If you ever go to Mexico towards the end of October, you will notice the bakeries are crammed with a soft, sugar-covered bread decorated with bones and skulls called Day of the Dead Bread. The bread is placed on altars for the dead on November 1 and 2. It is a tasty, enjoyable treat. Here’s an easy recipe so you can make your own Day of the Dead bread and some pictures of what my bread and altar look like every year.
For the bread (yields 2 medium loaves)
- 6 cups of flour
- 1 1/2 packets of yeast
- 1 1/4 cups of water (warm)
- 1/2 cup of melted butter
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup of sugar
- 1 tablespoon of orange zest
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 2 teaspoons of azahar water (optional)*
For the glaze
- 1/2 cup of orange juice
- 3/4 sugar
- Mix the yeast with the warm water, add 1/2 cup of flour.
- In another bowl, mix together butter, sugar, salt, eggs, orange zest, azahar water and 1/2 cup of flour.
- Add the yeast/flour/water mixture to the bowl. Slowly add the remaining flour, one cup at a time.
- Knead for 15-20 minutes until the mixture is no longer sticky to the touch.
- Toss the kneaded mixture into a bowl. It’s better if you grease the bowl a little. Cover it with a damp cloth and let it rise for an hour and a half. Punch the mixture.
- Take the dough out of the bowl. Remove 1/4 of the dough and set it aside. Make a circular loaf or loaves. Let loaf rest for 1/2 hour.
- Meanwhile, with the remaining dough, make bone and skull shapes and drape/stick them across the loaf. Use a bit of egg to stick them on. Bone shapes are easy to make. They are just long strips with rounded ends. A skull can be just a tiny, ball-shaped decoration. Or, you can poke eyes and teeth into it, like I do. Search the Internet for some pictures to see what your bread might look like and copy the design. Or make one from scratch.
- Bake in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-40 minutes (depending on the size of your loaves).
- For the glaze, mix the sugar and orange juice and boil. Let it cool then brush on bread. Sprinkle sugar on top.
- You can also use egg instead of orange juice as a glaze. Simply brush egg on before putting bread in the oven.
- Serve the bread with hot chocolate. For best results, buy some Mexican chocolate. La Abuelita is a common brand. Mexican hot chocolate is water, not milk, based and should be foamy.
* Azahar water is also known as Neroli water and orange blossom water. You can boil some orange blossoms in water to make it at home.