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Get creative with how you mold the dough; these instructions are for shaping crossbones, but you could also make several small loaves or divide the dough into thirds to make a braid.
- 1 ¼-ounce envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ teaspoons)
- 5⅓ cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1 teaspoon orange-flower water
- ¾ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus 6 tablespoons melted, divided
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Mix yeast, ⅓ cup flour, and ¼ cup warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer with a wooden spoon or spatula until a sticky dough forms. This is your starter. Let rest, uncovered, in a warm, draft-free area until starter looks very loose and bubbles are forming on top (it will resemble pancake batter on a griddle), about 35 minutes.
Whisk eggs, anise, salt, orange-flower water, and ¾ cup sugar in a medium bowl until foamy and sugar begins to dissolve, about 1 minute. Add egg mixture and remaining 5 cups flour to starter and mix with a dough hook on medium-low speed, adding ¾ cup softened butter a few pieces at a time, until a soft dough forms, about 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium and continue mixing until sugar is dissolved and dough is shiny and elastic, about 10 minutes (dough will be very sticky).
Lightly brush a large bowl with 2 Tbsp. melted butter. Transfer dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until almost doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper; coat parchment with nonstick spray. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface, then cut off a baseball-sized piece of dough (about one-quarter of the dough). Using your hands, re-shape the larger piece into a smooth round ball and transfer to the center of a prepared sheet. Roll smaller piece into an 8"-long log, then divide into 4 equal lengths. Shape one of those lengths into a ball and place on second prepared sheet 3" from the edge.
Roll another length of dough with the palm of your hand into an 8½"-long rope, pressing out from the center so the middle is thinner and both ends are knobby, resembling a bone. Place on prepared sheet a few inches away from smaller ball. Repeat with remaining 2 pieces of dough, transferring to sheet as you go. Brush all 5 pieces of dough with 2 Tbsp. melted butter and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free area until almost doubled in size, about 1½ hours.
Preheat oven to 325°. Remove plastic wrap and carefully pick up one of the bones, lifting from the ends (it will stretch and deflate slightly). Drape over large dough round, positioning at 10 o’clock and 4 o’clock. Repeat with second bone, positioning at 2 o’clock and 8 o’clock. Position third bone at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock. Carefully place smaller ball in the center, at point where bones overlap, gently pressing edges of ball into bones and larger ball, crowning the loaf.
Bake bread until browned and it sounds hollow when tapped with your fingertips, 40–50 minutes. Working in sections, brush one-quarter of the loaf with melted butter and immediately sprinkle with sugar so that it sticks. Repeat with remaining sections and butter. Let cool on a wire rack at least 1 hour before slicing.
Do Ahead: Dough rounds and bones can be formed 1 day ahead; cover tightly and chill. Let rise until doubled in size before baking, 2½–3½ hours. Bread can be made 3 days ahead; let cool completely before storing and keep tightly wrapped at room temperature.
How to Make Mexican Day of the Dead BreadReviews Section
La Lechera Day of the Dead Bread
Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico and certain parts of Central America and the U.S. On November 1 and 2, people honor their deceased relatives with colorful masks, flowers and grave decorations. This yeasty, glazed egg bread, Pan de Muerto, is commonly round with pieces of dough on top representing bones and skulls. This recipe is simple and hearty, with only a small dusting of sugar. Enjoy alone or with a sweet dip.
100 mins. Standing Time standing
Servings: 2 loaves, 10 servings per loaf
STIR yeast and warm water in a large glass bowl allow to rest 10 minutes. Heat La Lechera and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until butter is melted. Add anise seeds, salt and La Lechera mixture to yeast mixture and stir to combine.
ADD eggs and 1 cup flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. Continue adding remaining flour, cup by cup, stirring well until dough comes together. Knead dough gently for about 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticky. Place in large greased bowl. Cover with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
LINE a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
PUNCH dough down and divide in half. Cut 3 small (about 1 tablespoonful) balls from each half. Roll out 4 small dough balls to form the “bones”. Shape each of larger dough pieces into round loaves. Gently press the bones on top of the loaves crossing each other to make an “X”. Roll the remaining 2 small dough balls to form the “skulls”. Put skulls in middle of each “X” and gently press down. Place loaves on the prepared baking sheet and allow to rise in warm place for about 30 minutes.
PREHEAT oven to 350º F. Brush tops of each loaf with egg wash.
BAKE for 20 minutes remove loaves from oven and brush again with egg wash and sprinkle each with half of the granulated sugar. Return to oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Serve warm or cool completely. Best eaten the same day prepared.
Mexican Recipes to Celebrate the Day of the Dead
Tamales are the go-to Mexican dish for any kind of celebration, so they’re also one of the most important food offerings in any altar.
Many families spend the day cooking a huge batch of tamales of several different flavors for their altar.
Although cooking dozens and dozens of tamales can be tiresome, it’s a also a great way for people to bond during kitchen duty. At least that’s what we do in my family.
Take your pick from any of these delicious tamale recipes and start cooking!
Mole is one of Mexico’s most iconic dishes. It’s spicy, it’s sweet, and it’s also a common festive dish all over Mexico, so it’s nearly always served in Day of the Dead offerings.
Mole sauce is made by roasting and grounding several seeds, spices, and chili peppers. There are many different recipes for mole, but all of them include adding chocolate to the mix. This is the ingredient which gives mole it’s special taste.
Chicken in mole sauce is probably the most common dish served in many Mexican celebrations, including the Day of the Dead. The smell of it brings back memories of countless family reunions in my great-grandmother’s house when I was little.
Pick one of these mole recipes and start making yummy memories.
Candied pumpkin is one of the most popular dishes to make during the Day of the Dead. Since pumpkins are native to Mexico, it’s likely the Mayans and the Aztecs also offered pumpkin dishes to their long-lost ancestors.
Although Mexican pumpkins are green instead of orange on the outside, they are also very meaty. With a little sweetness added, they become a delicious dessert.
Put a spin in your pumpkins with one of these recipes!
Sweet Potatoes in Syrup
Sweet potatoes are another ancient Mexican ingredient which is always present in the Day of the Dead offerings.
There are many Mexican sweet potato dishes (empanadas, soup, patties, pudding, stews) but Sweet potatoes in Syrup are a top Mexican favorite this time of year. Plus, it’s ridiculously easy to make.
Try your hand at this recipe. You can’t go wrong!
There’s a kind of purple sweet potato which is only found in Mexico during the fall. It’s mashed and cooked in syrup and makes for a fitting addition to altar offerings, because purple is considered the color of mourning in the Catholic tradition.
Day of the Dead Bread
Of course, the most popular and important food during the Day of the Dead is the bread. Since it’s only baked this time of year, most people don’t miss out on the opportunity to enjoy a piece (or many).
You could say this bread is a “modern” addition to the Day of the Dead offerings because Mexican baking began after the Europeans arrived in America, about 500 years ago. FYI, a 500-year-old tradition is considered modern in Mexico.
Traditional Day of the Dead bread is sprinkled with sugar or seeds and topped with a circle in the middle and four stems radiating from the center. Some say the stems represent bones. Other say the circle and the stems represent the five ancient Mesoamerican directions- north, south, east, west, and center.
Make some Day of the Dead bread for you to enjoy this season!
There’s another very traditional kind of bread which is shaped like a human body and it’s not usually sprinkled with anything. This is the only kind of Day of the Dead bread I knew of when I was little, and it’s also the way my grandmother used to bake it.
Even today, in small towns and villages in Mexico, families gather together (and may even miss work or school) to bake bread in stone ovens for their Day of the Dead offering.
It’s hard work, but just like making tamales, it’s also an opportunity for family bonding.
Atole is a hot, thick drink made of corn masa with milk or water. It comes in many different flavors and it’s also staple for the Day of the Dead.
Atole was the original Mexican energy drink because it’s a calorie bomb. The Aztecs fed it to babies to stimulate growth and to warriors headed for battle.
In those ancient times, the Aztecs believed that when a person died, he or she had to embark on a long, perilous journey to the Afterworld. During the Day of the Dead, the souls of the deceased could return briefly to Earth, but they had to journey back to their world afterwards.
That’s why Day of the Dead offering typically includes several cups of hot atole, so the Dead will have energy and nourishment for their long journey back.
In modern-day Mexico, atole is still widely consumed during the fall and winter months. There’s no better way to keep yourself warm on a cold evening.
Pick a recipe and pour yourself a cup of hot atole. Just remember a little goes a long way!
Sugar skulls are a lovely and sweet Mexican tradition, and it’s not surpising to see many people in other countries have included them in their Halloween celebrations.
Skulls are ubiquitous in ancient Mexican art as a symbol of death and the god of the Afterworld, Mictlantecuhtli.
But during the Day of the Dead celebration, skulls are not meant to be creepy because this isn’t a sad occasion. You’re welcoming your loved ones back home, remember?
Therefore, festive skulls are placed in altar offerings and may have the name of the deceased written on their sugared foreheads as a sign of remembrance.
Sugar skulls are meant to be only for decorating the altar because they’re too hard for you to sink your teeth into. However, there are other kinds of sweet skulls made of chocolate and amaranth that are definitely worth munching on.
Try your hand at making these lovely, sweet skulls at home!
Day of the Dead Traditions
All these traditional dishes are a mixture of indigenous and European ingredients, which is exactly the definition of Mexican cuisine.
Aside from these, families can make many other dishes depending on what their dearly departed liked to eat or drink.
In my family, the Day of the Dead offering usually includes bread, fruit, sweet potatoes, candied pumpkin, tamales, and sugar skulls. Sometimes we’ll cook mole, and sometimes another dish, depending on what Mom wants to make.
The tradition also includes remembering our loved ones who have passed away and other ancestors as well. This is an opportunity for my children to learn about their grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents. Mexican families can have very deep roots!
Like us, I hope you find a way to remember your loved ones in a comforting and loving way through delicious food and family time. Happy Day of the Dead!
Like many other sweet breads (such as challah of Finnish pulla), the dough for this bread is a &ldquorich dough&rdquo that consists of milk, eggs, and butter.
Pan de Muerto is commonly lightly flavored with anise and given an orange glaze after baking.
The warm spice and orange combo is one that is familiar in the fall. And it is common in other Day of the Dead foods, like calabaza en tacha (Mexican candied pumpkin).
Three strips of dough rolled into &ldquobones&rdquo and one very small piece of dough to top it all off.
To create the topping of &lsquobones,&rsquo for our Day of the Dead bread, divide the dough into a larger portion and a few smaller portions.
If you roll the small portions into a rope, keeping your fingers roughly in the same place, you will create 4 little nobbies on the rope. When arranged on the bread, these look remarkably like a pile of bones.
It is most common to arrange the bones in a circle pattern, representing the circle of life.
As the dough rises and bakes, the circle of &lsquobones&rsquo may shift a bit, but that&rsquos more than ok. It adds to the rustic appeal of the bread!
How Mexico Celebrates the Day of the Dead with Bread
Sitting in the literal sweet spot of Mexican comfort food season, one kicked off by pozole in September and rounded out by tamalesduring Candlemas, is the October arrival of pan de muerto into the bakeries of Mexico. While the name evokes suitably seasonal spookiness–pan de muerto means "dead bread," after all–there’s nothing horrifying about these lightly-orange flavoured pan dulces. Even if they are shaped to look like bones.
While high praise is often lauded upon the Christmastime roscas de reyesand their Jesus figurine innards, pan de muerto is the bread that really proves Mexico knows its way around a seasonal pan dulce. Shaped like a conchaminus the only part of the concha anyone really enjoys—the crumbly cookie crust—pan de muerto and its buttery, orange-infused dough manages to comfortably land its consistency somewhere between the milky, moist texture of a Mexican pastel de tres leches, and the dreaded dryness of an over-floured bread.
It also swaps out that concha cookie crust for the distinctive four-pronged pinwheels of knobbly bread "bones" which help the pan de muerto stand out in a sea of baked good compadres, simultaneously offering a pleasantly crunchy counterbalance to the somewhat brioche-like bread itself.
Yet while this seasonal Mexican sweet bread is atypical in so many ways, a pan de muerto done right will almost always have a lightly browned exterior doused in lavish levels of sugar. (Admittedly, some variations do swap out the crunchy sugar for sesame seeds.)
However, pan de muerto is not just for consumption by the living, playing an important (but little known beyond Mexico) role in the country’s celebration of life and death. While the pan de muerto origin story is murky at best (read: assumed to be a mash up of Mesoamerican ritual and Spanish sensibilities), the bread itself is inextricably connected with one modern-day D de Muertos celebration in particular: the altar.
Across Mexico on November 1 and 2, ofrenda-laden altares built to honor the dead come to life, complementing their colorful papel picado backdrops with items which once held sentimental value to the deceased. Sure, beer and football shirts often count among the offerings, but rarely is a Mexican altar complete without, amongst other things, bright orange cempasuchiles, salt and, of course, the sugar-dusted dome of a pan de muerto.
Many families nowadays will make their own batches of scene-stealing pan de muerto, sometimes consuming them in the midst of their vigil. Arguably, these homemade versions are the best, given that the rougher around the edges the better when it comes to panes de muerto. In fact, they should ideally look like they just emerged from your grandma’s oven, hand-molded and perhaps slightly uneven they should be as imperfectly charming as the dead they honor.
And honor the dead they do. Those aforementioned bone-shaped toppers aren’t just there for the fun of it. Instead, the central "skull" from which they fan out signifies the circular nature of life and death, with some suggesting the pan de muerto itself is a baked representation of the body. This is taken literally by some regional variants, which opt for a dusting of red sugar to complete the corporeal comparisons.
So, don’t have your head turned by the sugar skull, that quintessential Day of the Dead icon with its added shards of shiny foil and swirls of multicolored icing, as they adorn altares not dinner tables, to be admired not devoured. No, pan de muerto is the real Day of the Dead MVP.
But what if you’re not using the bread to honor the dead, instead enjoying it just as a seasonal snack? Well, you can’t go wrong with wolfing it straight from the bag as soon as you get home from the supermarket, although quickly blasting it in the microwave first to combat end-of-day dryness is never a bad idea either. If you’re feeling fancy, try a chocolate version that’s been stuffed with a rich hazelnut crème patissiere, or some healthy scoops of pistachio ice cream. But always, always serve with a frothy Mexican hot chocolate.
Day of the Dead Altar
My sister and I set this altar for my father a couple of years ago for the Day of the Dead. Besides the traditional food, we added roasted peanuts, he loved to eat peanuts, and fruit, a lot of fruits.
Click on the recipe name to go to the recipe: Café de olla- Coffee from the pot, Basic Atole recipe, Champurrado, a thick chocolate drink, Pork Tamales wrapped in banana leaves, Basic Tamales recipe using masa harina, Zacahuil, one large tamal, Mole Poblano, Enchiladas Rojas, Red Pozole, Buñuelos with an aromatic syrup, Candied Pumpkin, Candied Sweet potatoes.
And last but not least "Pan de Muerto", Day of the Dead Bread.
Pan de Muerto (Day of the Dead Bread)
- ▢ 4 ounces butter at room temperature
- ▢ 3/4 cup white sugar
- ▢ 1 tablespoon whole anise seeds
- ▢ 1 teaspoon salt
- ▢ 6 cups all-purpose flour
- ▢ 4 large eggs at room temperature
- ▢ 1 1/4 cups warm water not to exceed 110 F
- ▢ 2 tablespoons orange zest
- ▢ 2 1/4-ounce packets instant dry yeast
Instead of Glaze Sprinkle with Sugar
- This recipe makes a very large Pan de Muerto loaf. You can make 2 loaves or 8 smaller loaves.
- Instead of glazing the bread, you can brush the pan de muerto with melted butter and sprinkle it generously with sugar.
Take a look more spooky Halloween recipes from our #HalloweenTreatsWeek Bloggers today:
Halloween Cookies & Bars:
- from BigBearsWife from Savory Moments from House of Nash Eats from Sweet ReciPEAS from Fresh Coast Eats from Strawberry Blondie Kitchen
Halloween Cakes & Cupcakes:
Sweet Halloween Treats:
- from Devour Dinner from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks from Tastes of Homemade from An Affair from the Heart from Sweet Beginnings from Family Around the Table from Karen’s Kitchen Stories from I am a Honey Bee
Savory Halloween Recipes:
Spooky Season is here and it is time for 2020’s #HalloweenTreatsWeek event! #HalloweenTreatsWeek is a yearly Halloween blogging event that is hosted by Angie from Big Bear’s Wife & its a creepy and haunting week-long event is filled with some amazingly wicked Halloween treats, recipes and some frightfully fun giveaways.
“When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers ‘tis near Halloween.”
For the 3rd annual #HalloweenTreatsWeek event we have 30 hauntingly talented bloggers that are sharing their favorite Halloween recipes throughout the week! Follow the hashtag #HalloweenTreatsWeek on social media and look at the bottom of each post to see all of the Halloween recipes that we’re sharing!
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a Rafflecopter giveaway Giveaway open to US Residents 18 years or older. All entries will be verified. No PO Boxes Please. Prizes will be sent directly from sponsors to winners, bloggers are not responsible for prizes. This giveaway runs from October 5th – October 10th at 11:59PM EST. Winners will be selected soon afterward and contacted by e-mail. Winners will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. There are a total of 14 prizes and therefore we will have a total of 14 winners. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited by law. Disclaimer: These posts and recipes are part of the week-long event, #HalloweenTreatsWeek but all opinions are 100% mine! We would like to Thank our amazing brand sponsors: Dixie Crystals that provided a prize pack for our giveaways and also sent some samples and products to the #HalloweenTreatsWeek bloggers to use in their recipes. We would also love to give a huge thanks to our Halloween Treats Week bloggers because a lot of them also donated prizes for the giveaways, including: Angie of BigBearsWife , Nicole of Nicole Taggart’s Origami Owl Jewelry Bar, Kathy of Lemon Blossoms, Terri of Our Good Life, Julie of Back To My Southern Roots, Peabody of Sweet ReciPEAS, Megan of Strawberry Blondie Kitchen, Nicole of For the Love of Food Blog, Michaela of An Affair from the Heart, Jennifer of Take Two Tapas , Michele of West Via Midwest, Shanaka of It’s Shanaka, Ashley of Cheese Curd In Paradise, and Amy from House of Nash Eats!
Other Day of the Dead Traditions
When planning a Day of the Dead theme party, creating a festive atmosphere makes all the difference. There are so many fun colours, centerpieces and decorations you can create to pull it all together.
Popular ideas for Día de Los Muertos Party Decorations include elements such as Papel picado banners (lacy paper cut-outs), sugar skulls and fresh or paper marigold flowers and other traditional Día de Muertos decorations.
Day of the Dead Bread - Recipes
Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, Mexico's festive annual celebration of life —and death — takes place on November 2. The modern celebration, now an official Catholic holiday, owes its roots to the Aztecs, who devoted two full months of the year to honor the dead and assist departed souls to their final destination. During and after the Spanish conquest, the culture of the Aztecs became infused with the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Consequently, the Day of the Dead coincides with All Souls' Day, the day after All Saints' Day.
The Day of the Dead is a time of smiles, not tears. During the day, children dress in ghost and goblin costumes and parade gaily through the streets of towns and villages. Many special candies and foods are prepared for the day, such as skulls and skeletons made from marzipan, chocolate, or sugar. Bakers make sweet breads in the shape of bones, humans, flowers, and animals.
Along with formal religious ceremonies (three requiem masses), people attend more personal rituals with their families. In honor of the dead, families create brightly decorated shrines both in their homes and at cemeteries. The shrines or altars are covered with pictures, favorite items of the deceased, flowers, candies, mescal or tequila, and food, especially loaves of decorated bread.
The breads are placed on shrines and altars as offerings for the deceased and are given to visitors arriving for the celebration. Bread is sold in large quantities on the streets of towns and villages and shared with family and friends. So great is the demand for the Bread of the Dead that big-city bakers call on smalltown master bakers to meet the demand. Bread of the Dead is shaped into a wide variety of death-related shapes and figures but is most commonly decorated with dough in the shape of human bones.
The orange flower water used in this recipe is available in many large supermarkets and specialty food stores. It gives a subtle orange flavor. One teaspoon of finely grated orange zest can be substituted, but the bread will have a bolder taste.
By hand: In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast in the water to soften. Heat the milk to 110°F and add it to the yeast along with the eggs, butter, orange flower water. salt, anise seeds, sugar, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead, adding flour a little at a time. until the dough is smooth and elastic.
By mixer: In the mixer bowl, sprinkle the yeast in the water to soften. Heat the milk to 110°F and add it to the yeast along with the eggs, butter. orange flower water, salt, anise seeds, sugar, and 2 cups of the flour. Using the mixer paddle, beat on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Change to the dough hook. Continue to add flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just begins to clean the bowl. Knead 4 to 5 minutes on medium-low.
By Food Processor: In a large measuring cup or bowl. sprinkle the yeast in the water to soften. Heat the milk to 100°F and add it to the yeast along with the eggs, butter, and orange flower water. In a bowl, combine the salt, anise seeds, sugar, and 4 cups flour. Put the dry- ingredients in the bowl of the food processor fitted with the dough blade. Add the liquid ingredients and pulse 9 or 10 times until the ingredients begin to come together in a ball. Check the liquid-to-flour ratio. Once the dough begins to come together, process exactly 60 seconds.
By bread machine: Put the water, milk, eggs, butter, and orange flower water in the bread pan. Add the salt, anise seeds, sugar, and 4 cups flour to the bread pan, then sprinkle with the yeast. Select the Dough cycle and press Start. While the dough is mixing, check the liquid-to-flour ratio. The machine stops after the kneading cycle. You may let the dough rise in the bread machine or a bowl.
First Rise: Put the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour.
Shape: Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Remove a tennis-ball-sized portion of dough and set aside. Shape the larger piece of dough into a smooth ball and place on a parchment-lined or well-seasoned baking sheet. Flatten the dough into a 1-inch-thick disk. Divide the remaining dough in half and roll each piece into an 8-inch rope. Lay the ropes on top of the loaf parallel to each other about 3 inches apart. With scissors or a knife, cut into the end of each rope about 3/4 inch and spread the ends apart slightly to resemble bones.
Second Rise: Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise for 45 minutes.
Preheat Oven: About 10 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Prepare topping: Beat the egg and sugar until the sugar dissolves, then brush the mixture on the top and sides of the bread.
Bake and Cool: Bake for 30 minutes until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190°F. Immediately remove the bread from the baking sheet and place on a rack to cool.
NOTE: This bread freezes nicely for up to 6 months. To serve, first thaw the bread, then reheat on a baking sheet or directly on the oven rack in a 375°F oven for 7 to 10 minutes.
Recipe Source: Celebration Breads: Recipes, Tales, and Traditions by Betsy Oppenneer, Simon and Schuster, 2003