Pan de Muerto is a kind of bread traditionally baked for the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. Bake up a loaf of this sweet and savory bread to hone your child’s baking skills and explore the holiday traditions of another culture. Delicioso!
What You Do:
- Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan over low heat until the butter is melted. Let the mixture cool.
- Have your child carefully stir in the sugar and salt. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, stir the yeast and warm water together and let stand for 5 minutes to activate the yeast. This technique is called "proofing" and is used by bakers to test that their yeast is still good.
- Add the cooled milk mixture to the yeast and water. Make sure the milk mixture is not too hot (in excess of 130 degrees), or the yeast may die.
- Add the eggs and anise seed and stir well.
- Gradually add the flour and stir well until a ball of dough begins to form.
- Place the dough on a floured surface and have your child knead until it's smooth and elastic.
- Oil a large bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
- Have your child carefully press the air out of the dough. Place it back on the floured surface and have her knead it for a second time.
- Remove about 1/8 of the dough and set aside. Shape the remainder into a ball and place on a greased baking sheet.
- Using the reserved dough, have your child roll out two bone shapes. Place the bones in an X pattern on top of the ball of dough. Skulls are another traditional shape for the decorative dough, but are a little more difficult to form.
- Cover the loaf with plastic wrap and let rise for one hour.
- Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35 minutes.
- While the bread is baking, prepare the glaze by bringing the sugar, orange juice, and zest to boil in a small saucepan. Boil for two minutes and remove from the heat.
- When the bread comes out of the oven, use a pastry brush to apply the glaze.
Dia de los Muertos is a holiday rich with symbolism and joyful celebration. Take some time to explore other traditions observed during this colorful holiday to make this activity a truly rich learning experience!