Today’s recipe inspiration comes from the vibrant and sentimental holiday of El Día de los Muertos. In English: The Day of the Dead. And this week our recipe is a little different as we give you some history of the day alongside a few recipe options to try out.
Día de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. The name might sound spooky, but it is a joyous occasion. It is a time to remember passed loved ones and celebrate family. The tradition dates back several thousand years to the Aztec Empire, and after the Spanish colonization of Mexico it became integrated with the Christian celebration of All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day. Except for its place in the calendar, it’s completely unrelated to Halloween.
Day of the Dead has since grown outside of its birthplace, and today is practiced in many Latin American countries and other areas with a large Latino population. In my California hometown four hours from the Mexican border, the festivities are brilliant. Orange marigolds, white faces and black eye sockets. Flowing tiered dresses of spinning embroidery, red roses in dark buns and sugar skulls everywhere. Candle-lit altars teem with old photographs, piles of flowers, and offerings of food and drink. While these are often times the favourite dishes of loved ones, a traditional food for Day of the Dead is Pan de Muerto.
Pan de Muerto, or bread of the dead, is made from a Mexican sweet bread dough which is often molded into the shape of crossbones on top of the loaf. Around this time of year in Los Angeles, California, you can find them freshly made at panaderías (Mexican bakeries) all around the city. The signature style of the bread varies by region, but a round shape with lumps of “bones” on top are the most recognisable. Common additions to the dough are orange glaze, orange zest & flower water, aniseed, cinnamon, and sugar sprinkled on top. The sweet loaf is then cut into slices cake-style, and eaten with your hands.
If you’re in the bread-baking mood this week, try your hand at one of these recipes for pan de muerto – eat it all by yourself, or save some for your family.
A simple recipe from Genius Kitchen
An easy recipe with pre-made dough from Queri Cavida
Or something with a little zest that’s sure to make your mouth water from The Spruce Eats.
Happy Baking, Eating & Celebrating!