Dia de los muertos translates into “Day of the Dead”.
The tradition of celebrating Day of the Dead dates from Pre-Columbian times, when the natives of Mexico focused a great deal on the manner in which someone died and rituals were created to commune with the dead and deities from those ancient times. As often happens when two cultures meet, the Spaniards combined the native rituals with their own beliefs which produced a festival that assimilated the ideology, religion, art, agriculture and all the ingredients of the existing culture and resulted in our modern “Dia de los Muertos”.
In 2003 The Day of the Dead, was named by UNESCO as a patrimony intangible of humanity. It is a symbol of Mexico’s cult to the dead and the fascination for the unknown. It is a remembrance of life and the necessity to keep our bounds that seem so impossible to achieve and maintain when our loved ones depart. It is of great importance to remember and maintain these traditions of a rich and colorful culture. Mexico has a lot of good traditions to share with the world…
In Mexico, Day of the Dead is celebrated over three days starting October 31st. November 1 day of all saints, and November 2nd day of all souls. We celebrate the people who departed in hope that they might come back and visit to celebrate with us. And if they are coming all the way from a different dimension we better have some feast worth the trip!
Family altars are decorated with the remembered ones’ favorite foods, photographs, possessions,sugar skulls, drinks and flowers. Candles are placed to illuminate the way for a safe journey back home. This phenomenon it is assimilated with respect and irony, defying the dead as they laugh about her. With a sarcastic bitter-sweet humor Mexicans celebrate the ones that are no longer with us but with the biggest respect they built altars to commemorate them singing, drinking and praying. Now a days people also makes altars for their Favourite historical characters, artist, singers, anybody who means or have influenced in some way your life, or that you just simple admire.
Our Altar in the picture above is made for the 2 most representative artist in Mexico, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera which I admire the most.
Pan de Muerto is one of the elements that can not be missed on an altar, a bread that resembles a skull with bones. Enjoy it with a cup of hot cocoa, warmed up and sweeten up the memories of the ones that are no longer with us. It is a good excuse to make this delightful bread and maybe… acquire a tasty tradition…
And ofcourse you need some music to go with it… who is better than Chavela Vargas to accompany this recipe and also to sing to their friends…I hope you enjoy… This song talks about the simple things in life, about love and time…http://youtu.be/-mnZcErj-SA
PAN DE MUERTO
Makes 3 -6” round loaves or 4- 4” liltte round loaves.
Printing recipe at the end of the post
1 lb / 500 gr. unbleached all purpose flour* plus 1/2-3/4 of a cup more flour for dusting when shaping and kneading.
¾ cup / 200gr. Sugar.
¾ cup / 200 gr. Butter room temperature and cut into small chunks.
½ cup / 125ml. Whole milk
2 teaspoons dry active yeast or one little dry active yeast package of 7gr.
3 whole eggs
2 yolks, save the whites for egg wash later…
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon orange blossom water /extracto de flor de azhar
1 teaspoon ground anise seeds
1 teaspoon ground mexican cinnamon
the zest of one small orange
For the Egg wash:
2 left over egg whites you saved when making the dough…
A dash of milk
Coming out of the oven :
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 pinch of cinnamon
1. Measure and gather all your ingredients.
2. Start by warming the milk just about luke warm, add a teaspoon of sugar and sprinkle the yeast until bloom. About 10-15 minutes. The yeast should look foamy and creamy.
3. Meantime, on a clean flat surface make a “wheel” with the flour using your bowl to make a perfect circle.
4. Sprinkle the sugar around the flour wheel. In the center add the eggs, egg yolks, spices, extracts, anise, cinnamon, salt. Check on your yeast and if its ready add it to the center of the wheel. Mix all this ingredients using the tips of your fingers or a fork.
5. With your hand in a spider position, start incorporating little by little the flour from the edges. Be careful and gentle not to break the flour ring. Start in circular motions all around the inner flour circle until you have fully incorporated all the flour and almost all the sugar.
6. Now using both hands start incorporating the butter. At this point you can decide, kneading the dough by hand for about 20-25 minutes, it is hard work, but I love the way the dough develops as the warm of your hands soften the dough and help the yeast making the dough smooth and shiny. This efforts shown when the bread is baked, it comes out with a tender finer crumb. The other option, using your mixer with a dough hook for about 10-15 minutes. Both routes work is just about preference and time. ~for me, the key to making a good dough is to feel the dough, that’s why I prefer to mix it by hand~
As dough is kneaded, you can add up to 1/2 cup more flour if needed, if after kneading, the dough feels to sticky, sprinkle 1/4 cup and knead, until your dough feels soft, moist, smooth,and has a shine to it. This dough is very easy to make and as soon the kneading develops the right texture you will know. It will feel soft and it looks a bit shiny, as you can see on the last picture below. So be patient, give the love and knead gently and confident that everything will come out at the right time.
7. Once the dough is ready dust a large bowl with flour, place the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel and place it in the refrigerator over night. I’ve tried different methods and the bread did not come out as tender and buttery as traditional good bread. 8 to 10 hours over night gives the right time for the dough to develop flavor.
1. Pull dough out of refrigerator, punch your dough and reshape kneading gently and briefely.
2.Flour a clean surface and cut into 4 equal parts. Shape each part using your hands creating a concave shape, gently surround the dough with your hand like a little cave, and gently, create circular motion with the dough rubbing against the table until you have formed a smooth round ball. Place each ball into a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover gently with a piece of plastic wrap dusted with flour and a clean kitchen towel.
3. Shape 3 parts of the dough and save one to make the bones and skulls for the tops. Divide this ball into 6 stripes and 3 small 1” balls equal sizes.
4.With your fingers make a little cylinder strip and gently pressing in between your fingers make the bones. (see picture below)
5. Place the bone strips, forming a cross and then place the a small ball in the middle, flattening a little making sure it sticks with the rest of the dough.
6. Cover the tray with a piece of plastic wrap dusted with flour to prevent to stick. Let the bread rise for a second time for about 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. Once they are doubled apply the egg wash evenly.
7. Preheat the oven at 375F / 190C Place tray in the oven, and lower the temperature to 350F/ 175C .Bake for 25-30 minutes.Until golden brown and hollow sound.
8. Remove from oven, brush them with melted butter and drench in sugar. Cool bread on a rack. Prepare the hot cocoa, a cafe de olla and be ready to celebrate!
Enjoy your Pan de Muerto and Celebrate life!
* * *
Altar dedicated to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera
Traditional Sugar skulls are made with sugar and in the shape of skulls. One of my favorites Mexican cartoonist illustrator artists is José Guadalupe Posada who is the autor of the Famous Calavera Catrina. If you want to know more about him: http://publicdomainreview.org/2012/11/02/the-calaveras-of-jose-guadalupe-posada/
How to make Sugar Skulls its easy and fun, you can decorate with sugar icing , sprinkles, candy, colored sugar crystals anything that rocks your imagination, have fun!
Royal Icing, for decorating:
- 1 cup powder sugar
- 1 teaspoon meringue powder
- 1-3 teaspoons warm water
- 2-4 drops of natural food coloring of your choice, start with one drop at the time until you achieve the desired color saturation.
For the sugar skulls:
- 3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg white, from a large egg
1. Mix troughly until you have a mixture that resembles like sand.
2. Using a plastic mold pack the sugar into the mold really well and level it. Un mold carefully placing a piece of tick cardboard behind the mold, flip and remove the plastic mold carefully. Place cardboard on top of a baking tray and Bake for at least 1 hour on 200F/90C. Remove from oven carefully. Leave tray on a safe place and let them air dry for an extra day.
3. Proceed and decorate with royal Icing and a little black coloring or melted dark chocolate.
This sugar skulls are not meant to be eaten, it is just for decoration since they will just taste like plain sugar…But you are welcome to eat them if you have a strong sugar tooth, have fun!
You can buy this awesome Guadalupe Posadas Skull Molds and many more on the following link: Mexican Sugar Skulls
Day of the Dead a Tasty Mexican Tradition
~ Viva la vida! ~
Music Pairing: Chavela Vargas “Las Simples Cosas”
Pan de Muerto
This recipe is for traditional style Pan de Muerto. The bread, is buttery and the egg yolks give a beautiful rich color and flavor to the bread. Anise and orange zest give this bread a unique aroma and flavor. The texture is soft and with a strong crumb to hold up to one of we mexicans favorite thing to do: "Dunking the bread in to a cup of chocolate caliente-hot-cocoa" ~Enjoy!
- 1 lb /500gr. Unbleached all purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup more for dusting and kneading
- 3/4 cup/200gr. granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup/200gr. Butter, room temp and cut in small chunks
- 1/2 cup/125gr. whole milk
- 2 teaspoons dry active yeast, equivalent to 1 7gr.package.
- 3 whole eggs
- 2 yolks
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon orange blossom water/ extract de flor de azhar
- 1 teaspoon ground anise seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground mexican cinnamon
- 1 the zest of one small orange
1.Measure and gather all your ingredients.
2. Start by warming the milk just about luke warm, add a teaspoon of sugar and sprinkle the yeast until blossom. About 10-15 minutes. The yeast should look foamy and creamy.
3.Meantime, on a clean flat surface make a “wheel” with the flour using your bowl to make a perfect circle.
4.Sprinkle the sugar around the flour wheel.
5. In the center add the eggs, egg yolks, spices, extracts, orange zest, anise, cinnamon, salt.
6.Check on your yeast and if its ready,looks "foamy and creamy" add it to the center of the wheel.
7.Mix all these ingredients with a fork.
8.With your hand in a spider position, start incorporating little by little the flour from the edges. Be careful and gentle not to break the flour ring.
9.Start in circular motions all around the inner flour circle until you have fully incorporated all the flour and all the sugar.
10.Now using both hands start kneading into the butter. At this point you can decide, mixing your dough by hand, or using a mixer. I prefer kneading the dough by hand because the warm of your hands softens the dough as you knead, making it really smooth and shiny. Knead for about 20-25 minutes, until dough forms a smooth ball. If using your mixer, place a dough hook and mix for about 10-15 minutes. Both routes work is just about preference and time. The key to making a good dough is to feel the dough. That’s why I prefer to mix it by hand, I can tell when its ready and avoid over mixing. You can add up to 1/2 cup more flour if needed, if after a bit of kneading it feels to sticky, sprinkle 1/4 cup and knead, until your dough feels soft, smooth, and tender. This dough is very easy to make and as soon is the right texture you will know. It will feel not sticky and it looks a bit shiny, as you can see on the last picture below. So be patient, give the love and knead gently and confident that everything will come out at the right time.
11.Once the dough is ready grease the inside of a bowl with butter and place the dough ball, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel and place it in the refrigerator over night. I’ve tried different methods and the bread did not come out as tender and buttery as traditional good bread. 10-12 hours over night is great, the dough develops flavor and texture.
For the Egg wash:
1 egg slightly beaten, or those egg whites you saved when making the dough!
a dash of heavy cream
For the Glaze:
1 teaspoon flour
1/4 cup milk
For sprinkle the bread
1/2 -3/4 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
Take the doug out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, about 1-2 hours, before shaping.
1. Punch your dough and reshape dough kneading gently and briefely.
2. Dust with flour a clean surface and cut dough into 4 equal parts.
3. Shape each part in circular motions. Until you have formed a round ball. Place it into a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
4. Shape 3 parts and save one to make the bones and skulls for the tops. Divide the 4th ball into 9 stripes and 3 small 1” balls equal sizes.
5.With your fingers make a little cilinder and gently pressing in between your fingers make the bones. (see picture above)
6.Proceed to place the bone stripes on top of the bread as picture above.
8.Cover the tray with a piece of plastic wrap dusted with flour to prevent to stick. Let the bread rise for a second time for about 30 minutes, or until double in size. When proofed, brush the the bread lightly with egg wash.
9. Preheat the oven at 375F / 190C once the bread is in the oven lower it to 350F/ 175C and bake for 25-30 minutes.
10.Remove from oven and quickly brush them with the flour glaze and sprinkle with sugar/cinammon mixture, place the bread bake in the oven and bake for 5-7 more minutes. Pull them out of the oven check the center for doneness. Cool them on a rack.
Note: If you don't, want to use the glaze, omit the egg wash and the glaze step. Bake the bread with out egg wash for 25-35 minutes. When bread comes out of the oven and cool slightly, brush the bread with melted butter and sprinkle the bread with the sugar and cinnamon mixture, until fully covered.
You can plan ahead and make the dough the night before, over the weekend. Wake up Sunday or Saturday and shape and bake your bread in the morning and have it for breakfast with a cup of warm chocolate ~ hot-cocoa, a coffee, or cafe de olla.
Enjoy your well deserved Pan de Muerto and Celebrate life!