|Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 16g||20%|
|Saturated Fat 8g||42%|
|Total Carbohydrate 95g||35%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||12%|
|Total Sugars 19g|
|Vitamin C 2mg||11%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
Nearly everyone in central and southern Mexico enjoys pan de muerto—translated literally as "bread of the dead"—in early November as an important element of the annual Day of the Dead celebration. Most family and communal ofrendas (offerings for the beloved deceased) include at least one loaf left for the enjoyment of visiting souls.
Many varieties of pan de muerto exist, with their shape, texture, and flavor particular to one or more geographical and cultural regions in Mexico. This recipe, common in Mexico City, yields a sweet, semi-spherical loaf decorated with pieces of dough in shapes that represent bones and tears.
Nowadays, although many buy pan de muerto from a bakery, you can partake in the delicious tradition of homemade pan de muerto with this recipe. Pan de muerto is often served with sugar skulls, posole, tamales, conchas, and/or enfrijoladas, but in general, celebrations often include favorite dishes of loved ones who passed, and can vary from region to region and home to home.
4 ounces butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon whole aniseed
1 teaspoon salt
6 cups white bread flour or all-purpose flour, divided
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
Serving suggestion: Mexican hot chocolate or champurrado
Gather the ingredients.
Use the dough hook to mix the ingredients until they begin to come together.
In a separate small bowl, whisk together the eggs, water, and orange zest.
Add this to the stand mixer bowl, along with another 1/2 cup of the flour. Mix until combined.
Add the yeast and another 1/2 cup of flour, mixing to combine.
Add the remaining flour 1 cup at a time, mixing between additions, until a dough forms.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for 1 minute.
Cover it with a clean, damp dishcloth and let rise in a warm area for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Separate about 1/4 of the dough and use it to make bone shapes to drape across the loaf.
Shape the rest of the dough into a flat-bottomed semi-sphere. Position the bone shapes on the top of the loaf and press gently so they adhere. Let the dough rise for an additional hour. Heat oven to 350 F.
Bake the loaf in a preheated oven for about 40 minutes (30 minutes for smaller loaves).
Cool and glaze, if desired, before serving.
Cut pan de muerto into large wedges for eating by hand. Serve it with Mexican hot chocolate or champurrado (chocolate atole) if you like. Enjoy!
Note: The most common bone-shaped dough pieces look stylized yet still simple. You might just form ball shapes and press them into the loaf in a line. You also can take a piece of dough, roll it into a long cylinder and place a ball at each end. You can add more detail if you like, but even a slightly "knobby" loaf gets the idea across.
You can cut the dough ball in half before you put it in the oven and make it into two loaves if you like. Just reduce the baking time slightly.
You can make a few different types of glazes for pan de muerto. After applying a glaze, sprinkle the loaf with plenty of white or color sugars, using granulated sugar, superfine (not confectioners') sugar, or table sugar pulverized in a blender or food processor. Here are a few more options.
Orange juice glaze: Bring 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup fresh orange juice to a brief boil, then cool to room temperature. Brush it on the bread after the loaf cools.
Orange juice-egg white glaze: Mix 3 tablespoons thawed orange juice concentrate and 1/3 cup sugar with 2 large egg whites. Brush it on the bread during the last 10 minutes of baking.
Brown sugar-cranberry juice glaze: Bring 1/4 cup piloncillo (or dark-brown sugar), 1/4 cup white sugar, 2/3 cup cranberry juice, and 2 tablespoons orange zest to a boil, then let it cool to room temperature. Brush it on a baked loaf after the bread cools.
How to Store and Freeze Pan de Muerto
This bread keeps well for several days at room temperature if it's well wrapped. It makes excellent toast and after a couple of days, even better French toast.
If you decide to bake two separate loaves, feel free to freeze one after it's cooled. Reheat it from frozen at 350 for about 45 minutes to an hour (depending on size). Follow the recipe for the glaze, if desired.