Today marks the 1st day of Dia de los Muertos!
If you’re not familiar, this holiday is celebrated in Mexico and in certain countries throughout Latin America, lasting 3 days to honor those who have passed. On the days leading up to the celebration, families start to set up altars dedicated to loved ones and pets that have passed–as a way to remember them and celebrate their spirits.
These altars can often be very, very elaborate. They’ll be adorned with pictures of the deceased, marigolds, their favorite alcohol, water, their favorite dishes, sugar skulls and items of theirs amongst other things. If you happen to be in Mexico during the celebration, you’ll often see an influx of marigolds all around because they are an important part of the celebration. These bright blooms are said to be used to guide the deceased to their altars, and illuminate the path to their graves. Pan de muerto is a big staple in this celebration, and bakeries in Mexico often start selling this bread in early October, because people love it so much.
Last year, I made pan de muerto stuffed with pumpkin butter for my very first attempt, and it was a really good learning experience. This year, I decided to refine the recipe for it and added notes of orange, clove, ginger and cinnamon and really took my time forming each separate loaf. One of the things I learned was that this recipe requires your tender love and care. You need to take your time carefully forming the crossbones and really give it some time to rise after it all comes together or it won’t cooperate with you while it bakes.
In honor of Dia de los Muertos, I teamed up with the American Egg Board to create this traditional recipe for you to enjoy! For more flavorful and Latin-inspired recipes, visit IncredibleEgg.org and Incredible Egg’s Hispanic Heritage Month section and check them out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube.
- For the Bread:
- ⅔ cup whole milk
- 2 packets active dry yeast (4½ teaspoons)
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- 1 navel or valencia orange
- 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 1½ tsp. kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon cloves
- 5 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
- For the coating:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3-4 tablespoons cane sugar
- Heat up the milk to 100-110º F (about 40 seconds in the microwave) then mix in the yeast with a pinch of sugar. Set this aside while you work on the rest of the dough.
- Melt the ½ cup of butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. While it melts, zest the orange right into the saucepan then juice it into a measuring cup to measure out the juice. If you don’t quite have enough to measure out ⅓ cup then add enough water to make the measurement, if you’ve got more than ⅓ cup take a sip. Remove the butter from the heat as soon as it completely melts then add the juice.
- Add the flour, sugar, salt, and spice mix to the bowl of a stand mixer, stir to combine, then add the yeast and milk mixture, and stir on the lowest speed while you pour in the juice/butter mixture followed by the eggs. Once it’s all combined turn the speed up by 1 and knead for 3 minutes.
- Lightly grease a large bowl with a quick spray of non-stick cooking spray and turn the dough out into the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm draft free place to hang out and double in size.
- Once the dough has risen punch it down and turn it out onto a cutting board then cut the round into 8 equal pieces. Set aside two chunks for the decoration then roll the other 6 into smooth round balls.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper then place 3 of the dough balls on each one. To make the skull and crossbones tear off golf ball sized chunks of dough from the reserved pieces, roll them into snakes with your hands then lay them on your counter or cutting board, spread open your fingers and roll with your fingertips to create the bone shape. Make two bones for each pan de muerto then take the remaining dough and roll it into balls about the size of a large marble and place on top of each crossbones.
- Lightly cover each baking sheet with plastic wrap and let the pan de muerto proof until almost doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
- Bake in a 350ºF oven for 20-25 minutes, one tray at a time, until lightly golden brown and you have a slight hollow sound when you tap on them. Let them cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet then working on one at a time, brush with the melted butter and immediately sprinkle with the sugar.