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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pan de Muerto {she made, ella hace}

We didn't put together an ofrenda (offerings, usually on an altar) for Día de los Muertos this year.  Time seemed to fly by faster than normal.  I'm not sure where October went.  But even if the ofrenda is not there with photos, food, and favorite items to remind us of the loved ones we've lost, we still take the time to light a candle, send up a wish, laugh, and perhaps shed a few tears over a loaf of Pan de Muerto and some rich, steaming hot chocolate.

I've tried several different recipes for Pan de Muerto over the years.  Some are studded with anise seeds.  Others are scented with cinnamon.  Some are topped with beautiful little sugar pearls or sanded in bright colors while others are doused in an orange-scented glaze.  I'm pretty happy with any version of this beautifully enriched, eggy bread with the slightest hint of sweetness.  And while I love eating it all by its lonesome, it goes equally well dunked in that glass of hot chocolate or a bowl of smoky, brothy beans.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite Day of the Dead photos that I happened upon this year.  Vibrantly hued glass, sugar skull, and flowers...simple candles, fruit, and dried flowers...cemetery decorated with cempasuchil (marigolds)...beautifully adorned pan de muerto.
photo credits clockwise from top left: Rock 'n Roll Bride, Amazon, Mex Online, Traditions Mexico
And while I'm at it, this beautiful Day of the Dead skull print in the photos with my bread was done by the super talented Gloria...if you get a moment, go over and check out some more of her amazing work.  Oh, and before I forget...yes I know, I know...the "skull" portion of my bread is totally off center.  Oddly enough, both loaves turned out this way.  While it didn't make for as pretty of a loaf as it could have if they didn't slide a bit, they didn't taste any different.  When I opened the oven, all I could think was that heads were rollin' in there!
Pan de Muerto
from the kitchen of girlichef
yield: 2 loaves (~1¼ lbs. each)

¾ c. + 2 Tbs. water, lukewarm
1 Tbs. active dry yeast
3 Tbs. butter, at room temperature
2¼  tsp. kosher salt
3 large eggs
½ Tbs. orange extract
finely grated zest of 1-2 oranges
½ c. superfine sugar
⅓  c. nonfat dry milk
4 c. bread flour + more as needed
1 egg beaten w/ a bit of water for an egg wash

to finish:
~1 oz. butter, melted
sesame seeds
vanilla sugar

Put warm water in bowl of mixer and sprinkle yeast over top.  Let sit about 5 minutes or until frothy.  Stir in butter, salt, eggs, orange extract and zest.  Stir in sugar, dry milk and half of the flour.  Add in remaining flour and knead until smooth and elastic.  The dough should be a bit tacky, but not so sticky that you can't work with it.  If it sticks to your hands (or dough hook) so much that you can't pull your hands away without taking the dough with you, add in a bit more flour at a time  until it is smooth and supple.  Form into a ball and place in an oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic or a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, ~1½ hours.  

Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface.  At this point, it should be a dream to work with.  Divide it half.  Cut about a quarter of the dough off of each half.  Form the two large portions of dough into nice rounds and place them on a lined baking tray.  Divide each of the smaller portions into four basically equal pieces.  
Using your finger, press around the edge of the dough to form a narrow ridge.
Roll six of the smaller pieces into long strips, using your finger to roll thinner in the middle and towards the outer edges to form the bone-type shapes.  Drape three across each dome of dough.
Form the final two small pieces of dough into balls and place in the center of the dome, on top of the bones.  This represents a skull.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise another 45 minutes, preheating oven to 350° F during the final 15 minutes of rise time.  Brush the loaves with a thin layer of egg wash (sprinkle with some sesame seeds, if you like at this point) and slide carefully into oven.
Bake for ~20-30 minutes, checking at the lowest time.  Bread should be soft, springy, and golden brown.  Remove from oven and brush with melted butter and sprinkle with vanilla sugar all over.  Enjoy!  Even if "heads were rollin' " in the oven...
These are some shots from my youngest sons Spanish class today.  They learned about the history of Día de los Muertos and their professora brought in a bunch...A BUNCH...of smaller loaves of Pan de Muerto from one of our local Mexican Panaderias to eat alongside their hot chocolate.  Do I even need to tell you how many of the kids clamored for seconds!?
What happens when two American girls who are both married to Mexican guys find out that although one of them lives in the U.S. and one of them lives in Mexico, they both love eating the same food?  Well, naturally they decide to get "together" the only way they can and cook up the same dishes.  Or perhaps take the same ingredients and talking about them in their own voice or using them in their own way. 

Leslie and I have teamed up to occasionally cook/bake/make a our own versions of the same food.  We want to see how similar (or how different) they turn out.  Other times we will pick an ingredient and use it however we choose...or maybe just talk about it.  Good food knows no borders and we hope to share the food we love with you.  It's not a competition, it's a showcase.  We will post on the same day as each other and would love to hear your thoughts on what we've made and how you make it. 
Join me (here at girlichef) and Leslie in her kitchen (at La Cocina de Leslie) for some delicious food.
She Made, Ella Hace Banner- and

*Please go visit my friend Leslie by clicking here to see her Pan de Muerto!*

I am also sharing this post with:
*Dia de Bloglandia hosted at Mango Studio & Recuerda Mi Corazon
dia de bloglandia BYOB-badge wanderfood-badge thesechickscookfeaturingmyrecipes Cast Party Wednesday

Would you like to comment?

  1. Fluffy and yummy.

  2. Que preciosidad, de pan, me encanta.

  3. This looks so good! I think the Day of the Dead is a really charming tradition. And very healthy!

  4. It is easy to see why these would be clammered for Heather. Love the sharing of kitchens going on!!

  5. Love all you Day of the Dead pictures! I wonder if our Spanish class did anything for it?

  6. Who knows where October went? This bread is beautifully scary!

  7. i cannot thank you enough for sharing your muertos pan!!! i can almost taste the sweet yeasty mouthful after it is generously dunked in a steamy frothy cup of mexican hot chocolate.
    i am thrilled gloria has opened another bright door and our circle of celebrating together has grown!

  8. Hi Heather.
    The Day of the Dead photos that you chose to share are lovely and your Pan de Muerto looks delicious. There is an Italian bread that looks and sounds very similar that I love, so I know that I would love this, too. Thank you for posting the recipe.
    I must come back regularly to see what good things you are making in the kitchen.
    ♥ audrey

  9. Thank you!!! for joining dia de bloglandia!

    Your pan de muerto looks fabulous, the recipe is one that I'm going to keep.


    The photographs are exquisite too...

  10. Hi Heather. Wow, I was very surprised when I opened up my blog and looked to see who had posted and there was a painting there that looked familiar, tee hee. I said, "Hey, that looks like one of mine." lol. Thank you so much for the mention but that's not what deserves the attention, it's your bread. Wow! gimme some. I am definitely going to print this recipe out, it looks so good. Thanks Heather and I'm so glad you linked up, Yay!! Have a wonderful day and I'm going to print now. Take care and Happy Dia de Los Muertos.

  11. I love the story of She Made/Ella Hace, what a great idea. Your bread looks amazing, I wish I were a skilled breadmaker, but I might try this anyway. The photo of the decorated bread is incredible.

  12. The picture of the cemetery stole my heart, it's beautiful! I can almost savor your beautiful pan de muerto! Thanks for joining in.
    How kool that kids were taught about this celebration in school.

  13. Wowwwwwwwwww - looks fabulous
    I love it
    Thanks so much for the instructions - helps a lot.
    We definitely share this passion of baking sweet bread :)

  14. Oh my gosh, Heather, more delights to add to this great Dia de Bloglandia FEAST! In your case, quite literally - I am thrilled to see the recipe for Pan de Muerta, and will be trying it out very soon.
    Thank you so much for sharing this..
    Warm wishes from England!x

  15. This bread reminds me a LOT of the Easter bread my grandmother used to make...which means it must be fabulous! All of your photos are gorgeous!

  16. Dia de los Muertes is my friends' favorite holiday, his living room literally looks like a shrine to it! I have to make him this bread he'll love it.

  17. I am just learning of the holiday through this bloglandia celebration the last few years..and I have never focused on the foods of the tradition really..thank you very much for sharing this looks absolutely delicious!

  18. Beautiful images... Your bread is awesome.
    Thank you for sharing with us.
    Have a great day.
    Always, Queenie

  19. Your Pan de Muerto looks delicious!!! I love that you topped yours with sesame seeds. :) (I'm so going to steal that idea for next time!)

    Loved baking with you again, amiga! :)

  20. I also baked one, but your "bones" look much much better!

    And happy birthday!!!

  21. your pan coma out awesome, love that they celebrated this wonderful tradition with the kids at school. I love Gloria's art. leslie came out wonderful too, great post!

  22. I want to be in the club! Is it too late for Charles to become Mexican? ;-)
    Love the bread, can't wait to learn more about Mexican cuisine from you guys.

  23. That bread is so cool! You can do so many different things with it - and what a great way to express creativity.

  24. I came to see your all souls day offering but ended up falling in love with your blog; two families in different locations making the same thing and sharing the photo of it. Sheer genius. Jacque

  25. The collection of photos are gorgeous! And the pan looks beautiful!

  26. I had to laugh at your heads rolling in the oven! Sounds like a good, rich dough. I've never eaten this.

  27. I love that you chose the subtle taste of orange extract and zest, rather than a very strong orange glaze.

    Malice in Dunderland