Day of the Dead bread, from Mexico: The Cookbook
Day of the Dead bread, from Mexico: The Cookbook

Want to make Day of the Dead bread?

Remember the dearly departed this Día de Muertos with this sweet loaf courtesy of Mexico: The Cookbook

Some call it “the staff of life”, yet this week Mexicans will be baking this bread in remembrance of the dead. Pan de Muerto, or Day of the Dead bread is a sweet loaf that is cooked and eaten across the country as part of Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations.

This annual festival, which runs from 31 October to 2 November, is also a wonderful opportunity for those outside of the Mexican diaspora to try some of this country’s remarkably rich cuisine. Our recipe comes from our canonical new cook book, Mexico: The Cookbook by one of the nation’s best-loved chefs, Margarita Carrillo Arronte. Here’s how to make it.

 

A Mexican kitchen. From Mexico: The Cookbook
A Mexican kitchen. From Mexico: The Cookbook

Ingredients

1 cup (9 fl oz/250 ml) milk

4 cups (1 lb 2 oz/500 g) plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

1/2 cup (31/2 oz/100 g) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

11/2 teaspoons active dry (fast-action) yeast

4 eggs

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1–2 teaspoons orange blossom water, to taste

3/4 cup (7 oz/200 g) cold butter, diced melted butter, for greasing and brushing

To glaze

1 egg, beaten

1 pinch of sea salt

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1 pinch of sugar

 

Traditional Mexican Day of the Dead sugar skulls. Image from Mexico: The Cookbook
Traditional Mexican Day of the Dead sugar skulls. Image from Mexico: The Cookbook

Instructions

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, then remove from heat and let cool. Set aside.

Put the flour into a large bowl and make a well. Sprinkle in the sugar and yeast and pour in the milk. Close the well by flicking flour over the milk and let it sit for one hour.

Add the remaining ingredients, except the melted butter, and shape into a ball. Transfer to a clean lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes. Add the butter and knead again for 10 minutes. Return to the bowl and cover. Let rise for two hours, until doubled in size.

Grease two baking sheets with butter. Divide the dough into three pieces. Take two of those pieces and roll them into tight balls and then press them gently to flatten a bit. Cover and let rise for one hour. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C/Gas Mark 6).

After one hour, take the remaining piece of dough and divide it into 10 little pieces. Roll two of these pieces into small balls and eight of these pieces into long, thin logs.

To make the glaze, combine all the ingredients and one tablespoon water in a small bowl and mix well. Brush the loaves gently with the glaze. Take four of the logs and drape them in an X shape over one of the balls. Repeat for the other disk of dough. Brush these with egg. Take a little ball of dough and place it on the top of one disk of dough, where the X meets. Press down gently so it sticks. Repeat for the other little ball of dough.

Glaze the dough balls and bake in the oven for 30–35 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. While they are still warm, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

 

Mexico: The Cookbook
Mexico: The Cookbook

For many more Mexican recipes get your own copy of Mexico: The Cookbook here. Also, for everything taco-related get Tacopedia, and for insight into how one of the country’s greatest young chefs is reshaping his nation’s cuisine get Enrique Olvera’s Mexico from the Inside Out.