Pan De Muerto

Makes 1 loaf.

  • 4 cups flour
  • ½ tablespoon salt
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 3 tablespoons yeast
  • ½ cup plus ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • Zest of 1 orange and 1 lime
  • 15 tablespoons butter at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°. 

Mix flour and salt, and place the mixture on a clean kitchen surface. Create a hole in the middle of the flour.

Warm the milk to between 110° and 115°. Add yeast and 2 teaspoons of sugar, and with your fingers gently break the little yeast lumps. Let sit in a warm place, so that the yeast will start to activate.

Once the milk and yeast mixture has doubled in size and the yeast is active, place it in the hole you made in the middle of the flour.

Using your fingers, begin incorporating the flour. 

Beat the eggs, and add them to the middle where the milk is. Continue to add in more flour. Add the sugar into the middle of the flour and work with your fingers to dissolve the sugar. At the same time, sprinkle in more flour. Add vanilla, orange and lime zests into the middle, and incorporate all flour. Once all flour is mixed in, add butter and knead the dough until it is smooth. Knead for at least 30 minutes.

Place dough in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and store the bowl in a warm area (such as the top of the oven). Let the dough rest for 3 hours until it triples in size.

Cover a sheet tray with parchment paper. Butter the paper so the bread does not stick.

Remove the dough from the bowl. On a clean, lightly floured kitchen surface, knead the dough gently. 

Remove a bit of dough, about the size of a tennis ball, for the decoration on top of the loaves, then cut the remaining dough into 4 equal parts.

Shape these 4 larger pieces into balls, and place them on the sheet tray. Cut the fifth piece of dough into 12 pieces. Roll 8 pieces into rope thickness, about 6 inches long.

Make bones by rolling dough with one finger at about the middle of the rope until it is significantly thinner in comparison to the two other lengths as in photo. Place 2 ropes of  “bones” in a crisscross on top of each  bread. Roll the other 4 pieces into a ball shape and place them in the center on top of each loaf.

Cover loaves with plastic wrap and let the dough parts rest for 2 hours on the top of the warm oven. Once they have doubled or tripled in size, brush them with melted butter. Bake them in the oven for 15 minutes. 

Once the bread has cooled slightly, brush it with melted butter and sprinkle it generously with sugar, covering every part of the top of the bread.

Cook’s Note: Make sure that the temperature of your kitchen is nice and warm at least until you are ready to place the bread in the oven.