‘Pan de Muerto’ ‘Day of the Dead Bread’ is one of the most iconic traditions of Mexican culture. It is prepared every 1st and 2nd day of November. The top of the bread represents a skull and the sides represent bones. It’s sweet and tangy since it’s prepared with orange blossom extract & orange zest.
- 4 cups of flour
- 3/4 cup of warm buttermilk
- 2 tbsp of active-dry yeast
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1/2 cup of butter (at room temperature)
- 4 tbsp of melted butter for brushing
- 3 eggs + 3 yolks
- Zest of 2 large oranges
- 3 tsp of orange blossom essence
- 1/2 cup of sugar to decorate
- 1/3 cup of egg wash (1/4 cup of milk + 1 egg) for brushing
- In one glass mix well buttermilk with 1 cup of sugar and yeast. Leave it in a warm spot in the kitchen until yeast activates. It will form a coat of foam on the top.
- In a bowl or bread mixer add the eggs, yolks, sugar, and butter and start working it for a couple of minutes until all ingredients are integrated.
Start adding flour 1 cup at a time and keep integrating it with the rest of the ingredients.
After adding the 2nd cup add the buttermilk, the orange zest, and the blossom essence.
Keep working until all flour is well integrated, keep mixing it for 5 minutes.
- On a lightly floured surface place dough from a bowl or mixer.
Let’s get to work, we need to keep kneading the dough until is smooth and it doesn’t stick anymore to the surface or your hands.
It helps a lot using bread plastic scrappers and occasionally putting some oil spray on your hands to knead faster.
- Don’t be tempted to add more flour this will only cause your bread to be stiff and dry, as more as you knead gluten will form and will make the dough more elastic.
it will take between 30-45 mins to reach the right dough consistency, a good test is to stretch the dough as thin as possible until it’s almost translucent without breaking.
- Form a ball with the dough, and put it to proof in a greased bowl and covered with plastic wrap between 1 to 2 hours depending on the room temperature.
Once the dough has doubled its size remove it from the bowl.
- Separate 3/4 cup of dough for creating the bread decorations.
Separate the rest on 7/8 pieces.
Take one portion of dough, flatten it with your fingertips then start folding into the center, flatten it again and repeat the folding. Turn facing the folded part to the countertop and while gently holding the ball with your hand forming a claw start making circular movements, this will help the folded part to expand and unfold. Place the balls on a greased baking pan or add parchment paper.
- To work the extra dough reserved, take half of it and divide it into the same number of pieces of bread you made.
Flour surface and form a ball with each piece then gently squeeze it against the table to form a 1/2 inch tall disc.
- With the other half of the dough roll in 1/2 inch logs putting some extra pressure with the fingers to form the bones.
- Brush each roll with some egg wash forming a cross, place the bones on top of it and varnish a little more on the top and place the ‘skull’.
- Cover them with a cloth, and put them in a warm place until buns double their size, 1 ½ to 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.
- Before putting them in the oven, give them a brush with the egg wash.
Bake them until golden brown, 15 to 20 mins.
- Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
Once the bread has cooled, brush with the melted butter and sprinkle generously with sugar.
- This bread goes perfectly with a cup of cocoa (preferably made with Mexican chocolate which is a mixture of Cocoa, sugar, and cinnamon).