapes. Let the shaped dough rise for 1 more hour.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes for smaller loaves and up to 45 minutes for larger loaves.

GLAZES(After glaze is applied you may decorate with additional colored sugar.)

  • Bring to a boil- 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup fresh orange juice. Brush on bread and then sift some additional sugar over the top.
  • Mix 3 tablespoons orange juice concentrate and 1/3 cup sugar with 2 egg whites. Brush on bread during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
  • Bring to a boil- 1/4 cup piloncillo, 1/4 cup sugar, 2/3 cup cranberry juice and 2 tablespoons orange zest. Brush on bread after bread has cooled.
  • BONES The most common bone decorations are very simple. Sometimes it’s just a matter of forming ball shapes and pressing them into the loaf in a line. You could also take a piece of dough, roll it into a long cylinder and place a ball at each end. You can get much more detailed if you like, but even a slighly “knobby” looking loaf will get the idea across.

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