Recipe for the bread of the dead (Pan de Muertos)

The bread of the dead is a traditional recipe made in Mexico for the Day of the Dead, where this bread is offered to the deceased on an altar; and the traditions behind it are quite old. Scholars say the commemoration of the Day of the Dead in Mexico has its origins in the Aztec cult of the goddess of death, Mictecacihuatl, which was adapted to the european All-Saints' day. This bread is sweet and has to have bone shapes attached to it, to symbolize the deceased, and a dough ball on top which will represent a tear of sorrow. It is eaten on November 2nd, which is the actual day of the dead, or Día de los Muertos.

Recipe for the Bread of the Dead:

Ingredients for one bread:

* 2 cups white flour
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup butter
* 1/3 cup vegetal shortening
* 3 eggs, 7 egg yolks
* 1/3 cup warm water
* 3 teaspoons orange blossom tea (Flor de azahar tea)
* 2 teaspoons anise
* 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening (for greasing the bread and tray)
* 2 tablespoons dry yeast (try the natural product section of your store)
* Orange zest of one orange
* 1/4 teaspoon salt


1) 1) In a large plastic bowl dissolve the yeast in warm water then add enough flour to form a dough of about 15 tablespoons.

Shape like a ball and let the dough ferment near a mild heat source until it has doubled in size (between half an hour to an hour and a half); reserve this fermented dough ball...

2) On a flat surface, sift the flour with the help of a strainer, pushing it with a tablespoon, make a crater in the center and gradually add 15 tablespoons of sugar, salt, 2 whole eggs, the 7 egg yolks, orange blossom tea, anise, orange zest, and the melted butter;

3) With clean hands, knead the dough for about 20 minutes, taking the dough from the edges and taking everything back inside. Once finished kneading, we add the fermented dough ball of the first step and continue kneading (elongated forms a ball and take a spanking end and the other on the table like a hammer, then gather the end that you have struck with the hand and whip again. Repeat this process four times until bubbles form, the dough will feel like plastic and easily comes off the table.

4) Form a ball with the dough, brush with a little vegetable shortening and place over the baking sheet, then cover it with a damp cloth and let the dough site next to a heat source until this ball has doubled in volume (two and half hours approx.) Expose it to sunlight or just over the stove top.

5) When this time has passed, re-knead lightly and pull about 2 cups of dough from the ball, which you will now use to shape the traditional four or six bones and the ball that will go on top of the bread.

6) Place the dough on a baking sheet greased with vegetable oil and give a slightly oval shape. For 30 minutes, let stand next to the bone dough and ball dough.

7) Preheat the oven to 400 ˚F; after the half of an hour of the dough fermenting, beat the remaining egg with a fork; we will use this egg as a glue to stick the top ball and bones to the bread; bake the dough for 15 minutes at 400 ˚F temperature, then reduce heat setting to 350 ˚F and continue baking in the oven until the bread is finished baking (approx. 10 more minutes).

8) To make the glaze, mix in a cup a tablespoon of flour that was reserved in the first step, along with three tablespoons of sugar and two cups of water, cook this solution over the stove until you get a syrup. Once the bread is cold, brush the bread with this glaze and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

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