By Sydney Belle
Mexicans are proud of their culture and true to their tradition. Two of their most celebrated days are the first 2 days of November – Dias de los Muertos. The Days of the Dead holiday is when families remember and honor their loved ones that have gone into the after life. The living believe these are the days when their ancestors’ spirits return to the earth. Alters are built and special meals are prepared as offerings to the dead. The bread of the dead, pan de muerto, is baked solely for this holiday. It is sweet and often shaped into skulls or round loaves with strips of dough rolled out and attached to resemble bones. These tasty loaves are piled in the windows of Mexican bakeries along side candied skulls decorated with colorful foil eyes and icing to remind us this is a sweet time of remembrance rather than a time of sadness.
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
1/2 cupsugar1/3 cup fresh orange juice2 tablespoons grated orange zestBring 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.