A sweet bread that is baked during the Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, celebrated in Mexico on November 1st and 2nd.
1⁄4 c milk
1⁄4 c water
2 Tbsps unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1⁄2 – 3 c unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1⁄4 c sugar
2 1⁄4 tsp active dry yeast (one packet)
1 1⁄2 tsp ground anise
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 egg, lightly beaten (for egg wash)
FOR THE GLAZE TOPPING
1 small orange, zested and juiced (roughly 1/4 c orange juice)
1⁄4 c + 1 Tbsp sugar, divided
In a small saucepan heat the milk, water, and butter together until the butter has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the mixture to a shallow, wide bowl to cool to 80-90F.
In a large bowl, mix together 1 c flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and anise. Add the cooled milk mixture and whisk until combined. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.
Add the remaining 1 1⁄2 – 2 c flour gradually, mixing until each addition is fully incorporated before adding more. Add just as much flour as you need for a soft, but workable dough to form.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes, adding any remaining flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the counter. Knead until the dough is smooth and soft, but doesn’t stick to your hands.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl. Cover it with a damp tea towel and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, roughly 1 hour.
Cut 3 small portions (roughly 1.5 ounces each) and 1 smaller portion (roughly .5 oz) from your dough. Shape the 3 smaller portions into a rope that is roughly 6-7 inches long and has 4 bulges. (These are your ‘bones’.) Shape the smallest portion into a small ball (for the top).
Shape the remaining larger portion of dough into a large ball and place it on a flour-dusted baking sheet. Brush it with the egg wash and layer the three “bones” across the top. Brush again with egg wash and press the smallest ball into the top where the bones meet. Brush the top ball with egg wash.
Dough ready to rise for Mexican Day of the Dead Bread Pan de Muerto
Let the dough rise in a warm and draft-free place until puffy and nearly doubled, roughly 35-45 minutes. Near the end of the rising time, move your oven rack to the lowest position (this bread gets tall and having extra space over the top of the bread in the oven will help it not darken so quickly) and preheat your oven to 350F.
Bake the bread for 20-25 minutes, until it sounds hollow when tapped. (The internal temperature taken with an instant read thermometer should read 170F.) If the crust looks like it is getting too brown for your liking towards the end of baking, you can tent it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.
While the bread is baking, make the glaze: Heat 1⁄4 c sugar together with the zest and juice of one small orange. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If necessary, strain the glaze of any orange pulp and set the strained glaze aside.
When the bread is done, brush the warm loaf with the glaze and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Let the bread cool slightly before slicing. Serves 8 people.