Friday, November 02, 2012

Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead)

Baking and blogging has taken a back seat in my life for the moment.  I've been kind of distracted with work and with the construction of our new home.  I haven’t felt like baking, and to be honest it felt nice to not have the pressure that I tend to put on myself to post something.  But I knew I had to share this recipe.  A few weeks ago my son Josh came home from school with a recipe he wanted to make and bring to Spanish class for extra credit.  Not only did he want us to bake the bread together, but he wanted me to take pictures and “blog it”.   Pan de Muertos, or “bread of the dead” is a sweet bread made in Mexico for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) or All Soul’s Day which is celebrated on November 2nd. 

As we shaped the loaf and formed the dough into bone shapes, Josh told me what this symbolized.  He informed me that the dough is shaped into the bone shapes and put across the top of the loaf to represent the relatives that have been lost.  The instructions from school said to frost the bread with red frosting, and he stressed that it had to be red, not pink.  Most of the recipes and pictures on the Internet did not have frosting or icing, but since that is what our directions said that is how we made it.  Our recipe also said the anise seeds were optional, and we we didn't use them.  Josh said most of the kids in his class said they didn't like black licorice and didn't want him to put anise in the bread.  The bread smelled so good baking!  Luckily when Josh came home from school he had some of his bread left so I finally got to taste it—delicioso!

print recipe

Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead)
A traditional Mexican sweet bread that is made to celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and All Soul's Day.

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds, ground
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 envelope (1 tablespoon) active dry yeast
  • pinch sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 5 1/4 to 5 1/2 cups all- purpose flour
  • sugar tablespoon
  • red frosting

1. Place butter, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, orange zest, and ground anise seeds in a large bowl.2. Scald milk by heating to just under boiling point, about 180°, then pour over ingredients in the large bowl.3. Stir until the sugar is dissolved; let cool.4. Sir yeast and a pinch of sugar into 1/4 cup warm water; let stand until yeast is softened.5. Beat whole eggs and egg yolks in a small bowl; spoon 2 tablespoons beaten eggs into another small bowl or custard cup; stir in 1 teaspoon water and refrigerate to use for glaze.6. Stir softened yeast and remaining beaten eggs into milk mixture.7. Stir enough flour into milk mixture to make a stiff dough.8. Turn dough out onto a lightly flowered surface and knead until smooth and elastic (at least 10 minutes), adding more flour as needed.9. Clean bowl and grease or spray with cooking spray.10. Place dough in bowl and burn to grease all sides; cover with a dry cloth towel and let stand in a warm place free from drafts until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.11. Punch down dough and turn out onto surface; let rest for a few minutes.12. Grease or spray baking sheet with cooking spray.13. Set aside about 1/3 cup of dough; shape remainder of dough into a smooth, round loaf and place on prepared baking sheet.14. Brush loaf with some of the reserved egg mixture.15. Divide the reserved dough into 3 equal pieces.16. Roll two of the pieces into an 8 - 9 inch rope; shape ends of ropes to resemble knobs on bones then cross bone shapes over the top of the loaf, stretching to reach the bottom of each side.17. Shape third piece of dough into a ball; moisten bottom with egg mixture and place in the center of the cross bones, pressing firmly. 18. Cover loaf loosely with towels and let stand in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. 19. Preheat oven to 350°F; brush loaf with egg mixture and sprinkle with sugar.20. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until browned; remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.21. Drizzle with thinned red frosting.

Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 loaf


  1. Jill, this bread looks really nice. Beautiful. Yes building home is really stressful. Congrats on your house.

  2. Ooo, this looks fantastic. Never heard of the day of the dead but sounds fascinating! The frosting looks like a blood red colour which is very apt. I'm a big fan of sweet breads so will have to try this.

    - Lisa.
    Sweet 2 Eat Baking

  3. Wow, pan de muertos sure is appetizing! And I think it's so cute that your son wanted you to take pictures and blog this!

  4. Jill, your Pan de Muertos looks really good and I am definitely going to try it mself. Regarding the red icing, in Mexico, you might see it with sugar icing but never red (that's why you couldn't find pictures in internet). We usually coat it with a type of "crumble" topping in the shape of "huesitos" (bones, like your son said). We make pan de muertos not only to eat but also oto place it in our "ofrendas" which are like altars for our lost loved ones. I'm Mexican and have been living abroad for 15 years, unfortunately my son has grown up away from many traditions like this one, so I thank you in the name of our whole family for sharing this recipe!!! Happy Día de Muertos :)

    1. Gracias Tziranda! So interesting! It is fun to learn about the traditions of other countries. I'm not sure why his instructions said to frost with red frosting--maybe that is how his teacher's family has made it? I did see some pictures where the sugar sprinkled over the top was red, and one picture where it looked like red food coloring had been added to the dough. In any case, it was so much fun to bake this with my son!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing Josh's project with us. Like you, I love learning of other cultures also...especially of their food. The bread sounds delicious...very interesting history!

    Congratulations upon the construction of your new home...I admire anyone who undertakes such a project! Maybe blog the progress of the construction, or mostly photos until you can get back to baking!

  6. That sounds amazing! Lovely crisp image.

  7. This looks really interesting. I have never had bread with frosting before. And I love the explanation behind it.

  8. Wow! What a bright and beautiful bread. The frosting is so dramatic. (I love the fact that you made this at your son's prompting, despite being busy with something as all-encompassing as new house construction. I'll bet this will become one of those posts you'll always remember with a smile, and your son will too!)

  9. Gorgeous bread! Jane is totally right. 'Dramatic' is a lovely way to describe it :)

  10. Wowow , that is quite an eye- catching bread , looks good , very dramatic :)

  11. Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table,but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.

    Mango Juice Manufacturers


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...