Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead)

09 October 2013

Makes 8 to 10 servings

1/4 Cup milk
1/4 Cup (half a stick) butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 Cup sugar
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 Package active dry yeast
1/4 Cup very warm water
2 Eggs plus 1 egg separated
3 Cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
1/2 Teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 Teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Teaspoons sugar

In a small saucepan heat milk, water and butter over medium heat, warming just enough to melt the butter. In a large mixing bowl combine sugar, yeast, salt, spices and whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk and mix well with a wooden spoon. Note: save the egg white for later. Add the milk, butter mixture to the mixing bowl and then gradually mix in the flour until a dough forms that is soft and still just a little bit sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Let the dough rise in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap or a damp towel, ideally in a warm corner of your kitchen. After an hour of rising or when the dough has doubled in size, punch it down. Cut off a chunk of dough to make bones for decoration and form the rest into two round loaves about 8 inches in diameter. Roll the smaller piece of dough into a long rope and cut into four pieces. Lay the 4 'bones' across the top of the loaves and let them rise for another hour, again covered and in a warm spot.

After the second rise bake your pan de muerto in a 350. oven for about 30 minutes. Brush the loaves (except the bones) with the egg white you saved earlier, sprinkle liberally with sugar and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the loaves make a hollow sound when tapped.