DIY Pan de Muerto to Celebrate Day of the Dead

Categories: Chow Bella

pan de muerto.jpg
Laura Gill

By tomorrow Halloween will be but a pile of candy wrappers and a pumpkin rotting on the porch -- but the next holiday is right around the corner, and we're not talking about Thanksgiving.

Dia de los Meurtos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday celebrated on November 2. Despite the name, it has absolutely nothing to do with Halloween things or scary things and everything to do with life and love. The purpose of this holiday is to connect with loved ones and ancestors that have died - we all have them. The primary way people do this is through creating altars, upon which they place offerings, or ofrendas. No altar is complete without pan de muerto.

See also: Make Your Own Dairy-Free Horchata
See also: DIY Pumpkin Latte

Now, you could go out and purchase a perfectly decent pan de muerto from Food City, but where's the fun in that? You're still alive, after all...

sliced pan.jpg
Laura Gill

Despite being a first generation American -- my mother is from Mexico -- I don't have an old family recipe to turn to for pan de muerto, so I naturally turned to Pinterest. I was pleasantly surprised by the "pan de muerto" search results. After digging around I settled on a recipe that seemed the most simple and reliable... because this was my first attempt at making bread!

The recipe came from Serious Eats, which I've come to trust (a little too much, it turns out).

Here follows the gist of the experience:

Bread making is time consuming! Definitely plan ahead, some recipes require 12 hours or more rising time. The one I made took a total of about 5. If you want to get decent photos of the process start making your bread in the wee hours of the morning.

Trust yourself. "You have mad skills..." Tell yourself that over and over, because it's gonna look like a total disaster most of the time.

pan de muerto mixing.jpg
Laura Gill
Is this balling up of the dough supposed to happen?

The dough will be mighty sticky. Is it supposed to be? I don't know. This is the point where I almost quit.

pan de muerto sticky.jpg
Laura Gill

No matter what, just KEEP GOING. The dough is left to rise for several hours until it has doubled in volume. Magic!

pan de muerto rise.jpg
Laura Gill

At this point, you're almost done. Punch the dough down (it's a great feeling) and shape it. Try to make it nicer than mine. Then allow it to rise another hour. This is what it looks like after:

pan de muerto shapes.jpg
Laura Gill

Finally and most importantly, be sure to choose a good recipe. The one I chose failed to describe when one is supposed to add the yeast. Even though I read the recipe several times through before I started, I too overlooked this critical step. I'm not used to making bread! Luckily I found a similar recipe on another site and was able to figure it out. Serious Eats is lucky they make people create an account before posting comments.

Now that you know what to expect, go for it! Invite your family and friends over and take the time to remember those that came before you.

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