Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pan de Muerto

I haven't posted in over a week (my apologies!) but I'm thrilled to be back with one of my favorite sweet breads of the season -- pan de muerto.  This requires a little bit of a back story.  From junior high through college I regularly took Spanish classes.  Come November, my Spanish teachers would always take a day out of lecture to have a party celebrating Dia de los Muertos, and it became my favorite event of the fall semester.  We would listen to music, decorate masks, and eat the oh-so-delicious pan de muerto to celebrate this day.

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a holiday celebrated in Mexico and around the world that honors loved ones that have passed away.  People create memorials to honor the dead and spend the day remembering with gatherings and offerings to encourage the departed souls to come back to Earth.  People celebrate with brightly decorated skulls (in obvious contrast to our Halloween celebrations), marigold flowers, and food. 

Overall, it's a wonderful holiday that celebrates life and honors the dead.  One of my favorite parts about Dia de los Muertos is pan de muerto.  This delicious sweet bread is traditionally served during Dia de los Muertos and can be either shaped into a bun or into a skull with colorful sugar decorating the top.  I couldn't get enough pan de muerto during the high school celebrations, and the same is true today!  Not only is this bread completely delicious, but baking it reminds me to honor my friends and family that are no longer with me.  Consider celebrating this great holiday by baking some of your own pan de muerto!

Pan de Muerto
makes one giant loaf of bread
5-6 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 packets dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tablespoon anise seed
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter
4 eggs

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
zest from one orange

In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of flour, yeast, salt, anise seed, and sugar.  Mix to combine. 

In a small pan, heat the milk, water, and butter until nearly boiling.  Stir the warm liquid and the dry ingredients together until blended.  Mix in the eggs and add remaining flour gradually as needed until the dough is soft and not tacky.  I ended up using about 5 cups of flour total.  Knead the dough on a floured surface for ten minutes.  Place dough in a lightly greased bowl in a warm environment.  Cover.  Allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. 

Remove the dough from the bowl and shape into a large round.  Add additional molds to the top if desired.  (My "bones" didn't work out well!)  Let the bread rise for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough on top.  Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown.

In a pan, mix the 1/2 cup of sugar, orange juice, and orange zest.  Heat over medium-high heat and allow to boil for two minutes.  This will make a glaze for the top of the bread.

When the bread is still warm, top with powdered sugar and then brush on the glaze.  Sprinkle colored sugar sprinkles on top in a design if desired.

Eat, enjoy, and happy Dia de los Muertos!


  1. I love pan de muerto!!!

  2. I know!! Doesn't it remind you of RHS Spanish class?!