The 2th of November, Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead. Is a colorful traditions full of smells, good food and nostalgia. We not only remember our lost ones, we actually believe for one night they come back not to hunt us but to party! So we left an small offering that includes their favorite food, drinks and any vice they enjoyed during life. At night, thanks to the flowers, the candles and the incense, they will find their way home and will take the smell of all of the food with them.
Of course, the next day the living eat what is left behind. One of the fundamental traditions of the day, together with the sugar skulls is eating bread of the death. Yes, Bread of the death and no, nobody died in the making of this recipe. However, my sources say that long long time ago, I mean prehispanic times, this bread might had included blood, or a princess heart. The Spanish monks did not appreciate this culinary tradition so they suggest to change it for bread with the shape of a heart and painted with red sugar. Probably this new thing took some time to become popular, and in the way, it changed immensely, to the point that is not red anymore or has a heart shape. Now it is round, has bones on top and a bread skull. The orange blossom flavouring is a reminder of our loved ones that are no longer with us. The bones are put on top of the bread in a cross shape. This was convenient for everyone as Mexicans interpreted as the four directions of the universe while Spanish so a Christian cross in it.
Making bread of the death is not the easiest thing ever, but is worth it! The key is how long do you knead the dough. You need to start with a really sticky dough and finish with a soft and elastic one. I suggest you see some youtube videos; it can be of any kind of bread so you get the idea of how the dough should look like. If you speak Spanish, I would recommend looking for Yuri de Gortari recipes in his channel “ Cocina e Identidad.”
Pan de Muerto ( bread of the dead)
For 6-7 small loaves
250 ml of milk
500 grams of strong bread flour ( if you live in a country were normal plain flour is weak… if you find strong bread flour probably the normal one is weak)
100 grams of caster sugar plus extra for sprinkling
15 grams of dry fast action yeast
2 to 3 large eggs
½ teaspoon of sea salt
Two teaspoons of orange blossom ( if you do not find it put an orange blossom tea bag in the warm milk for 5 minutes)
150 grams of butter
Melted butter, for greasing and brushing
- Warm 150 ml of the milk. Add the yeast and one tablespoon of sugar and another one of flour. Let it rest for 15 to 30 minutes (until it bubbles, if it does not you killed your yeast! So try again and do not over heat the milk).
- Put the flour into a large bowl and make a well, sprinkle the rest of the sugar, and salt. When the yeast has rest add the mixture to the flour as well as the orange blossom and two eggs ( if you are doing this in a standing mixer just put all the ingredients together except the butter, until you have a dough ball. Then add the butter)
- Start kneading the dough, the dough most be sticky, do not add more flour! If necessary add the rest of the milk and the egg.
- After kneading for10 minutes add the butter. Knead until the dough is soft and elastic (by hand more or less 30 minutes). Let it rest for one hour or until it has doubled its size.
- Divide it into 120g balls. Role it into small balls and use 2 of the pieces to make the “bones” of the bread and the skulls. Let the dough rest for at least 30 more minutes. Preheat the oven to 200 C.
- Wet your fingers to “glue” the bones and on top of them the skull. Yes, well this is not as easy as it seems. I did 18 loaves this year, and the skull of all of them fall to the side… if anybody knows how to avoid this please please let me know!
- Bake the bread for 20-30 minutes or until gold. While still hot, glaze the rolls with melted butter and cover in sugar.
- Let them cool before eating! I suggest to eat them with hot chocolate.. dunk Paul Hollywood style!
These loaves freeze beautifully!