Pan de Muerto – How to make Bread of the Dead at home.

Learn how to prepare Pan de Muerto, a traditional mexican sweet bread that is deliciously soft and fragrant. Our recipe will guide you step by step to make this treat at home and enjoy it any day with coffee or hot chocolate.

Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead) makes a great gift for family and friends. A way to show love and care to others, specially in the weeks prior to Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead).

What is Pan de Muerto?

Pan de Muerto is a traditional Mexican sweet bread that was prepared to celebrate the Day of the Dead in Mexico. Depending on the state or region where it is prepared, this sweet bread may have a different appearance, shape and ingredients.

For example, some versions could include sugar sprinkled on top while others may have some sesame seeds. Sometimes, the bread is brushed with with egg wash, which gives it a shiny appearance.

Recipe Related: Mexican Polvorones.

Its elaboration dates back to ancient times, when the pagan traditions of the Aztecs were mixed with the Catholic rites of the Spanish conquerors. If you want to know more about the origin of this bread, I recommend you read this article about the History of Bread of the Dead.

How to store Pan de Muerto

Like most soft breads, this Pan de Muerto keeps perfectly for up to a week in a container with a tight lid.

If you want to freeze it, it is possible to do it once the bread is completely cold. You can individually wrap it with cling film and place in the freezer for up to 3 months.

To defrost it, just take it out of the freezer and let it defrost at room temperature. My recommendation is that after defrosting you give it a quick warm-up in the microwave (10 seconds maximum) or in the oven (for 3 minutes).

About the ingredients

It is important to prepare and have all the ingredients ready when we make Pan de Muerto, as well as having everything at room temperature so that the proofing will work perfectly.

I also really recommend of measuring all ingredients using a kitchen scale, as doing with cups wouldn’t be as precise as it should be. Specially when we talk about baking measurements.

Pan de Muerto Receta Mexicana Casera - Ingredientes listos para preparar la receta.

Pan de Muerto Recipe

We start by preparing the poolish: In a bowl, put the fresh yeast, crumbling it very well with your fingers (or use dry yeast). Add the warm milk, a tablespoon of sugar and one or two tablespoons of flour (of the total that the recipe calls for) to form a semi-liquid paste without lumps. Mix well and let it rest for 30 min in a warm place.

Sift the flours together with the salt and add the sugar. Form a volcano on a large working surface and add the orange zest.

In another bowl, put the orange juice, the essence of orange blossom and the eggs. Whisk thoroughly to incorporate the ingredients.

Add the egg mixture to the center of the volcano flour, then begin to incorporate with your fingers, taking care not to break the volcano so that the liquid does not come out. Add the butter in pieces and continue incorporating the ingredients with your fingers.

At the beginning, the dough is very sticky and difficult to handle, but you can use a spatula to collect the mixture that is stuck to the surface. Or you can also use a stand mixer to make the dough.

Add the poolish you make at the beginning, which by now should have a bubbly appearance and also changed its texture.

When the flour has absorbed the liquids well, begin to knead. Grease your hands a little with butter and continue kneading until the flour has absorbed all the liquids and fat completely.

It may seem that the dough is a bit sticky but with the kneading and the strong flour it will finish absorbing all the liquids. In any case, if it’s necessary and the dough is too sticky (it depends on the kneading time and the quality of the flour) , add one or two tablespoons of flour.

Place the dough in a greased container, cover with a clean cloth and leave it to proof in a warm place until the dough has almost tripled in volume (about 2 hours).

Divide the dough into 8 equal parts and remove a small piece about the size of a chestnut from each part. With the larger parts, form balls trying not to handle the dough too much. Arrange them on one or two previously greased oven trays (See notes).

Divide the small portions into three equal pieces and with these, form the typical ornaments of the Pan de Muertos, as follows:

Sprinkle with flour all dough’s portions, then stretch two of the pieces into a tube, using your fingers and pressing so that some sort of “bones” resembles, with these form a cross on top of the balls.

It is important to add a little more flour to these small portions of dough so that it acquires a more compact consistency and is easier to work it, also to avoid the “bones” by deforming in the last proofing.

With the remaining small portion, form a small ball and place it on top the cross in each big ball. Cover with a clean kitchen cloth and let it proof in a warm place for as long as it takes to double in volume (about 30 minutes).

You can now proceed with the recipe or if you want the bread to have a crisp, shiny crust and a more golden color you can brush each piece with egg wash and then sprinkle some sesame on top.

Heat the oven to 180 ° C (360F) and bake the bread for about 16-18 min. Or until the top starts to brown.

Just as you take them off the oven, brush them with melted butter and then coat them in sugar.

Recipe notes

  • If you don’t have strong flour (I use Manitoba, which is very easy to find in the supermarket), you can use the full amount of all-purpose flour. In this case you have to use a little less liquids, lowering the amount of milk and orange juice by approximately 20%.
  • The entire process of making the dough can be done in an stand mixer, which makes all the preparation a lot more easier.
  • You can skip the milk and use just water instead, the texture of the bread changes just a little but the taste is delicious anyway.
  • With the ingredients in this recipe, you can make 8 buns of about 10 cm (about 4 inch). If you want your bread to be bigger you can divide the dough into fewer portions, for example 2,3 or 6 … just remember that depending on the size the proofing time vary and also the baking time is a little bit longer.
  • The proofing time can vary depending in the temperature in your kitchen. My recommendation is to place the dough to proof inside the oven with the lights on to create a warmer environment.

Pan de Muerto – How to make Bread of the Dead at home

Learn how to prepare Pan de Muerto, a traditional mexican sweet bread that is deliciously soft and fragrant. Our recipe will guide you step by step to make this treat at home and enjoy it any day with coffee or hot chocolate.
PREP 30 minutes
COOK 18 minutes
TOTAL 3 hours 48 minutes
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Servings: 8 buns
Author: Maricruz

Ingredients 

  • 300 gr all purpose flour
  • 200 gr strong flour (see notes)
  • 140 gr butter (cut into small pieces)
  • 50 ml mil (or water)
  • 50 ml orange juice
  • 150 gr sugar
  • 25 gr fresh yeast (or 7 gr dry yeast)
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp essence of orange blossom
  • orange zest

for the coating

  • white sugar
  • 2 tbsp butter (melted)

optional:

  • sesame seeds
  • egg wash (1 egg + 1 tbsp water)

Instructions

Prepare the poolish:

  • In a bowl, put the fresh yeast, crumbling it very well with your fingers (or use dry yeast). Add the warm milk, a tablespoon of sugar and one or two tablespoons of flour (of the total that the recipe calls for) to form a semi-liquid paste without lumps.
  • Mix well and let it rest for 30 min in a warm place.

Make the dough:

  • Sift the flours together with the salt and add the sugar. Form a volcano on a large working surface and add the orange zest.
  • In another bowl, put the orange juice, the essence of orange blossom and the eggs. Whisk thoroughly to incorporate the ingredients.
  • Add the egg mixture to the center of the volcano flour, then begin to incorporate with your fingers, taking care not to break the volcano so that the liquid does not come out.
  • Add the butter in pieces and continue incorporating the ingredients with your fingers. At the beginning, the dough is very sticky and difficult to handle, but you can use a spatula to collect the mixture that is stuck to the surface. Or you can also use a stand mixer to make the dough.
  • Add the poolish you make at the beginning, which by now should have a bubbly appearance and also changed its texture.
  • When the flour has absorbed the liquids well, begin to knead. Grease your hands a little with butter and continue kneading until the flour has absorbed all the liquids and fat completely.
  • It may seem that the dough is a bit sticky but with the kneading and the strong flour it will finish absorbing all the liquids. In any case, if it’s necessary and the dough is too sticky (it depends on the kneading time and the quality of the flour) , add one or two tablespoons of flour.
  • Place the dough in a greased container, cover with a clean cloth and leave to proof in a warm place until the dough has almost tripled in volume (about 2 hours).
  • Divide the dough into 8 equal parts and remove a small piece about the size of a chestnut from each part.
  • With the larger parts, form balls trying not to handle the dough too much. Arrange them on one or two previously greased oven trays (See notes).

Make the "bones":

  • Divide the small portions into three equal pieces and with these, form the typical ornaments of the Pan de Muertos, as follows:
  • Sprinkle with flour all dough’s portions, then stretch two of the pieces into a tube, using your fingers and pressing so that some sort of “bones” resembles, with these form a cross on top of the balls.
  • It is important to add a little more flour to these small portions of dough so that it acquires a more compact consistency and is easier to work it, also to avoid the “bones” by deforming in the last proofing.
  • With the remaining small portion, form a small ball and place it on top the cross in each big ball. Cover with a clean kitchen cloth and let it proof in a warm place for as long as it takes to double in volume (about 30 minutes).

Decore:

  • You can now proceed with the recipe or if you want the bread to have a crisp, shiny crust and a more golden color you can brush each piece with egg wash and then sprinkle some sesame on top.

Bake:

  • Heat the oven to 180 ° C (360F) and bake the bread for about 16-18 min. Or until the top starts to brown.

Coat:

  • Just as you take them off the oven, brush them with melted butter and then coat them in sugar.
Nutrition
Serving: 1grams
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