Bread of the Dead (Pan de Muerto)
(serves 8 - 12)
Mix together and let sit for five minutes:
3/4 c lukewarm water
4 t active dry yeast (2 packages)
    Stir in:
1 t anise seeds
1 c unsalted butter (2 sticks), melted and cooled to room temperature
1/2 c sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 egg yolks
1 1/2 t orange blossom water (optional)
1 T orange peel, finely grated
1 t kosher salt
3 c flour
and beat well with a wooden spoon for a few minutes.
Gradually add up to:
2 c flour
until the dough begins to form a sticky ball.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, adding flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume. Punch down and form loaves, as described below.
Let the loaves rise on a greased baking pan, then glaze with:
1 egg, lightly beaten with
1 T water
Bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes, until done. Brush with melted butter and immediately sprinkle with large crystal raw sugar or colored sugar.
Notes & Variations:
  1. The recipe for this traditional Day of the Dead bread comes from our guest chef Laurie Mackenzie, who adapted the recipe from 'Cocina de la Familia' by Marilyn Tausend. It is a rich and delicious challah-like bread, orange-flavored and slightly sweet.
  2. You can form it into a braided loaf, or divide the dough into pieces and make various festive shapes: skulls, human figures. A traditional loaf is formed by making a round loaf from a tennis-ball sized piece of dough and flattening it to about 1/2-inch. Drape the loaf with three pieces of bone-shaped dough, each formed by rolling out a 3/4-inch ball of dough into a small snake, then rolling it with separated fingers to form knobs along the length. Finish with one small ball of dough, formed into a skull-shape, on top in the middle.
  3. You don't have to wait for the Day of the Dead (October 31 - November 2) to enjoy this bread. For an off-season treat, you might try substituting vanilla extract for the orange flavors.
  4. Sprinkle the sugar on as soon as you have brushed the warm loaves with butter, or else the butter will soak in and the sugar won't stick. Try sprinkling with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.