“Pan de muerto brings to mind celebration, traditions, altars, culture, and how it’s a part of our identity as Mexicans,” said Chef Camarena, owner of the Casa Marietta bakery, located in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. “The orange blossom essence gives pan de muerto a subtle, aromatic taste. And its soft, spongy texture goes perfectly with a cup of hot chocolate.”
- 18 ozs. flour
- 5.5 ozs. sugar plus extra to sprinkle on top of loaves
- 3.25 ozs. butter to make dough
- 2 ozs. butter to coat the loaves
- 2 eggs
- 4 ozs. milk
- ⅓ oz. orange blossom water "agua de azahar"
- ½ oz. dry yeast
- 2 tbsp. oil to coat bottom of mixing bowl
ACTIVATING THE YEAST
Gently warm the milk. Do not let it get too hot or it will kill the yeast.
Then, in a small bowl, add 4 tbsp. flour, 2 tbsp. sugar, and the dry yeast. Add just enough 1 to 2 ozs. warm milk. This is just enough to make a thin homogenous paste.
Stir until the milk is fully incorporated. Let the starter ferment for 10 to 15 minutes. The warmer the room temperature the faster it ferments.
Mixing the Dough
Grate the orange peel.
On your work table. Pour out the flour and make an indentation in the middle. In the indentation, add the butter, half the sugar, and the grated orange peel. Sprinkle the salt around the outside ring of flour.
Firmly mix the eggs into the flour. Add the orange flower water (agua de azafran). And a splash of milk if needed. Form a rough ball with the dough.
Push the dough down and make an indentation in the center. Add the fermented yeast to the center of the dough. Use your hands to mix the yeast into the dough.
Push down your dough again and add the remaining sugar. Mix firmly with your hands to fully incorporate the sugar. Add a splash of milk if the mixture is too dry.
KNEADING THE DOUGH
Once you have fully mixed the dough by hand add it to the bowl in your stand mixer with the bread hook attachment and knead for 5 minutes on medium-high speed. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes then knead on medium-high speed for another 5 minutes. Add a bit of milk if the dough gets too dry.
Place the kneaded dough on your work surface. Using your hands, form the dough into a ball. Keep working the dough until you get a perfect sphere of dough.
PROOFING THE DOUGH
Add 1 tbsp. of oil to a large mixing bowl. Coat the bottom and sides of the bowl with the oil. Add the ball of dough to your mixing bowl. Press the dough down and coat with a bit more oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel
Place the bowl in the warmest part of your kitchen and allow the dough rise to double its original size.
SHAPING THE LOAVES
On your work table, gently press down the dough. Stretch the dough into a thin piece about 15" long.
Form 9, 3 ounce balls of dough. Use a kitchen scale to weigh each piece.
After you have the 9 balls, sprinkle the remaining dough with flour. Knead the dough gently to incorporate the flour.
Using your pastry cutter, cut 18 small, ½ ounce pieces of dough and 7, ¼ ounces pieces. These will be used to form the "bones" and "skulls."
Roll the ½ ounce pieces into strips about 5" long. Leave the indentations from your fingers. This makes the dough look like bones. Then form the ¼ ounce pieces into little balls.
Top each loaf with 2 strips in a cross shape. Then in the center of each loaf, top with one of the small balls of dough.
BAKING THE LOAVES
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees when you put the loaves in the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the loaves are golden brown.
As soon as the loaves are cool to the touch, brush the melted butter on top of each one then sprinkle with sugar.