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From the Kitchens of Pancho Villa has been awarded the honor of "WINNER" in the "Cookbooks: International" category of the 2014 International Book Awards!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead)

Since moving to Mexico I have begun to enjoy all the traditional holidays and the traditions that go along with them. Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a very festive but also somber holiday honoring the family and friends that have died. Cemeteries are packed on both November 1st and the 2nd with families offering flowers and having picnics at the graves of their dearly departed, sharing their favorite memories. Altars are constructed in homes, places of business, roadside shrines, and of course cemeteries. These altars will have photos of the departed, and offer to them their favorite pleasures from this life, such as cigarettes, tequila, certain favorite foods and any other 'earthly' item that person was fond of. In many cases the altar will remain for at least a week after the celebration.

Traditional foods apply to this holiday as they do any other Mexican holiday. One of my favorites, is Bread of the Dead (Pan de Muertos). During the week prior to Day of the Dead, you can even order it in restaurants. Here is a simple recipe for your own pan. (pan means bread) The bread is for the living but can also be placed on the altar.

The decoration on top of the bread is to symbolize bones.

Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead)

¼ cup butter
¼ cup milk
¼ cup warm water

3 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons anise seed
¼ cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons orange zest

2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons white sugar

Heat the milk and the butter together in a small saucepan, until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add the warm water. Allow the mixture to cool to 45° C / 110° F.

In a large bowl combine 1 cup of the flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and 1/4 cup sugar. Beat in the warm milk mixture, until well combined. Add in the eggs and orange zest, beating until well combined. Stir in 1/2 cup flour and continue adding more flour until you have a soft dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. (about 5 minutes)

Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about 1 to 2 hours. Punch the dough down. Remove small pieces of dough and roll into long 'cigar' shapes. Form the remaining dough into a large round loaf or 4 smaller rounds. Arrange the 'cigar' shapes in an X pattern on top of the loaf. Place dough onto a baking sheet, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until just about doubled in size.

Bake in a preheated 175° C / 350° F oven for about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly then brush with glaze.

To make glaze: In a small saucepan combine 2 tablespoons sugar and orange juice. Heat until sugar is melted. Brush over top of the bread while still warm, then immediately sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

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