This Day of the Dead Bread Recipe, or Pan de Muerto, is a traditional Mexican bread made during the celebration of Dia de los Muertos. It is a sweet, fluffy bread that is often decorated with bones and skulls made from dough.
Pan de Muerto, which means "Bread of the Dead" in English, is a sweet and flavorful bread that is traditionally made and eaten during the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). This holiday is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd to honor and remember deceased loved ones.
Pan de Muerto is typically made with flour, sugar, eggs, yeast, and butter, and is flavored with orange blossom water and sometimes anise. The bread is often decorated with bone-shaped pieces of dough on top, which represent the bones of the deceased. It has a slightly sweet flavor and a soft, fluffy texture.
Pan de Muerto is an important part of Dia de los Muertos celebrations, and it is often placed on altars dedicated to deceased loved ones as an offering. It is also shared and eaten by family and friends during the holiday.
- What is Day of the Dead bread made of?
- What does the bread in Day of the Dead represent?
- Why you will love this recipe
- Pan de Muerto Ingredients
- How to make Day of the Dead Bread Recipe
- Day of the Dead Bread Variations
- Day of the Dead Bread Recipe Top Tips
- Mexican Day of the Dead Bread Recipe (Pan de Muerto)
- Food safety
What is Day of the Dead bread made of?
Day of the Dead bread, also known as Pan de Muerto, is a sweet bread that is traditionally made in Mexico for the Day of the Dead holiday. The bread is typically made with ingredients such as flour, sugar, eggs, yeast, butter, and sometimes milk.
In addition to these basic ingredients, Day of the Dead bread is often flavored with orange blossom water and sometimes anise. This gives the bread a slightly sweet and fragrant taste that is characteristic of traditional Mexican baking. Day of the Dead bread is usually decorated with bone-shaped pieces of dough on top, which represent the bones of the deceased. Sometimes, the bread is also decorated with small round shapes of dough that represent tears or skulls.
What does the bread in Day of the Dead represent?
In the Day of the Dead tradition, the bread that is made and offered to the deceased is called Pan de Muerto, which means "Bread of the Dead" in English. The bread is a significant part of the Day of the Dead celebration, and it carries symbolic meaning.
The round shape of the bread represents the cyclical nature of life and death, and the circle of life that continues even after death. The bread is often decorated with bone-shaped pieces of dough on top, which represent the bones of the deceased.
The bread is also thought to be a representation of the body of the deceased. By sharing the bread with others and consuming it, it is believed that the spirit of the deceased is also being consumed and honored.
In addition, the sweet and fragrant flavor of the bread is believed to help guide the spirits of the dead back to the world of the living for a brief visit during the Day of the Dead celebration.
Why you will love this recipe
- It has a unique flavor: Pan de Muerto is a slightly sweet bread that is flavored with orange blossom water and sometimes anise, giving it a distinct and delicious taste.
- It is a symbol of the Day of the Dead celebration: The round shape of the bread represents the cyclical nature of life and death, and the bone-shaped decorations on top represent the bones of the deceased. As such, the bread is an important symbol of the Day of the Dead celebration and the connection between the living and the dead.
- It is a cultural tradition: Making and sharing Pan de Muerto is a longstanding tradition in Mexican culture, and it is an important way of honoring and remembering deceased loved ones.
- It brings people together: The act of making and sharing Pan de Muerto is a way for families and communities to come together and celebrate their cultural heritage and traditions.
Pan de Muerto Ingredients
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
- All-purpose flour
- Active dry yeast
- Kosher salt
- Orange zest
- Orange blossom water
See recipe card for quantities or this Day of the Dead Bread Recipe.
How to make Day of the Dead Bread Recipe
Put the flour into a large bowl and make a well. Sprinkle the sugar and yeast and pour in the milk into the well. Close the well by moving the flour over the milk and let it sit for an hour. Add the remaining ingredients, except the melted butter, and mix in the bowl until the dough is shaped into a ball. Transfer to a clean floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes. Add the butter and knead again for 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can add everything into a Kitchenaid Mixer with the dough hook attachment and knead for 10 minutes. Return to the bowl and cover. Let rise for 1-2 hours, until doubled in size. Keep in a warm place to rise quicker.
Grease 2 baking sheets with butter or oil. Divide the dough into three pieces. Take two of those pieces and roll them into tight balls, the size of a softball, then press them gently to flatten a bit. Cover and let rise for 1 hour. After one hour, take the remaining dough and divide into small balls and 8 of these pieces into long thin logs.
Combine the beaten egg, sugar and 1 tablespoon of water to make the glaze. Brush the loaves with the glaze. Take two of the logs and add them on top of the disc of dough to make an “X” shape. Take a little ball of dough and place it in the middle on top of the X. Brush more glaze on top.
Bake in the oven at 400°F for 30-35 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. While the bread is still warm, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar. Enjoy this Day of the Dead Bread Recipe.
Enjoy your delicious Pan de Muerto, a traditional and festive bread for Dia de los Muertos!
- Orange Blossom Water: This is a common ingredient in Pan de Muerto that gives the bread a distinctive flavor. If you don't have access to Orange Blossom Water, you can substitute it with orange zest or orange juice.
- Milk: Some recipes call for milk, but you can substitute it with water or a non-dairy milk like almond milk.
- Butter: If you don't have butter, you can substitute it with margarine or vegetable shortening.
Day of the Dead Bread Variations
While traditional Day of the Dead bread, or Pan de Muerto, is typically a sweet bread flavored with orange blossom water and decorated with bone-shaped pieces of dough on top, there are variations of this bread that incorporate different ingredients or flavors. Here are a few examples:
- Chocolate Day of the Dead Bread: This variation of Pan de Muerto incorporates cocoa powder or melted chocolate into the dough to create a rich, chocolatey flavor.
- Spiced Day of the Dead Bread: This variation of Pan de Muerto includes warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, which give the bread a warm, autumnal flavor.
These variations are just a few examples of how Day of the Dead bread can be adapted to incorporate different flavors or ingredients while still maintaining its cultural significance.
If you love this recipe, feel free to try my Mexican Buñuelos Recipe.
To make Pan de Muerto, you will need a few basic kitchen tools and equipment. Here's a list of what you'll need:
- Mixing bowls: You will need a few mixing bowls to prepare and mix the dough.
- Measuring cups and spoons: You will need measuring cups and spoons to accurately measure out the ingredients.
- Stand mixer or hand mixer: While you can mix the dough by hand, using a stand mixer or hand mixer will make the process faster and easier. I love using my Kitchenaid Mixer for this.
- Dough hook attachment: If using a stand mixer, you'll need a dough hook attachment to mix and knead the dough.
- Baking sheet: You'll need a baking sheet to bake the bread.
- Parchment paper: Line the baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent the bread from sticking.
- Plastic wrap: Cover the dough with plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out while it rises.
- Pastry brush: You'll need a pastry brush to brush the bread with melted butter or egg wash.
To keep Pan de Muerto fresh and flavorful, it's important to store it properly. Here are some tips for storing this Day of the Dead Bread Recipe:
- Allow the bread to cool completely before storing it. This will prevent moisture from accumulating and making the bread soggy.
- Wrap the bread in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. This will help to keep the bread moist and fresh.
- Store the bread at room temperature for up to 2-3 days. If you need to store it for longer, you can freeze it for up to 2-3 months.
- To freeze the bread, wrap it in plastic wrap and then place it in an airtight container or freezer bag. Label the container with the date and freeze it.
- To thaw the bread, remove it from the freezer and let it sit at room temperature for a few hours until it has thawed completely. You can then reheat the bread in the oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes to refresh it.
Day of the Dead Bread Recipe Top Tips
- Use fresh ingredients: For the best flavor and texture, use fresh ingredients when making Pan de Muerto. This includes fresh yeast, fresh orange zest, and fresh orange juice.
- Let the dough rest: After mixing and kneading the dough, let it rest for at least an hour in a warm place. This will allow the dough to rise and develop flavor.
- Brush the bread with egg wash: Before baking, brush the bread with egg wash. This will give it a glossy sheen and help it to brown evenly.
- Make the bone-shaped decorations: To make the traditional bone-shaped decorations on top of the bread, use a bone-shaped dough cutter or shape the dough by hand. Brush the decorations with egg wash before baking.
- Bake at the right temperature: Bake the bread at 350°F for 20-25 minutes, or until it's golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Cool the bread before slicing: Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing it. This will help to keep it from becoming too crumbly.
- Store the bread properly: To keep the bread fresh, store it wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminum foil at room temperature for up to 2-3 days.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove