Pan de Muerto Casero! Méxican Bread of the Dead
What on earth has happened to the time! I meant to post this recipe before Día de Muertos in November 2013 and now it’s almost the end of January 2014! So it goes, anyway, this as you can probably guess is a seasonal food. Bread of the Dead is only made for Día de Muertos celebrations, 31st October-2nd November.
There are lots of good websites that explain Día de Muertos, the events that happen during it and its cultural significance, so I’m not going to explain something that someone else has already put into better words. To give a very short overview, it is not something morbid, or creepy or occult; the modern day of the dead is a celebration of the lives of loved ones you have lost and a time to remember them while also remembering your own mortality and celebrating the time you have on earth. It’s origins are a combination of a pre-Columbian Aztec festival and the Catholic All Souls’ Day. This is my translation of a Spanish language recipe sent over by a Mexican friend.
Various techniques are used to make the bones for the bread, the very simplest types are long thin cylinders, but people often shape the ends of them into balls, or sometimes add balls to the middle too. Due to the rising process the bread will undergo more elaborate shapes are generally not worth making as they will deform as they rise. If you wanted to try and make an elaborate design chill the bread in the fridge between shaping and putting it in the oven, and make sure the oven is at a high temperature when the bread goes in. This will help the bread to set in shape rather than rise excessively. My friend described my latest attempt as “pan Botero” as during cooking the bones rose a lot giving them an exaggerated appearance like the characters in Botero’s paintings.
Orange Blossom Water can be made by infusing warm water with orange blossom for 20-30 minutes, but most large supermarkets should carry it.
Recipe for Pan de Muerto Casero
Prep time. 1 hour 30 minutes + resting time
430g Plain Flour // 1 tablespoon of Salt // 5 Eggs // 250g White Sugar // 1 tablespoon of Fresh Yeast // 1/2 a tablespoon of ground Anise // 1 tablespoon of Orange Blossom Water // 250g Butter at room temp. // 75g melted Butter // Icing Sugar for dusting
- Mix the flour and salt together in a mound. Hollow out the middle and mix the eggs, sugar, yeast, anise and the orange blossom water. Kneed into a consistent dough and then mix in the melted butter to make it smooth.
- Leave it to rest overnight in the fridge, covered other with clingfilm or a teatowel.
- Split into balls of around 100g.
- Place the balls on a greased baking tray. Reserve one of them and use it to decorate the surface of the loaves with long bone shapes (see above), place a small ball on top of each loaf.
- Cover over with a tea-towel and leave until they double in size.
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F, gas mark 4) and then cook the loaves until they turn golden.
- Completely cool the loaves, then glaze them with butter and dust over with icing sugar.