Pan de Muerto

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One of the things I really miss as a Mexican living in another country is the opportunity to celebrate special days with my family, but over the years I have made these celebrations part of my little family in London and although I cannot be with my mum and siblings in Mexico, my children and my hubby love celebrating with me and for us the best time of the year is Día de Muertos or Day of the Dead, it is a super special day for us, because every year we remember my dad. Setting our ofrenda (altar) together has become a tradition and on the actual day we have a wonderful feast with all the food my dad used to love, sometimes we have friends over and it becomes a big celebration. But the thing that my children look forward the most is the making of the Pan de Muerto.

This lovely sweet and aromatic bread is the star of the show of el Día de Muertos. My children love it so much that I now have to make it a few times before the actual Day of the Dead. It is a lovely tradition that I hope to keep for many years to come. I love to see their little faces lighting up with a big smile when they come from school and they smell the aroma of the bread, this is a Mexican food memory that I know will always be with them in their hearts.

For those who are new to 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 festivity was 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 2nd. We believe that our loves ones that are no longer with us, come to visit us on this day. We go to the cemeteries to visit them and take flowers, food, music, etc, we set an altar and we do ofrendas to them. The whole day is full of a magical atmosphere, surrounded with love, happy memories, food and the most amazing celebration.

Today I am sharing the lovely recipe of Pan de Muerto that my friend Lorena, who is a brilliant chef, gave me. The way that 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 smells to “Azahar” that remind us to the dead. I absolutely love them and we hope you love them as well and you, as us, adopt this lovely tradition.

Feliz día de muertos!

love,

Karla x

Pan de Muerto

Servings 15 small breads
Prep Time 3 hrs
Cook Time 20 mins

Equipment

  • Electric Mixer (optional)
  • 3 baking trays
  • parchment paper
  • cooking brush

Ingredients

  • 500 g all purpose flour
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 150 g unsalted butter to room temperature
  • 25 g fresh yeast or 12 g instant yeast
  • 65 ml warm milk
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water
  • 1 tbsp orange zest

To finish

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 30 g melted unsalted butter
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 tbsp milk

Instructions

  • Before start, remember to take your eggs and butter a few hours in advance so they are to room temperature.
  • Start by mixing the yeast with the warm milk and one tea spoon of sugar. Leave to activate for 7 minutes. Until it has lots of bubbles.
  • Mix the flour and the sugar. Place this mix on the worktop and make a whole in the middle. Beat the eggs and add the orange bloosom and orange zest. Pour this in the hole of the flour and sugar, then add the yeast and milk mixture and start mixing. Then add the butter.
  • Mix all very well and work the dough until it doesnt stick on your hand. It might take around 15 minutes.If you have an electric mixer, this would speed this process, just add all the ingredients and turn the mixer in the lowest setting and mix for 10 minutes.
  • Once your dough is ready, oil a large bowl and place your dough there and cover it with cling film and leave it in the warmest place of your kitchen. This is going to be the first proving of the bread. Prove for an hour or until the dough has double in size.
  • Remove the cling film and hit it with your fist to. Take it out of the bowl and work it a bit more. Use some flour if it is sticking on the worktop. Then separate the dough into fifteen 70g balls.
  • Have the baking trays ready with the parchment paper. Then cut the 70g ball into two, one 20 g ball for the bones and head and one 50 g for the body.
  • Now, to make the Pan de Muerto, grab a 50g dough ball and roll it with one hand until form a smooth ball, place it on the baking tray. Do the same with the rest 50g balls.
  • Then cut the 20g dough ball into 3 to make the bones and the head (see pic below)
  • To stick the bones and the head just add water with your finger. Then place the little pieces of dough (see pic below)
  • Once they are all done, they need to rest again. They need to prove for one more hour or more dependig on the temperature of your kitchen. If you have an oven with proving setting that helps a lot.
  • Once they have double in size, it is time to bake them. Preheat the oven to 170C. Mix the beaten egg and 2 tbsp of milk and brush each bread with this mixture. Place them in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 min.
  • Remove them from the oven and let them cool down for 5 minutes. Then while they are still a bit warm, brush them with melting butter and cover them with caster sugar, making sure to get rid of the excess of sugar.
  • They can be eaten straight away and they make the best companion to a nice hot Mexican chocolote. Enjoy them with your family on a rainy day.
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Mexican

I would love to hear if you liked this recipe, tag me on social media #mexicanfoodmemories to see your creations. And if you want to learn to make this recipe and more, join me in one of my Mexican Cooking Classes.

Join the Conversation

  1. Excellent recipe! Made into 8 larger Pan de Muertos and Mexican husband declared they were the best he’d had outside Chiapas. Our kitchen is half the temperature of a Mexican one so took 2 hours each time for dough to double in size but it was perfectly light and well worth waiting for. Made yesterday as a trial run before making 20 for our neighbours and friends. Had one for breakfast today- cut into slices and briefly toasted still tasted amazing! Dough is very sticky so needed a little extra flour when shaping and next batch I’ll double the amount of orange zest and orange blossom water to boost flavour (personal preference – your version is beautiful and delicately flavoured but my husbands mexican food memory is a stronger flavoured one in Tapachula) This is the easiest and best Pan de Muerto recipe I’ve used in last 20 years – usually spend all day using Diana Kennedy or Rick Bayliss ones. Thanks Karla for bringing us the best bits of Mexico!

    1. I’m so happy to hear you like the recipe. This is a recipe of very dear friend of mine, Lorena, who is an excellent chef and she was happy to share it with all your here on my blog 😘

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