Day of the Dead Bread

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The Day of the dead bread called Pan de Muertos is prepared all around Mexico in the last days of October and the first days of November and is one of the elements used in the altars set to honor the souls during the Day of the dead celebrations. The bread symbolizes a fraternal offering to the souls.

Day of the Dead Bread History
Using bread as an offering for the souls is a Spanish tradition, the Spaniards used to take bread and wine to the cemeteries or churches on All Souls Day as an offering for their dead family members to let them know they remembered them and to ask them for their protection.

Special sweet breads called buñuelos and marzipan rolls known as huesos de santo, (saints' bones) are widely made around the Catholic holiday till today.

In Mexico the bread used for the Day of the Dead Altars is different in every region of the country, but there is one kind that can be found almost everywhere and was first made by Basque bakers somewhere around the 1940's and 1960's in Mexico City.

This sweet bread is round and has a ball and four to eight sticks made of dough on the top which resemble human bones; it's flavored with orange blossom water and covered with sugar or sesame seeds.

At the time the creation of this bread was widely criticized because its purposes were purely commercial nevertheless it was so successful it became part of the celebration and nowadays most of the people ignore its origin.

In Southern Mexico every region has its own bread for Day of the Dead and is not made in other parts of the country.


Different kinds of Pan de Muertos
There are places where the bread used as an offering is the common bread of the area while in others like Oaxaca common sweet bread is decorated with little marzipan's heads simulating a human body or like in Puebla where the regular bread is covered with red sugar for the grownups altars and white sugar for the children offerings.

In other areas sweet bread is shaped like skeletons, skulls, animals, angels or flowers and decorated with seeds, sugar or colored icing.

Day of the Dead bread



Day of the Dead Bread Recipe
This recipe makes about 15 servings.
    Ingredients for the dough:
  • ¼ cup margarine or butter
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons anise seed, whole or crushed
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
    Ingredients for the glaze:
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
Directions
Heat the milk and the butter in a medium sized sauce pan until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat and then add the warm water.

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of flour, the yeast, salt, anise seed, cinnamon and ¼ cup white sugar. Stir in the warm milk mixture. Then add the eggs and orange zest and mix until well blended. Stir in ½ cup of flour and continue adding flour until the dough is soft.

Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead it until it is smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. This should take between 1 and 2 hours.

When the dough has doubled its size punch it and cut 3 small (about 1-ounce) balls from each half and mold them into bones shapes. Shape the dough into a round loaf and place the bones on top.

Put the dough on a baking sheet and loosely cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place once more for one hour or until it has doubled in size.

Bake the bread in an oven preheated to 175°C   (350°F)   for 35-45 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool slightly before applying the glaze.

To make the glaze, combine ¼ cup sugar, orange juice and orange zest in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Brush over the bread while still warm and sprinkle normal or colored sugar over the glazed bread.

Round Pan de Muerto




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