Pan de Muerto


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Makes one large loaf

Pan de Muerto is a Mexican sweet bread made for Dia de Los Muerto, or Days of the Dead.  The loaves are traditionally decorated with skulls and bones made out of dough, and then lightly dusted with sugar before baking.  These loaves are placed on the small alters made in homes to honor dead relatives.  They are also part of the feasting that occurs during Dia de Los Muerto.

The Ferment:


½ cup warm water

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon Instant Yeast

Put all ingredients into a small bowl and stir well.  Set aside in a warm place for fifteen to twenty minutes or until the mixture is frothy and bubbling a bit.

The Sponge:


The ferment plus:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups warm water

1/2  sugar

1 teaspoon rose water (optional)

A few grindings of nutmeg

1 teaspoon powdered cinnamon


Mix the flour, water and seasonings together in a large bowl and add the ferment.  Mix well, cover with a clean cloth and leave in a warm place until the mixture is “spongy” and bubbling.  This will probably take from 30 minutes to an hour.


The Dough:


About 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt, depending on taste

4 to 4 ½ cups of all-purpose flour


When the sponge is working, (spongy and bubbling) add the salt and begin adding add the flour, one cup at a time and stirring well after each addition.  When the mixture is too stiff to stir, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and begin kneading and adding the remaining flour until you have a firm yet malleable dough.   Knead until all stickiness is gone and the dough is smooth and glossy.  Form into a ball and place in a clean lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with a clean cloth or plastic and leave in a warm place until it has risen to double its original bulk.  Punch it down, turn it over and allow to rise a second time.  The amount of time it will take to rise will vary greatly depending on climate and temperatures.


Forming and Baking the Loaves:


Egg wash – (1 egg beaten lightly with one tablespoon of cold water)

Raw, Turbinado or Demerrea sugar

After the second rising, turn the tough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very lightly.  Cut of about one quarter of the dough and set aside.  Form the remaining dough into one flat round loaf that is about two inches high.  Place the loaf on a baking sheet lined with Bakers Parchment.  Use the remaining dough to make

skulls and bones to decorate the top of the loaf.  Paint the top of the loaf with the egg wash before placing the decorations on top.  This will help them stick to the loaf.  When finished, paint the decorations with egg wash as well and lightly sprinkle all with the raw sugar.  Set aside until risen to nearly double the original size.


Place the risen loaves in a pre-heated 350° oven and bake until golden brown, about 45 to 50 minutes.  Remove from the oven and wrap in a clean cloth and leave until cool.  This will create a tender crust.


        Copyright © 2008 - Geraldine Duncann

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