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The Changing Face of Mexico

LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

More Bread of the Dead

Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead) is a rich, sweet bread decorated with icing or sugar. (Image source. More about the photograph)

This bread is eaten traditionally in parties celebrating the dead and one’s ancestors. It is placed on altars in the form of an offering and eaten in Mexican homes on November 1 and November 2.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. flour
  • 1/2 ounce yeast
  • 4 ounces sugar
  • 4 ounces lard
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons orange blossom water
  • 3 tablespoons concentrated aniseed tea
  • 1 tablespoon grated orange rind

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast in half cup warm water to start it, and add a little flour to form a dough. Knead into a ball, cover with a damp cloth, and place near a warm stove or in the sun until the dough doubles in size.
  2. Mix the flour with the salt and sugar and sift it into the dough. Add the two whole eggs, seven egg yolks (Note: the easiest way to separate an egg is to wash your hands, break the egg into one hand and let the egg white run through your fingers while leaving the yolk in your palm. Do not break the yolk, or you will end up with scrambled eggs, butter, lard, orange rind, orange blossom water and aniseed tea.) Mix well and knead, banging it down hard on the table to make it soft and pliable. Add the yeast mixture and continue kneading until smooth. Brush with melted lard and leave to proof for 10 to 12 hours at room temperature.
  3. When doubled in size, knead again and form into loaves, putting aside a portion a dough to make the bone and tear decorations. Make balls of dough (according to the size of loaf required) and flatten out slightly at the sides. Place a smaller ball of dough on top and decorate with four femur-shaped bones of dough arranged vertically down the sides of the loaf (these represent ancestors and the four parts of the universe) and place dough tears (representing the grief suffered by the living for the dead) in between the bones. Stick the decorations onto the loaf with beaten egg.
  4. Grease a baking tray with lard and place the loaves on it. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 250 degrees F.
  5. Remove the loaves from the oven and glaze as follows: dissolve 1 tablespoon flour in 2/3 cup water and heat, stirring continuously. When thick and creamy, remove from the heat and continue stirring till cold. Brush the loaves with the flour mixture and when dry, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle all over with granulated sugar.