Pan de Muerto - Bread of the Dead

In the Mexican tradition, this sweet, buttery bread is a staple at Day of the Dead celebrations - a holiday honoring those who have passed away.  Here my recipe is chocked full of butter, eggs, orange zest and orange flower water.  Glazed with butter after baking and sprinkled with a healthy dose of sugar - it is sure to be a hit any time of the year to honor loved ones that have passed away.

1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp. active dry yeast
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp. salt
6 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp orange blossom water
Zest of 1 orange
6-7 cups all-purpose flour

In a microwave safe measuring cup, combine buttermilk and sugar.  Heat for roughly one minute to warm mixture, remove from microwave and mix together with fork to dissolve sugar.  Add yeast once it is warm - make sure the mixture is not too hot or it will kill the yeast.  Let yeast rest for a few minutes to proof so you know that your yeast is active - it should begin to produce a foamy top.

Place yeast mixture into bowl of a stand mixer and add melted butter, eggs, salt, orange zest and orange blossom water - and 5 cups flour (make sure you sift your flour with a whisk before you measure).   Place dough hook into machine, raise bowl and turn mixer on medium low.  You will need to watch the dough at this point to see when it comes together.  After around two minutes, if the dough is not forming a ball - add another 1/2 cup of flour and watch the mixture, repeating this until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and forms a ball.  You should be able to grab the dough with your fingers and it will feel soft and not stick to your fingers.

Remove dough from bowl and line with soft butter or baking spray.  Place dough in bowl and turn to coat, cover and place in a warm place until dough has doubled in size - at least one hour, up to 1.5 hours.

Remove dough from bowl and divide in half.  Then take roughly a tennis-ball sized hunk of dough out of half and set aside.  Form each larger half into a ball and place onto a silpat-lined baking sheet, pressing each with the palm of your hand to lightly flatten it.  Take each tennis ball sized hunk of dough and divide in four.  Make a ball out of one fourtth and set on baking sheet.  Roll the other three pieces into ropes and using your index and middle finger press indents into to rope and lay each rope evenly over the top of the main ball of dough.  This mimics the bones.  Let rise for 30-45 minutes in a warm place, covered with plastic to keep from drying out.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Before placing into the oven, wet the bottom of the small ball with water and place on the very top of the dough ball.  Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, turning pan around half way through if necessary.

Remove from oven and place bread onto a cooling rack.  After 15 minutes, coat with unsalted butter and sprinkle with sugar to coat.  Let cool completely and serve.

1 comment:

  1. Tried my hand at making Pan de Muerto for the first time this year since this was my first Day of the Dead celebration living in Mexico. I used a recipe from King Arthur flour, but it was really dense and heavy and also had anise seeds. Not too bad dipped in hot chocolate, but a bit much eating on its own. I hope to try your version soon.