Everyone that knows me knows that I am not your expert baker, I love having something sweet and I love the taste of homemade baked goods, but if it becomes too complicated, I’m likely going to buy it from a local bakery to satisfy my sweet tooth.
This pan de muerto is a simple recipe that even I can whip up. Most bakeries only have this type of bread during Dia de los Muertos or sometimes called Dia de Muertos. If you ever get a chance to celebrate this holiday in Mexico, you will realize just how beautiful a holiday it is. There are different extents to which people celebrate from Octoer 31st- November 2nd, it is a segue way to talk about the passing of loved ones to children. You can teach them that we remember our loved ones even more around this time of year with some fun traditions and recipes, one of which being this pan de muerto.
1/2 cup whole milk
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Zest of 3 Oranges- use a microplane or grater
1 tsp Orange Extract
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 oz. active dry yeast
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour; more as needed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
Vegetable oil as needed
For the topping
2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
To Make the Dough
Put the milk, butter, and orange zest in the microwave for 15 seconds, stir until the butter melts, Let it cool until warm. Discard the orange zest, add the orange extract, and whisk in the eggs.
Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water (no hotter than 110°F) and let stand until the mixture bubbles, 5 to 10 minutes.
Mix the flour, sugar, and salt on a work surface. Make a well in the center. Gradually pour the yeast mixture and the milk mixture into the well while mixing with your hand . Knead until you have a nice, uniform dough, about 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth but still slightly sticky. If it seems too sticky, add more flour as needed.
Put the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and leave in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. If you have a stove on top of an oven, you can heat your oven to 400 and turn it off and place the bowl on top of the stove. Or heat the oven to 175 degrees turn it off and wait 20 minutes and place the bowl in the oven.
To Form the Bread
Cut off a piece of dough about the size of a small orange and reserve. Divide the remaining dough in half and shape the pieces on a lightly floured surface into 2 rounds.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or my favorite, a silicone mat; put the dough rounds on it and flatten the tops with your hands.
Take the reserved dough and roll small little dough pieces and a large button sized dough piece to go on top. Just wet the top of the dough pieces with water and overlap the rolled pieces of dough and place a small round piece on top. This is supposed to represent the bones in the “Pan de Muerto”
Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.
Bake until the loaves have a golden color, 35 to 40 minutes. Cover the loaves loosely with foil and continue to bake until their bottoms are browned. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes.
Finally, melt a few tablespoons of butter and brush it on the bread and sprinkle some white granulated sugar on top.