Día de los Muertos
is more like the Pagan
celebration of Samhain
than the modern American customs of Halloween
. First off, the day actually is a celebration
despite being a gesture of respect for deceased ancestors, and secondly, it honors the dead rather than simply being an excuse for a day of spooks. Pan de Muertos is a bread
given to the dead
(and also eaten by the living), usually set on an altar or even at a gravestone as a gesture of sharing a meal. Since practicing Pagans also generally like to share a meal with the dead for Samhain
, it is no giant leap to use a Pan de Muertos recipe in Samhain affairs. Here is one version.
Scald the milk, then add in the butter and set aside to cool. In a large mixing bowl, mix 1 1/2 cups of flour with the yeast, salt, anise, and sugar. In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Slowly add the milk mix to the egg mix, beating constantly. Then beat the egg mix into the flour mix. Add additional flour 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Once a soft dough forms, knead for 10 minutes. Oil the surface of the dough, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let rise in a warm spot until doubled (about 1 and a half hours). Punch down and form the dough into a ball on a baking sheet. (It is traditional to shape the dough with a knob on the top and with bone-like ribbons criss-crossing over. If you are doing this, it is to be done at this time.) Let the dough rise again, covered, for about 45 minutes to an hour. Bake at 350º F for 40 minutes.
Note: You can also make three smaller loaves and bake them at 400º for 20 minutes, baking longer if still undercooked.
If you'd like to glaze the loaf with a traditional orange glaze, just boil 1/2 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup of orange juice until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Brush it on the bread while it's still warm.
Yield: 1 large loaf or 3 small loaves
Source: Paraphrased from Stern, The Fairy Party Book
Use for: Samhain