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Have you visited Grandma today? Or rather, has Grandma visited you? Halloween may be over, but the festive atmosphere continues with a holiday dedicated to family, the entire family; for today is Dia de los Muertos, a once-a-year festival when, according to Mexican tradition, the spirits of deceased relatives wander among the living.
Dia de los Muertos covers two days: November 1 and 2. It's not a sad occasion. Families honor their loved ones and welcome them back by decorating graves and building altars in the home. Decorations include pictures of the departed, candles, and homemade crafts and candies. Children wear costumes and charms; skeletons are especially popular. And you'll see hundreds of bright marigolds everywhere.
Adults also honor the dead by preparing their favorite foods and beverages to put on the altar tables. The spirits enjoy the meals' essence, and the family eats delicious foods, too. Children love the colorful sugar skulls passed out on the holiday.
This sweet bread, called pan de muerto, is a popular treat and makes a delicious introduction to the holiday.
Recipe for Pan de Muerto
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup butter
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white sugar
1-2 teaspoons anise seed
2 whole eggs
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 egg yolk
Sugar for decoration
In a sauce pan set over low heat, stir together the milk, water, and butter until the butter melts. Remove the pan from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Meanwhile, break two eggs into a small bowl and beat them with a fork; set the eggs aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour with the yeast, salt, anise seed, and sugar. Stir the milk mixture into the flour, and then stir in the eggs. Add the zest to the dough and beat until all the ingredients are combined. Stir in the rest of the flour -- 1/2 cup at a time -- until a soft dough forms.
On a floured surface, knead the dough until it is elastic and smooth, about 10 minutes. Grease a clean mixing bowl with oil or butter. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours.
Punch down the risen dough. Separate enough dough from the main loaf to form a skull and two bones. Make one large, round loaf and set the skull and cross bones on it. Set the loaf on a baking sheet and let it rise again until almost doubled in size.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mix the egg yolk with 2 teaspoons water; coat the bread with the egg glaze using a pastry brush. Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, until it is golden brown and produces a hollow sound when tapped. About halfway through the baking time, brush the bread with any leftover egg glaze and sprinkle white or colored decorative sugar over the glaze.
Posted by Shawna Edwards
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