Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Feliz Dia de los Muertos!
Happy Day of the Dead! In Mexico, it is believed that the souls of the children come back on the evening of November 1, and the adults come back on November 2. Separate ofrendas, or altars full of offerings, are usually set up. The children's ofrendas might include candy and toys, while the altars for the adults include the food and drink that they loved best in life. People want to offer the very best, so moles with long lists of ingredients might be common.
Graves and ofrendas are decorated with bright flowers such as marigolds. Colorful paper art known as papel picado also adorns the ofrendas. Family members clean the gravesites of their loved ones and stay there to eat, pray, light candles, and tell stories of their beloved dead.
Sugar skulls are left on the altars for 2-3 days, and then broken up and shared among the family members. Along with sugar skulls, people prepare pan de muerto - bread of the dead - shaped like skulls and bones.
Pan de Muerto is a rich, delicious bread with anise seeds and orange zest, topped with pink sugar. It is an easy traditional food to make to celebrate Samhain (which I just learned is on November 7), or The Day of the Dead.
Pan de Muerto
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 teaspoons anise seed, lightly crushed
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons orange zest
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 tablespoons pink (or white) sugar
Heat the milk and the butter together in a medium saucepan, until the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add them warm water. The mixture should be around 110 degrees F (43 degrees C).
In a large bowl combine 1 cup of the flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and 1/4 cup of the sugar. Beat in the warm milk mixture then add the eggs and orange zest and beat until well combined. Stir in 1/2 cup of flour and continue adding more flour until the dough is soft.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. (5-7 minutes)
Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about 1 to 2 hours. Punch the dough down and shape it into a large round loaf, reserving some dough to shape a round skull shape, or bones. Place dough onto a baking sheet, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until just about doubled in size.
Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven for about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven let cool slightly then brush with glaze.
To make glaze: In a small saucepan combine the 1/4 cup sugar, orange juice and orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 2 minutes. Brush over top of bread while still warm. Sprinkle glazed bread with sugar.