Now popular in the United States, the Day of the Dead holiday, which originated in Mexico, is celebrated from October 31 through November 2, and coincides with the Roman Catholic feast days of All Saints’ Day (November 1) and All Souls’ Day (November 2). In Mexico, All Souls’ Day is a national holiday and the time when many believe the departed return to visit their loved ones. Typically, Pan de Muerto – Bread for the Dead – is enjoyed during this period, when it is served at parties, festivals and graveyard celebrations, where the living gather to honor and remember the dead.
A sweet, anise-orange scented yeast bread, Bread for the Dead is typically shaped into a round and topped with a ball of dough surrounded by several more pieces of dough fashioned to look like skeleton bones. In addition, before baking, the bread is brushed with a glaze and sprinkled with sugar.
Bread for the Dead is delicious accompanied with Mexican hot chocolate, which can be authentically made with readily available Nestle-Abeulita Mexican Chocolate tablets. (I found a good supply in Walmart in the aisle where Latin foods are stocked.) Although the dark chocolate, cinnamon “laced” tablets are coated with coarse sugar, they are not overly sweet, so you may want to add more sugar to your hot chocolate beverage.
You don’t have to be Mexican to celebrate the Day of the Dead by baking Bread for the Dead. It may be baked by anyone, anywhere, for those that are dead and those still here.
Pan de Muerto — Bread for the Dead
Yield: 1 (10-inch) loaf
For the dough
1 cup warm (110 degrees) water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 large eggs, room temperature, slightly beaten
1/8 teaspoon anise oil or ½ teaspoon anise extract
¼ teaspoon orange oil or ½ teaspoon orange extract
3¾ cups King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour (To measure flour: Dip measuring cup into flour to fill, then level with the flat end of a knife.)
¼ cup nonfat dry milk powder (See ingredients notes following recipe.)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon rapid rising or bread machine yeast
For the glaze
¼ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the topping
“Sanding” sugar (The grains of sanding sugar is about four times the size of granulated sugar.
See ingredients notes following recipe.)
Set your bread machine to the dough cycle. Except for the yeast, place the ingredients for the dough into the canister of the machine in the order listed. With your finger, make an indentation into the top of the ingredients. Carefully place the yeast into the indentation, being careful not to let the yeast come into contact with the liquid already in the canister.
Start the machine and allow it to process dough. When the dough cycle is finished, remove dough to a lightly floured surface, kneading for a few minutes. Remove about 1/8 of the dough and reserve it for later use. Form the remaining dough into a round, approximately 10 inches in diameter and place it on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Or, place dough into a lightly greased bread baking bowl. Brush dough lightly with water.
Divide the reserved dough into five pieces. Take one of the pieces and roll into a 2-inch ball. Place dough ball onto the center of dough round. Take the remaining dough pieces and form them, one at a time, into “ropes” long enough to go down the sides of the round. Shape each rope to resemble a “bone,” placing them evenly around the center ball. Cover all loosely with a tea towel, or a lightly greased piece of plastic wrap. Allow to rise until double in size, about 30 minutes.
While dough is rising, make the glaze. Place orange juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, allowing glaze to cool and thicken.
Once the dough has risen, remove tea towel or plastic wrap, then place pan into a preheated 350-degree oven. Bake for 30 minutes, in lower third of oven, until browned and the bread has reached an internal temperature of 190 degrees, as registered on an instant read thermometer. (If bread is browning too quickly, lightly tent with foil.)
Remove bread from oven and place pan on a wire rack. Immediately brush bread with glaze until it is all used, then sprinkle with sanding sugar. Cool.
*Kitchen Ade note: For the purposes of this recipe, King Arthur Flour’s Baker’s Special Dry Milk and White Sparkling Sugar were used. Find them on-line at www.kingargthurflour.com, or by calling 1-800-827-6836
Nestle-Abeulita Mexica Hot Chocolate
4 cups milk
1 (3.3-ounce) Abuelita Chocolate tablet
Heat milk and 1 tablet Abuelita Chocolate in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Mix constantly with a wire whisk until mixture is frothy and starts to boil. Remove from heat; add sugar to taste. Serve immediately. (Recipe from Nestlé® Abuelita™)