02 November 2010

pan de muerto

Ok, so this recipe is probably not-at-all authentic.  But I really wanted to make Pan de Muerto for El Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) so here we are.  I quickly realized that my Spanish isn't quite strong enough for this receta so I looked for English-language recipes.  I started out intending to halve this recipe because it sounded pretty legit, but then I messed up my measurements and conversions so I looked to this recipe for more help.  And I just happened to buy a very expensive bottle of whole anise seeds, so I needed to make sure that they were still included in the bread.

And that's how this brand new recipe came into existence.  It tastes quite good, like a semi-sweet breakfast bread, but I don't think I've ever had real Pan de Muerto so I can't testify to its authenticity.

According to Wikipedia and my memories from high school Spanish class, El Día de Los Muertos coincides with the Catholic holidays of All Saints Day and All Souls Day and is celebrated on November 2.  It's a day to remember and pray for those who have passed and to celebrate their lives.  Families build altars and pile them high with the favorite food and drink of their deceased loved ones (note, when I am gone please bring me cheesecake, banana bread and cowboy cookies).  Even though symbolic skeletons and skulls abound, El Día de los Muertos isn't spooky or somber.  It's a time for celebration and remembrance, and I'm partaking in this day by offering up this loaf of Pan de Muerto, even if its a bastardized version.  I've always liked this holiday, this tradition of taking the time to celebrate and talk about and remember those who have passed on.  Without further ado, I present my very own recipe for Pan de Muerto. 

  • 5 1/2 - 6 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole anise seed
  • another 1/3 cup of sugar for glaze
  • 1/4 cup orange juice for glaze

  1. Combine flour, salt, sugar and yeast.  Gradually add in water and beaten eggs, using enough water so that dough forms elastic ball but isn't super sticky.  Mix with dough hook attachment of a mixer or your hands for about five minutes.
  2. Beat melted butter and milk into the flour mixture.  Knead dough on a floured surface for about ten minutes, until smooth and elastic.  Lightly grease the bowl you were working with and return dough to it. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough doubles in size, about 2 hours.
  3. Punch down the dough and shape (see here for help on shaping).  Shape the main loaf and bones (those are the strips on top) and place them separately on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Let rise for one hour.
  4. Arrange the bones on top of the main loaf on the baking sheet and brush with melted butter or canola oil.  I used canola spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Just before you take the bread out of the oven, combine glaze ingredients (sugar and orange juice) in a small saucepan and bring to a boil for one minute.  Apply to bread with a pastry brush and let set.
For those not familiar with the bread or the tradition, it is tasty with a cup of tea or coffee and would be at home both as a dessert or as a breakfast bread with a light smear of butter.  Please feel free to politely correct my Day of the Dead background or offer up a truly authentic recipe for Pan de Muerto in the comments!  


  1. Wowie, sounds delish! I love the little sombrero-wearing skeleton graphic, BTW. I'll take beer, really good cheeseburgers and chocolate cake at my alter, please.

  2. Super tasty and maybe could have eaten the entire loaf...yikes. I'll take corn on the cob, buttered noodles and Reese's PB cups on my altar :)

  3. That bread looks great.
    And make it crack pretzels (you know the kind), tiramisu, guacamole, and hot sake on my altar please.

  4. I would like to add guacamole to my altar also.

  5. Mmm, this looks tasty! You really know how to cook lady :)

  6. If by crack pretzels you mean that mix from the candy shop on New Scotland, then yes please. And DEFINITELY add guac too.

  7. I am often amazed at the creations that come from your tiny kitchen. This looks delicious! And anything maple will due nicely on my alter.


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