Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead Recipe)

 In Uncategorized

Pfac celebrated it’s 6th annual Dia de los Muertos this year with almost 800 visitors! No Dia de los Muertos is complete without a taste of pan de muerto (bread of the dead).  The bread is a part of the ofrenda and is symbolic of the body.  The round bread is the body, bones and the round piece on top is a skull.  After 5 years of making the bread for the event, we have experimented with the recipe until I am happy with it.  Anise seed can be found in plastic packets on the international isle of your grocery store (one packet of the Badio anise seed makes about 2 loaves of bread).


Pan de Muerto

¼ cup butter melted

¼ cup milk

¼ cup white sugar

¼ cup warm water (110 degrees—I use a thermometer)

1 ½ tsp active dry yeast

½ tsp salt

2 tablespoons anise seed

2 tsp orange zest (zest of 1-2 oranges)

1 tsp cinnamon (not traditional but it adds a nice taste)

3 cups white flour



1 tablespoon orange zest

¼ cup white sugar

¼ cup orange juice

1-2 tsp white sugar for sprinkling on top


  1. Combine ¼ cup warm water, ¼ cup butter and, ¼ cup milk into a saucepan or microwave safe bowl and heat until butter has melted. Check temperature.  You may need to let the mixture cool some before adding yeast.
  2. In a large bowl (I use a mixing bowl)add yeast, salt, sugar, 1 cup of flour, anise seed and stir until combined.
  3. Add milk/butter/water mixture to large bowl and stir until combined. I use a spoon for this part because it’s not very thick.
  4. If you’re using a dough hook, put it on the mixer now.
  5. Turn on medium speed and slowly add 2 cups of flour. If you are doing this by hand, combine flour slowly as you mix it with a large spoon.
  6. Once all flour is combined, continue to run mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes—If you are not using a mixer, turn the mixture onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes until the dough feels elastic. I butter my hands well for kneading because this is a very sticky dough.
  7. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for 2 hours to rise.
  8. Punch down dough and pull off a piece of dough about the size of your fist. Create a ball with the rest of the dough and pat down the top so that it’s a little flat on top. Split the small bit of fist-sized dough into 3 pieces and roll 2 pieces out to look like “snakes” or long cylinders.  Roll the remaining piece into a ball.  Place each long piece of dough onto the ball of dough crossing each other so that it resembles cross bones and press the ball into the center of the “X” to represent the skull.
  9. Let rise 1 hour loosely covered with a dish cloth or plastic wrap
  10. Preheat oven to 350 and bake about 30 minutes. Keep an eye on it, it may take up to 40 minutes depending on your oven.
  11. Take bread out of oven and let cool about 10 minutes and make glaze while it cools.
  12. Glaze: combine sugar, orange juice and orange peel in a sauce pan. Heat on medium until it boils and let it continue boiling for 2 minutes. Brush over the bread with a pastry brush or use a spoon to spread the glaze.  Sprinkle with sugar and enjoy with a hot cup of coffee.


Recent Posts