Or, the Day of the Dead to us Americans. I first learned about this holiday when reading Ray Bradbury’s “The Halloween Tree” (which, if you haven’t read it, I suggest going out and getting a copy ASAP). Although we usually associate this holiday with Mexico, it actually is found throughout Latin America. It is closely tied with the Catholic holy day, All Soul’s Day, which falls on the day after Halloween, and is celebrated throughout the world (albeit, a little less awesomely, IMHO). Dia de los Muertos is centered around one idea- to honor the dead. This is done by giving presents to children and other living family members, as well as preparing special types of food, such as sugar skulls or pan de muerto (a sweet egg bread). It’s traditional to leave food out for the dead, either by offering them a literal place at the family table, or by leaving offerings of food on their graves. Figurines depicting skeletons (calaveras catrinas) in everyday situations are made and sold to be displayed in the home.
Instead of the same old Halloween party, try throwing a Day of the Dead celebration. Dress up like calaveras, make some delicious Mexican food, and raise a toast to those who have gone before us. However, be careful. You may get some visitors that you didn’t expect.
Pan de Muerto (Thanks to Allrecipes)
- 1/4 cup margarine
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons anise seed
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 tablespoons white sugar
- Heat the milk and the butter together in a medium saucepan, until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add them warm water. The mixture should be around 110 degrees F (43 degrees C).
- In a large bowl combine 1 cup of the flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Beat in the warm milk mixture then add the eggs and orange zest and beat until well combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of flour and continue adding more flour until the dough is soft.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
- Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about 1 to 2 hours. Punch the dough down and shape it into a large round loaf with a round knob on top. Place dough onto a baking sheet, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until just about doubled in size.
- Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven for about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven let cool slightly then brush with glaze.
- To make glaze: In a small saucepan combine the 1/4 cup sugar, orange juice and orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 2 minutes. Brush over top of bread while still warm. Sprinkle glazed bread with white sugar.