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Tradiciones: Pan de Muerto

Author: Bernie Molina is an award winning author of Herencia Cookbook. The goal of her cookbook is to celebrate and honor her SalviMex culture through recipes. A true millennial señora, Bernie’s recipes contain classic, authentic flavors, with a modern twist. This pan de muerto recipe is no exception! If you like this recipe, then be sure to check out Bernie’s website here, for more recipes.

It's that time of year again. The time when we recall our ancestors for Day of the Dead. Growing up, I remember visiting the cemetery in Sonora, Mexico. Such a sharp contrast to cemeteries in the US! For example, in Mexico, the cemetery seemed full of life. Music, food, flowers. People congregating at grave sites and having picnics. Reminiscing. And telling stories. Now that I am a mom, it is a bit harder to travel to Mexico for Day of the Dead. So, instead of going all the way to Latin America to celebrate, I will celebrate at home instead. After all, I can think fondly of the spirits of the dearly departed wherever I am. Additionally, one way I will celebrate this year is with traditional pan de muerto!

Pan de Muerto Recipe (Bread of the Dead Recipe)


For the bread

  • 3/4 cup milk

  • 2 tablespoons yeast

  • 1 tablespoon sugar, plus 1 cup sugar

  • 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1 stick unsalted butter

  • 3 eggs

  • 1 tablespoon orange extract

  • Zest of one orange

  • 1 star anise, ground up in your molcajete

For the topping

  • 1 egg, for egg wash

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

  • 1-2 drops of orange food coloring


  • Firstly, warm up your milk in the microwave for 30-60 seconds.

  • Secondly, add 2 tablespoons of yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar to the warm milk.

  • Stir well, and then allow to rise for 5 minutes.

  • Next, in a mixing bowl, add flour, eggs, butter, orange extract, orange zest, ground-up anise, and the yeast mixture.

  • Mix well for 5 minutes to create a dough.

  • Once thoroughly mixed, remove the dough from the mixing bowl. Place into a floured bowl and cover with a towel.

  • Allow to rise for half an hour in a warm place.

  • Now, cut the dough into 5 pieces. 4 of these will be the panes. 4 pieces of bread. The 5th piece of dough will be used to decorate the 4 loaves.

  • Then, form 4 pieces of dough into your round loaves, and allow to rise for half an hour.

  • While you wait, mix sugar, cinnamon, and food coloring together in a separate bowl. Set aside for later decorating.

  • Once the loaves have risen, it's time to decorate!

  • Using the remaining dough, decorate each loaf with a cross made of dough. In the center of the cross, add a small ball of dough. This represents the bones of the dead (similar to a skull and crossbones).

  • After that, add an even layer of egg wash to each bread.

  • Then, sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

  • From there, bake for 20-25 minutes at 350 F.

  • Finally, enjoy your pan de muerto with cafecito!

- Bernie Molina, Winning Author of Herencia Cookbook


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