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Day of the Dead Bread Recipes or Bread of the Dead

Updated on August 11, 2013

Pan de Muerto Recipes, Dead Bread for Day of the Dead

Pan de Muerto, Day of the Dead Bread, Bread of the Dead or Dead Bread for short is a tasty traditional egg-based sweet bread made for the Dias de los Muertos holidays in Mexico, the United States and in other Latin American countries. The holiday is celebrated around October 31 to November 2, depending on the region.

Day of the Dead Bread, Pan de Muertos is usually flavored with anise and orange and is shaped into skulls, skeletons and rounds of bread decorated with bones or crossbones.

While any egg bread takes time to make as you need to wait for the yeast to rise, not once, but twice, those who have sampled these sweet breads know that the bread is worth the wait.

It has been reported that in some rural regions of Mexico "residents will walk or ride as far as they must to purchase pan de muerto."

This traditional sweet egg bread is a recipe found in many cultures. Discover more about the Dia de los Muertos traditions and try some Pan de Muertos recipes for making your own Day of the Dead Bread.

Day of the Dead Bread by hexenesi. Used under a Creative Commons License.

Displaying Bread on a Dia de los Muertos Altar

Image by Caitlinator
Image by Caitlinator

Dia de los Muertos Altar by Caitlinator. Used under a Creative Commons License.

Image by Y! Musica
Image by Y! Musica

Tradition of Pan de Muerto

Pan de Muertos, Day of the Dead bread is part of the traditions of the Dia de los Muertos celebrations. The dead bread is made during this holiday time to place on the altars (Ofrendas) and in the cemeteries for the departed spirits or deceased loved ones.

The tradition of bringing bread to cemeteries or places where the dead rest may go back to the Aztecs. The Aztecs made cakes to place on top of their tombs, where the food was used to sustain the spirits on their journey to their underworld.

Different villages and countries have their own unique style of Pan de Muertos. One popular style is the one pictured above is of a round bread loaf with bits of extra dough used to make bones for the top. Other popular shapes are skulls, skeletons and in some regions, humanoid like figures called animas (souls).

Bread of the Dead is not only for the departed. Pan de Muertos is enjoyed by the living with hot chocolate as they tell stories during the holidays about loved ones who have died.

Pan de Muertos con ajonjoli by Y! Musica. Used under a Creative Commons License

Pan de Muertos - Day of the Dead Bread

Bread of the Dead - Dead Bread

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Image by zereth
Image by zereth

Bread of the Dead Recipe

Image by Fluence
Image by Fluence

Bread of the Dead is often formed in different shapes. One of the more common is in the shape of a skull, or a round loaf where strips of dough have been attached at the top to resemble bones.

Cook Time

Total Time: 3 - 4 Hours with time for dough to rise

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 to 5-1/2 cups flour
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole anise seed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs

Instructions

  1. 1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.
  2. 2. Add milk and water until warm, but not boiling.
  3. 3. Measure out 1-1/2 cups flour and set the rest aside.
  4. 4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 1-1/2 cups flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and sugar.
  5. 5. Add the warm butter, milk and water mixture until well combined.
  6. 6. Add eggs one at a time, then mix in another 1 cup of flour.
  7. 7. Continue adding more flour until dough is soft but not sticky.
  8. 8. Turn dough onto lightly floured board and kneed for ten minutes until smooth and elastic.
  9. 9. Lightly grease a bowl and place dough in the bowl
  10. 10. Cover with a cloth and let rise in warm place (oven on low heat) until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.
  11. 11. Punch the dough down into a smaller ball
  12. 12. Shape dough into small loaves resembling skulls, skeletons or round loaves.
  13. 13. Pieces of extra dough can be added on top as "bones."
  14. 14. Let these loaves rise for 1 hour.
  15. 15. Bake in a preheated 350 F degree oven for 40 minutes.
  16. 16. Remove from oven allow to cool.
  17. 17. Paint on Orange glaze (recipe below) and sprinkle with granulated sugar, if desired or eat as is with coffee or hot chocolate.Orange Pan de Muertos Glaze
  18. 1/2 cup sugar
  19. 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  20. 2 tablespoons grated orange zest
  21. 1. Mix sugar, orange juice and orange zest in a small pan.
  22. 2. Bring to a boil. Let mixture boil for 2 minutes
  23. 3. Apply to bread with a pastry brush.
  24. 4. If desired, sprinkle on sugar crystals or colored sugar while glaze is still damp.
  25. Recipe modified from Day of the Dead Bread. Tohono Chul Park Activity Brochure.
  26. Day of the Dead Bread by Fluence. Image in Public Domain
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Ingredients for Making Pan de Muertos

Some of the extras needed to make this recipe are a citrus zester to get the freshly grated orange zest and the spice anise.

Arta Brio Citrus Zester, Black / Stainless Steel
Arta Brio Citrus Zester, Black / Stainless Steel

This recipe calls for freshly grated or zested orange peel

 
Ground Anise - 1 bag - 4 oz
Ground Anise - 1 bag - 4 oz

Anise is the spice that gives the Pan de Muerto it's distinctive taste.

 

Granite Mortar and Pestle

Fresco Granite Mortar and Pestle, Black, Small
Fresco Granite Mortar and Pestle, Black, Small

This small granite mortar and pestle is perfect for grinding up small amounts of fresh spices and herbs for your favorite recipes.

Use it to grind up some fresh anise powder for Day of the Dead Bread.

 
Image by gicelamorales
Image by gicelamorales

How to Make Pan de Muerto

Another recipe for Day of the Dead Bread, this comes from the book, Festival of Bones found below>

Cook Time

Total Time: 3 - 4 Hours with rising time

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 packets dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon anise seed
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 - 4 1/2 cups additional flour

Instructions

  1. 1. Mix all dry ingredients together except the 3 - 4 1/2 cups of flour.
  2. 2. Heat, but do not boil the milk, water and butter in a small pan.
  3. 3. Add the warm milk mixture to the dry mixture and mix well.
  4. 4. Add the eggs and 1 1/2 cups additonal flour to the mixture. Beat well.
  5. 5. Slowly mix in the rest of the flour, a bit at a time.
  6. 6. Turn the mixture onto a floured cuttting board. Kneed the mixture on the cutting board for 9 -1 0 minutes.
  7. 7. Put dough in a greased bowl and allow it to rise until it has doubled in size about 1 - 1/2 hours.
  8. 8. Punch the dough down and shape - as a person, animal, bone, skull or oval.
  9. 9. Let the shaped dough rise for another hour.
  10. Bake ad 350 F for about 40 minutes.
  11. After baking, sprinkle with colored sugars. Decorate with crystallized fruit or gummy bears.Pan de Muerto recipe adapted from Festival of Bones found below.
  12. Skeleton-shaped Bread for the Dead by gicelamorales. Used under a Creative Commons License.

Festival of Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras

Festival of Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras: The Little-Bitty Book for the Day of the Dead (English and Spanish Edition)
Festival of Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras: The Little-Bitty Book for the Day of the Dead (English and Spanish Edition)

A bilingual primer book in English and in Spanish about the Day of the Dead or the Festival of Bones.

Measures 7.3 x 7.4 x 0.4 inches.

 

Ready to Try Some Delicious Dead Bread?

Image by Hector Lazo
Image by Hector Lazo

Eating Pan de Muerto by Hector Lazo. Used under a Creative Commons License.

Pan de Muerto - Video Recipes

Video Recipe for Pan de Muerto

Guelaguetza head chef, Maria Monterrubio from Los Angeles show how to make pan de muerto Oaxacan style for Dia de los Muertos.

Making Pan de Muerto

Baking Bread of the Dead in Mexico City by Randal Sheppard. Used under a Creative Commons License

Video Recipe for Bread of the Dead

A quick recipes from Kook to Cook for Bread of the Dead.

More Recipes for Pan de Muerto

Additional recipes for Pan de Muerto, Bread of the Dead for Dia de los Muertos.

Pan de Muerto Video Recipes Spanish Versions

Video Recipe - Pan de Muerto in Spanish

A three part video series in Spanish by netodeverdad on how to make Pan de Muerto.

Sharing Pan de Muertos

Sharing Pan de Muertos with the Dead

Pan de Muerto, Day of the Dead Bread or Bread of the Dead is the traditional sweet bread made for the Dias de los Muertos holiday celebration.

La Ofrendas (like the one pictured) are created to honor the memory of a family member who has died. These altars include many of the foods, beverages and other things that the deceased enjoyed in life.

Pan de Muertos or Bread of the Dead is also included on the elaborately decorated ofrendas, or altars as part of the adornments. Some sources say the dead bread offers nourishment for the departed souls on their journey home, where as others say pan de muertos is included to entice the souls to come home for a visit.

The traditional sweet bread is also brought to gravesites as offerings to those who have passed away and for the living to eat as they sit in the cemetery enjoying the company of the souls of their lost loved ones.

Pan de Muertos on an Altar by rainy city. Used under a Creative Commons License

Books about Day of the Dead

Some of the most popular books on Day of the Dead.

Books on Day of the Dead for Children

Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead
Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead

A beautiful story about remembering loved ones who have died during Day of the Dead and the connection with the returning monarchs, believed to be the souls of the departed.

 

Similar Egg Breads

Image by Ladycliff
Image by Ladycliff

Variants on the Egg Bread Recipe

Different cultures have created their own unique variants on the standard egg bread recipe or sweet dessert bread that uses flour, eggs, milk, butter and yeast, by using different spices and additives.

Pan de Muerto is an egg bread recipe baked for the Day of the Dead. In this recipe the spice anise is used and the bread is topped with a orange juice and orange zest glaze then coated with crystal sugars.

In Finland, my heritage, they use the spice cardamom in the egg bread recipe to make a sweet bread called Pulla or Finnish Cardamom Bread. Sometimes raisins are added and the bread is topped with sliced almonds. Pulla is a special Christmas treat that my Mom still bakes and turns it into different shapes, usually braids and rings.

With the English Hot Cross Buns there many different variants on the egg bread recipe, where the bread is baked into buns more than into bread. I've found several different recipes just within the ones done on Squidoo. In the Hot Cross Buns use a bit of both and add in more spices with cinnamon, cardamom, other spices like cloves, allspice, nutmeg and raisins or currents along with orange zest.

Pan de Muerto by Ladycliff. Used under a Creative Commons License.

Does this look like a recipe you might try for Dia de los Muertos?

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    • GypsyPirate LM profile image

      GypsyPirate LM 5 years ago

      I do love bread so much - I may have to try these recipes!

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 5 years ago

      Your Pa de Muerto Recipes sound very good. It would be fun to try it.