Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pan de Muerto {she made, ella hace}

We didn't put together an ofrenda (offerings, usually on an altar) for Día de los Muertos this year.  Time seemed to fly by faster than normal.  I'm not sure where October went.  But even if the ofrenda is not there with photos, food, and favorite items to remind us of the loved ones we've lost, we still take the time to light a candle, send up a wish, laugh, and perhaps shed a few tears over a loaf of Pan de Muerto and some rich, steaming hot chocolate.

I've tried several different recipes for Pan de Muerto over the years.  Some are studded with anise seeds.  Others are scented with cinnamon.  Some are topped with beautiful little sugar pearls or sanded in bright colors while others are doused in an orange-scented glaze.  I'm pretty happy with any version of this beautifully enriched, eggy bread with the slightest hint of sweetness.  And while I love eating it all by its lonesome, it goes equally well dunked in that glass of hot chocolate or a bowl of smoky, brothy beans.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite Day of the Dead photos that I happened upon this year.  Vibrantly hued glass, sugar skull, and flowers...simple candles, fruit, and dried flowers...cemetery decorated with cempasuchil (marigolds)...beautifully adorned pan de muerto.
photo credits clockwise from top left: Rock 'n Roll Bride, Amazon, Mex Online, Traditions Mexico
And while I'm at it, this beautiful Day of the Dead skull print in the photos with my bread was done by the super talented Gloria...if you get a moment, go over and check out some more of her amazing work.  Oh, and before I forget...yes I know, I know...the "skull" portion of my bread is totally off center.  Oddly enough, both loaves turned out this way.  While it didn't make for as pretty of a loaf as it could have if they didn't slide a bit, they didn't taste any different.  When I opened the oven, all I could think was that heads were rollin' in there!
Pan de Muerto
from the kitchen of girlichef
yield: 2 loaves (~1¼ lbs. each)

dough:
¾ c. + 2 Tbs. water, lukewarm
1 Tbs. active dry yeast
3 Tbs. butter, at room temperature
2¼  tsp. kosher salt
3 large eggs
½ Tbs. orange extract
finely grated zest of 1-2 oranges
½ c. superfine sugar
⅓  c. nonfat dry milk
4 c. bread flour + more as needed
-------
1 egg beaten w/ a bit of water for an egg wash

to finish:
~1 oz. butter, melted
sesame seeds
vanilla sugar

Put warm water in bowl of mixer and sprinkle yeast over top.  Let sit about 5 minutes or until frothy.  Stir in butter, salt, eggs, orange extract and zest.  Stir in sugar, dry milk and half of the flour.  Add in remaining flour and knead until smooth and elastic.  The dough should be a bit tacky, but not so sticky that you can't work with it.  If it sticks to your hands (or dough hook) so much that you can't pull your hands away without taking the dough with you, add in a bit more flour at a time  until it is smooth and supple.  Form into a ball and place in an oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic or a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, ~1½ hours.  

Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface.  At this point, it should be a dream to work with.  Divide it half.  Cut about a quarter of the dough off of each half.  Form the two large portions of dough into nice rounds and place them on a lined baking tray.  Divide each of the smaller portions into four basically equal pieces.  
Using your finger, press around the edge of the dough to form a narrow ridge.
Roll six of the smaller pieces into long strips, using your finger to roll thinner in the middle and towards the outer edges to form the bone-type shapes.  Drape three across each dome of dough.
Form the final two small pieces of dough into balls and place in the center of the dome, on top of the bones.  This represents a skull.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise another 45 minutes, preheating oven to 350° F during the final 15 minutes of rise time.  Brush the loaves with a thin layer of egg wash (sprinkle with some sesame seeds, if you like at this point) and slide carefully into oven.
Bake for ~20-30 minutes, checking at the lowest time.  Bread should be soft, springy, and golden brown.  Remove from oven and brush with melted butter and sprinkle with vanilla sugar all over.  Enjoy!  Even if "heads were rollin' " in the oven...
These are some shots from my youngest sons Spanish class today.  They learned about the history of Día de los Muertos and their professora brought in a bunch...A BUNCH...of smaller loaves of Pan de Muerto from one of our local Mexican Panaderias to eat alongside their hot chocolate.  Do I even need to tell you how many of the kids clamored for seconds!?
What happens when two American girls who are both married to Mexican guys find out that although one of them lives in the U.S. and one of them lives in Mexico, they both love eating the same food?  Well, naturally they decide to get "together" the only way they can and cook up the same dishes.  Or perhaps take the same ingredients and talking about them in their own voice or using them in their own way. 

Leslie and I have teamed up to occasionally cook/bake/make a our own versions of the same food.  We want to see how similar (or how different) they turn out.  Other times we will pick an ingredient and use it however we choose...or maybe just talk about it.  Good food knows no borders and we hope to share the food we love with you.  It's not a competition, it's a showcase.  We will post on the same day as each other and would love to hear your thoughts on what we've made and how you make it. 
Join me (here at girlichef) and Leslie in her kitchen (at La Cocina de Leslie) for some delicious food.
She Made, Ella Hace Banner- girlichef.com and lacocinadeleslie.com

*Please go visit my friend Leslie by clicking here to see her Pan de Muerto!*

I am also sharing this post with:
*Dia de Bloglandia hosted at Mango Studio & Recuerda Mi Corazon
*Yeastspotting
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