Pan de Muerto

Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead)

1 C. milk

½ c. butter, softened

½ c. sugar

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 tsp. finely grated orange peel

½ tsp ground anise

1 envelope active dry yeast

¼ c. warm water 2 whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks

1 tsp. water

5-51/2 c. AP flour

Glaze

 ½ c. sugar

1/3 c. orange juice

Colored sugar for decoration

 

Scald the milk by heating to just under the boiling point, about 180 degrees F. Put the butter, sugar, salt, orange peel, and anise in a large bowl and pour the hot milk over all. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and then set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, stir the yeast and pinch of sugar into water and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells.

In a small bowl, beat the whole eggs together with the egg yolks. Spoon 2 tbsp. of the beaten eggs into a small bowl or cup. Stir in 1 tsp. water and refrigerate for later use.

Stir the softened yeast and remaining beaten eggs into the milk mixture. Stir in enough flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead at least 10 minutes, uintil smooth and elastic, adding more flour as needed. Clean and oil a large bowl.Place the dough in the bowl, turning to grease all sides. Cover with a clean, damp towel. Put in a warm place and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).

Punch down dough and turn out onto your work surface. Let rest while while greasing two baking sheets.

Divide the dough in half, and then set aside about ½ from each half. Shape each of the large pieces of dough into a smooth, round loaf. Place on the prepared baking sheets and brush with some of the reserved egg mixture.

Divide 1 of the small pieces of dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll 2 of the pieces into 8- or 9-inch ropes. Press down the ends of each rope with your fingers to flatten slightly so they resemble the knobs on bones. Cross the ‘bones’ over the top of one loaf, stretching as needed so the ends nearly reach the bottom of each side.

Shape the third piece of dough into a ball and moistened the bottom with the egg mixture . Place the ball in the center of the crossbones, pressing firmly.

Repeat process for the other loaf. Cover both loaves loosely with towels and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If not glazing the loaves, brush them evenly with egg mixture and sprinkle with a little sugar. Bake 30-35 minutes , or until browned.

If glazing the loaves, make the glaze while the bread is baking. Combine the sugar and orange juice in a saucepan and bing to a boil. When the bread comes out of the oven, remove it from the baking sheets and move to wire racks to cool. Put the baking sheets under the wire under the wire rack to catch the drips, then pour the glaze over the loaves. Sprinkle colored sugar on the loaves, if desired.