Pan de Muerto | Day of the dead bread

pan de muerto

In Mexico the 2nd of the November is the time of year, when people get to honour their ancestors. The tradition is for people to build altars with all the food the ancestors loved.

A classic dish that is made and served for this celebration is “Pan de muerto”/bread of the dead with its particular shape; a cross that represents the finger bones and a ball on top of a skull. The tradition of making this type of bread goes back to the Spanish empire and even further to the pre-hispanic times in Mexico and while there are different theories about the origin of the bread and its meaning, its smell and what it represents always brings back the good memories from the time spent with loved ones that are no longer with us. Because of it’s meaning and delicious taste, this type of bread is a dish that cannot be missed and is something to look forward to during this time of year.

Prep Time | 3 hours 45 minutes
Difficulty |Difficult
Serves 6


500g plain flour
15g dry yeast
150g caster sugar
6g salt
Zest of one orange
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
90g butter
150ml milk
50ml of anise water

Glaze for the bread

55g sugar
100ml orange juice
2 tsp orange zest


  1. In a small saucepan on a medium heat, warm 50ml of milk.
  2. In a mixing bowl, mix three tablespoons of flour, a tablespoon of sugar and the yeast. Pour the warm milk and mix well, creating a homogeneous dough. Set aside to rest preferably in a warm environment.
  3. On your working surface place the flour, piling it up to make a “volcano” and create a hole in the centre. Add the butter, the remaining sugar, salt and orange zest. Mix until the butter is integrated slightly.
  4. Keeping the hole in the centre of your “volcano” add the eggs and keep mixing until the eggs are integrated.
  5. Add the anise water and vanilla extract and keep mixing. Then add the milk.
  6. Start kneading the dough until you get a sticky yet homogeneous dough.
  7. Place the dough into an oiled mixing bowl, brush a bit more oil onto it and cover the bowl with cling film. Let it rest until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours.
  8. Punch the dough down and divide into four. Shape three of the pieces into round loaves.
  9. For the bones, divide the remaining dough piece and divide it into 9 pieces. Six of those pieces will become the bones that go across the bread. Roll them in a cigar shape putting some pressure with your fingers while rolling them and leaving a gap in between. Once they are ready, place 2 pieces forming a cross on top of the bread. Finish of with a round knob on top of the loaves.
  10. Place the bread onto a baking sheet, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
  11. Whilst the bread is resting, make the glaze combining the glaze ingredients in a saucepan and cooking it over medium heat. Boil for a couple of minutes.

Serving suggestion

Enjoy this traditional bread with a nice cup of hot chocolate or coffee

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Pan de Muerto | Day of the dead bread
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