How to Bake a Traditional Pan de Muerto

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Photo courtesy of http://GabrielasKitchen.com

{Today´s post is part of Dia de los Muertos Week on SpanglishBaby and comes courtesy of food blogger, Gabrielle Lopez.}

“The Mexican . . . is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and his most steadfast love.” –Octavio Paz

The dead need their daily bread too. We are quickly approaching November 1st and like many Mexican households I am remembering and celebrating my dearly departed. As it is believed that November 1st and 2nd are the easiest days for our dearly departed to visit and take pleasure in earthly delights, I have lit candles and set out fragrant Marigolds to guide their way, baked delicious Pan de Muerto to satisfy their hunger and set out a glass of water to quench their thirst.

I hope all of the saints and all of the souls enjoy this Pan de Muerto. (I baked few extra loaves to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea and plan on slicing a loaf or two for French Toast.)

Recipe adapted from the cookbook Frida’s Fiestas:

Pan de Muerto is a sweet egg bread (think a crumbly brioche) that can be flavored with fragrant anise,orange zest and cinnamon and is decorated with bone shaped pieces of dough and sprinkled with sparkling sugar.


–4 c. flour (3 3/4 c. flour +1/4 c. flour)

–3/4 c.sugar + 1 Tbs. Sugar

–1/2 c. unsalted butter

–1/2 Tbs. yeast

–3/4 c. milk

–3 large eggs

–1/2 tsp. salt

–1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

–zest of one orange (optional)

–1/2 tsp. anise seed (optional)

–plus 1 egg for a wash, and extra sugar for dusting

Photo courtesy of http://GabrielasKitchen.com

In a large bowl combine milk, yeast, orange zest, 1/4 c. flour and 1 Tbs. sugar. Let stand for 30 minutes, then add the three gently beaten eggs.

In a separate bowl combine 3 3/4 c. flour, 3/4 c. sugar, salt, cinnamon and anise. Add this flour mixture to the wet mixture, kneading with you hands (at this point the dough will feel very sticky, kned until it is only slightly sticky. You may add an extra teaspoon of flour at a time if needed.)

Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Add the butter to the dough working it until fully incorporated.  Shape into a ball, grease and lightly flour. Place in bowl and cover with a damp towl to rise for 2 hours.

Separate dough into 6 parts. Shape 5 into balls and place on a greased baking sheet. Decorate the tops of the rolls with the remaining dough by rolling the dough into coils and strips that look like bones.

Allow the bread to rise for an additional hour in a warm place. brush tops of bread with egg white and dust with sugar. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Gabrielle Marie Lopez lives and works in Harlem, New York City. She, along with her boyfriend, Alex Uballez, run the blog Gabriela’s Kitchen that focuses on traditional Mexican Home Cooking and Contemporary Interpretations of Latino Cuisine. Gabrielle’s passion for cooking was spawned by her mother, grandmother and madrina and has been nurtured by her mentor and friend, chef and cookbook author extrordinaire Zarela Martinez. Gabrielle is also the Harlem correspondent on Top Chef Master Marcus Samuelsson’s blog.

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