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Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead)


El Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is a famous Mexican celebration full of traditions that have been in our culture since pre-columbian times. In the Aztec culture this festivities were dedicated to the goddess known as the “Lady of the Dead”, nowadays we call this goddess “La Catrina” and the celebrations used to last for a month. In modern times the Day of the Dead takes place on November 1st and 2nd. In November 1st we remember the children that have left this world, this day is call “el Día de los Santos Inocentes” and in November 2nd we remember the adults. People go to the cemeteries to visit their love ones that are not longer here and take flowers, food, music, etc.

In my family, every year we go to the cemetery to visit my grandparents, but since my father past away, we celebrate this day big! well, at least my family does in Mexico, they go to the cemetery to visit my dad’s grave and bring flowers, music, candles and food. All my family gather to be with him and to wait for him to come back to see us. My sister Cynthia always put an altar at her house with all the nice things my dad used to like. I do as well, put an altar, here in London to remember him and although I am not there with my family that day, I always feel this special feeling of togetherness and love.

The celebrations are beautiful, full of colour, food, flowers, music, love, etc. if you want to know more about “the Day of the Dead” go to my section in the blog Resources/ Mexican Culture: here

Today I am sharing the recipe of “Pan de Muerto” or “Bread of the Dead”, this is one of the many traditions that we do during those days. It is a sweet bread that is eaten during those days. The way this bread looks has a special meaning, the four  strings mean the bones of the dead and the ball on top signifies the heart of the dead person. It has an orangey smell “Azahar” that remind us to the dead..I absolutely love them. When I was younger, my mum used to work in a Mexican bakery, so we always used to have fresh sweet bread at home and during “el día de los muertos” we used to eat lots of this yummy bread.

I have to confess that I am not a baker or a good baker or anything close to a baking person, I think, baking is not in my nature, but every time I am going to bake something, I put the best of me and I try to get it as good as I can!, it took me a while to get this bread right, in fact, I did it three times and it wasn’t until the fourth when I got it right. It takes a while because you need to knead the dough very well so the bread rises nicely, but the end results are worth the effort.

Makes 1 medium Pan de muerto

Prep 1 hour approx

Bake 20 min approx

Ingredients

  • 250 gr all purpose flour
  • 7 gr dried active yeast
  • 75 gr caster sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 45 gr lightly salted butter
  • 3 gr salt
  • zest of 1 medium orange
  • 100 ml warm milk
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water

When it’s bake

  • 10 gr melted butter
  • 10 gr caster sugar

Method

First of all, turn on the oven to 200 degrees or gas mark 6, 10 min before start. Then lay all your ingredients ready to use on the surface you are going to work on.

Spread the flour on the surface that you are going to work, make a little hole in the middle so you can place the other ingredients.

Add the sugar, salt, orange zest, orange blossom water, butter and egg and mix these ingredients very well and add some milk, little by little and knead the dough for a bit. You probably won’t need to use all the milk. Leave these ingredients for a moment and start activating the yeast, in a bowl, add two tbsp of flour, dried yeast and one tbsp of sugar, then add some of the warm milk and mix. Leave the yeast in a warm place, it takes around 15 min approx to activate, when you see bubbles on top, that means that it is ready to be use.

Continue kneading the other ingredients. Once the yeast is activated, add it to the rest of the ingredients and continue kneading until all the ingredients are well combine. Don’t worry or panic if your dough feels very sticky, it is fine, you just need to continue kneading until you get a dough that is not sticky and it feels elastic, then give it a shame of a ball.

Then, grease a bowl with a little butter and place the ball dough in the middle and put it in a warm place for around 30 min approx so the yeast does its magic. The ball will double the size, once it is like this, knead the dough a bit more and then make the ball again and cut some dough, cut that piece into three to make the filaments and the little ball that goes on top.

When you have done this, place the bread on the tray where it is going to be bake. Do not forget to grease the tray first. Then leave the bread to rise a bit more in a warm place for 15 min approx.

Then place it in the pre-heat oven and bake for 20 min approx or less, depending on your oven. Take it out when it is golden brown and the centre is cooked, cover it with the melted butter and sprinkle it with caster sugar. Enjoy it with a nice cup of hot Mexican chocolate!

Listo!

Provecho!

Published by

Karla Zazueta

Mexican living in London

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