Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Recipes for Los Muertos

I think I've mentioned before that I'm thinking about doing a Dia de los Muertos theme for the interior of the house for Halloween. Yes, I know Dia de los Muertos is the next day. I just think it'll offer a warm contrast to the Casa Fear Zombie Groundbreaker in the front yard. There really isn't much in this world better than walking into a home from a crisp Fall night to the scents of food, cooked with love, and the promise of lively conversation and old friends.

I feel like food is the key to this kind of celebration, not only for the living, but for the dead.

It's funny. I'm half Mexican, though I don't think of myself as Mexican (the other half is Swiss, which I identify with a bit more), and I haven't had much interest in the Mexican side of my heritage until recently. (BTW, I don't speak either language beyond asking for more beer and where the bathroom is. You know: the important stuff!) I'm not delving deeply into that heritage, mind you, I just view it as more of an interesting curiosity. A cultural diversion, if you will. I mean, Mexicans make Mexican food, which I like, and margaritas, which I also like. And they have Day of the Dead, which I think is a brilliant idea and celebration of those who have come before us. So: what? Not much, really. Just saying...

Be that as it may, I've started looking into traditional recipes I might serve at the party. I came across a recipe for Pan de Muerto (Bread for the Dead) through that sounds really nifty. I'll share it with you:

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 40 minutes


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 6 cups flour
  • 2 packets dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons whole anise seed
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • Glaze (see below)


Bring all ingredients to room temperature (except for the water which should be very warm) before beginning.

In a large bowl, mix together butter, sugar, anise, salt and 1/2 cup of the flour. In a separate bowl combine the eggs and the water. Add the egg/water mixture to the first mixture and add in another 1/2 cup of the flour. Add in the yeast and another 1/2 cup of flour. Continue to add the flour 1 cup at a time until a dough forms.

Knead on a floured surface for about 1 minute. Cover with a slightly damp dishcloth and let rise in a warm area for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Bring out dough and punch it down. Remove about 1/4 of it and use it to make bone shapes to drape across the loaf (see below.) Or divide the dough into smaller pieces to create other bone shapes. Let the shaped dough rise for 1 more hour.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes for smaller loaves and up to 45 minutes for larger loaves.

GLAZES(After glaze is applied you may decorate with additional colored sugar.)

  • Bring to a boil- 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup fresh orange juice. Brush on bread and then sift some additional sugar over the top.

  • Mix 3 tablespoons orange juice concentrate and 1/3 cup sugar with 2 egg whites. Brush on bread during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

  • Bring to a boil- 1/4 cup piloncillo, 1/4 cup sugar, 2/3 cup cranberry juice and 2 tablespoons orange zest. Brush on bread after bread has cooled.
BONES: The most common bone decorations are very simple. Sometimes it's just a matter of forming ball shapes and pressing them into the loaf in a line. You could also take a piece of dough, roll it into a long cylinder and place a ball at each end. You can get much more detailed if you like, but even a slightly "knobby" looking loaf will get the idea across.

If I have time, I may make this a day ahead. If I run out of time, I'll see if I can find a Mexican bakery in Sacramento that will make this bread.

There's also a recipe for empanadas at Day of the Dead Kal. Looks totally yummy!

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