Pan de Muerto
(Mexican anise-scented bread for the Day of the Dead)
Makes one loaf
- Active dry yeast -- 1 (1/4-ounce) package
- Water, lukewarm (110-115°F) -- 1/4 cup
- Flour -- 3 cups
- Sugar -- 1/4 cup
- Salt -- 1/2 teaspoon
- Anise seed -- 1 teaspoon
- Milk -- 1/2 cup
- Eggs, beaten -- 2
- Unsalted butter, melted -- 1/4 cup
- Egg white -- 1
- Sugar or colored sugar -- 1 tablespoon
- Mix the yeast, and warm water in a small bowl and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes to activate the yeast.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar and salt. Stir in the anise seed and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the yeast mixture, milk, eggs and melted butter. Stir with a wooden spoon to mix the ingredients and bring the dough together. Add a little more flour if the dough is too wet or a little more milk if it is too dry.
- Remove the dough to a floured work surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth but still a little sticky. Remove the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and set in a warm corner until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface and punch down to deflate. Knead lightly for 2 to 3 minutes. Cut about 1/5 of the dough off and set it aside. Form the remaining dough into a round loaf. Roll the remaining dough into a thick rope and then cut it into 5 portions. Roll one of these portions into a ball and place it on top of the round loaf. Roll the remaining 4 balls into ropes with knobby ends resembling bones. Lay these "bones" around the loaf. Cover the dough loosely with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rise again until doubled in size, 30 to 60 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the entire loaf liberally with the egg wash. Sprinkle the loaf all over with the sugar.
- Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until its top is lightly browned. Remove to a rack and cool completely before serving with a spread of butter and a cup of hot atole.
Pan de Muerto Variations
- Form the loaf into other shapes — angels, animals, skeletons.
- Substitute orange juice for the milk.