Place yeast in a bowl. If you using fresh yeast, crumble it with your fingers.
Add the milk, a tablespoon of sugar and one or two tablespoons of flour to form a semi-liquid paste without lumps.
Let it rest for 30 minutes in a warm place.
Make the dough
Sift flours together, add salt and sugar and mix everything to combine. On your working table place the flour and make a well in the middle. Then add the orange zest.
In another bowl, put the orange juice, the essence of orange blossom and the eggs. Whisk thoroughly to combine the ingredients.
Add the egg mixture in the middle, then start to incorporate with your fingers very carefully to not make the mixture go out the flour borders.
Add the butter and continue incorporating the ingredients with your fingers.
Add the poolish and mix with the help of a spatula until it absorbs with the dough.
When the flour has absorbed the liquids well, begin to knead. Grease your hands a little with butter and continue kneading until you'll have a smooth and elastic dough (about 25 minutes if you kneading by hand).
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 ( 2 hours if the room temperature is about 75°F/24°C).
Make the bread
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 baking trays.
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” as you see in the picture below:
Take two “bones” and place them crossed on top of each dough ball.
With the remaining small portion, form a small ball and place it on top the cross on 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 in warm environment).
Preheat the oven to 360°F/180°C and bake the bread for about 16-18 minutes. 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.
If you don’t have a 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, reducing 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.