The world's largest funeral party is soon upon us, with the celebration of Dia de los Muertos on November 1 and 2. And while the living might play dead for a day... they still have to eat, right?
Right. And the Mexican-born holiday has a crop of traditional fare to be munched upon in observance of the dead.
First, the cardinal rule is that observers consume the favorite foods of loved ones lost on Dia de los Muertos. So if your grandfather liked dry toast and gefilte fish... well, that sucks for you. But wait- there's some good stuff too, like sugar skulls, pumpkin candy and most importantly, Dead Bread. Pan de muerto, or, "bread of the dead", is one of the hallmarks of the celebration; the soft, sweet roll is widely baked during the weeks leading up to Dia de los Muertos.
Traditional folk often go so far as to bake the bread into human or bone-like shapes to represent those who have passed away. Now, before you judge: think about those poor chocolate Santas you mindlessly chuck in your mouth every year- they have feelings, too. Check out this particularly ill-faced character here, immortalized into a piece of sticky gooey yumminess:
So, you want your own Dead Bread for the holiday? Don't fret: you don't have to have it shipped all the way over from Mexico. We've shared an easy recipe with you here, drawn from the book Look What We've Brought You From Mexico:
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup (half a stick) margarine or butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup very warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
1/2 teaspoon anise seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons sugar
Bring the milk to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in margarine or butter, 1/4 cup sugar and salt.
In large bowl, mix yeast with warm water until dissolved and let stand 5 minutes. Add the milk mixture.
Separate the yolk and white of one egg. Add the yolk to the yeast mixture, but save the white for later. Now add flour to the yeast and egg. Blend well until dough ball is formed.
Flour a pastry board or work surface very well and place the dough in center. Knead until smooth. Return to large bowl and cover with dish towel. Let rise in warm place for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, grease a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Knead dough again on floured surface. Now divide the dough into fourths and set one fourth aside. Roll the remaining 3 pieces into "ropes."
On greased baking sheet, pinch 3 rope ends together and braid. Finish by pinching ends together on opposite side. Divide the remaining dough in half and form 2 "bones." Cross and lay them atop braided loaf.
Cover bread with dish towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix anise seed, cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar together. In another bowl, beat egg white lightly.
When 30 minutes are up, brush top of bread with egg white and sprinkle with sugar mixture, except on cross bones. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
Makes 8 to 10 servings.
Now that you've got your pan de muerto, you are well-equipped to observe the happiest funeral on earth. Fat Village Arts District in Downtown Fort Lauderdale is putting their own spin on the festivities with a massive party on November 2, so get your Dead Bread and get on down there.