Pan De Muertos
In my family November 1st is known as "All Saints Day" but for Isabel it was her day to make "Bread of the dead". I recall her telling me that she got into the habit soon after she started dating a man from Mexico named Anton and was trying to please him by making his mom’s Pan de Muertos. From what I understood, she came very close but any married woman will tell you that there are dishes that only "his" mom will ever get right.
Well, I knew I would not be able to replicate the exact same bread that Isabel used to do, much like she had not been able to make hers exactly like Anton’s mom. She had only given me spoken instructions for this bread and I was a little worried to mess it up so I did an online search and found a recipe that looked very close. The breads are usually shaped into rolls having the shape of bones or limbs and glazed with a light orange sugar syrup. I wanted these for dinner tonight so I skipped the glazing part, I might use it for the remaining rolls tomorrow morning. As you can see I have also skipped shaping the buns into bones and such, a little too morbid for me.
Pan De Muertos, adapted from Global Gourmet:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
5 to 5-1/2 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole anise seed
1/2 cup sugar
In a saucepan over medium flame, heat the butter, milk and water until very warm but not boiling.
Meanwhile, measure out 1-1/2 cups flour and set the rest aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 1-1/2 cups flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and sugar. Beat in the warm liquid until well combined. Add the eggs and beat in another 1 cup of flour. Continue adding more flour until dough is soft but not sticky. Knead on lightly floured board for ten minutes until smooth and elastic.
Lightly grease a bowl and place dough in it, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours. Punch the dough down and shape into loaves resembling skulls, skeletons or round loaves with "bones" placed ornamentally around the top. Let these loaves rise for 1 hour.
Bake in a preheated 350 F degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and paint on glaze.
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then apply to bread with a pastry brush.
If desired, sprinkle on colored sugar while glaze is still damp.