Pan de Muerto

This recipe comes from one of the most talented, kind, humane and generous people I know.  Chef Margarita Carrillo de Salinas works and lives in Mexico city.  She teaches her students not only how to cook, but also how to be good citizens and human beings.

Pan de Muerto – Bread for Day of the Dead

Chef Margarita Carrillo
Baked once a year, for Day of the Dead, this sweet bread has "bones" and a "skull" on the top made of dough. It is particularly delicious with coffee or hot chocolate.
Prep Time 3 hrs
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Course Breakfast, Main Course
Cuisine Mexico
Servings 20


  • scraper, bowls, spoons, scale, baking tray lined with non stick parchment


  • 500 g plain/all purpose white wheat or spelt flour
  • 2.5 g instant yeast OR 5 grams dry yeast OR 10 grams fresh yeast
  • 50 g water at room temperature
  • 120 grams white, granulated sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp orange blossom water
  • 2 tbs orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp ground anise
  • 200 g butter at room temperature, cubed
  • 10 g salt

For the glaze

  • 1 egg for the glaze/glue
  • 1 tbsp water for the glaze/glue
  • 1/2 tsp salt for the glaze/glue
  • 1/2 tsp sugar for the glaze/glue

After baking

  • 75 g caster/fruit/extra fine sugar (or white, granulated sugar) for the decoration
  • 75 g butter for the decoration


Step 1. Make the pre dough

  • Measure the flour into a bowl and make a well in it. Add the yeast, one tablespoon of the sugar, and the water. Flick some flour over the well to close it up and leave it for one hour.

Step 2. Make the main dough

  • Add the rest of the sugar, the eggs, orange blossom water, ground anise, orange juice, and salt. Knead for 10 minutes by hand or by machine at the lowest speed. This is not an easy dough to knead – persevere!
  • Cube the butter and knead it into the dough for a good 10 more minutes until it is fully incorporated. Cover the dough and let it rest at room temperature for 4-6 hours or until is has doubled in size.

Step 3. Divide and shape

  • Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and then take a little piece, around 50 grams, off each piece of dough. You will have four big pieces of dough and 4 little pieces of dough.
  • Shape each of the large pieces into tight balls and place them on a baking tray you have lined with non stick baking parchment.
  • Divide the each of the 4 small pieces into 5 REALLY small pieces. So now you have 20 REALLY small pieces of dough.
  • Roll 4 of the REALLY small pieces of dough into small balls and set them aside on a baking tray covered with non stick parchment. These are your "skulls". Roll the remaining 16 REALLY small pieces into long, thin, "sausages". These are your "bones". As you roll these, space out your fingers as you roll so that you have thicker bits and thinner bits. Each "sausage" reach from the middle to the bottom of the larger dough balls. When you have rolled these, set them aside with the little balls.
    Easy recipe for pan de muerto day of the dead bread
  • Beat up your glaze/glue and bush this generously over the big balls of dough. Stick the small balls "skulls" on the top in the centre of each big ball and then stick the "bones" on, draping them down the sides. The photo has 5 bones (I realise that now!) but don't worry about it. Four is sufficient!
  • Cover these with a light cloth and let them rest for 1-2 hours until they have doubled in size.
  • When the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 220 degrees celcius.
  • Bake for 20 minutes. Tap the bottoms: they will sound hollow when they are done. Remove them from the oven and place them on a wire rack.
    Easy recipe for pan de muerto day of the dead bread
  • While they are still warm, brush them with melted butter and then sprinkle them generously with sugar. You will want to do this over a tray of some kind so the sugar does not go all over the floor. Then, place them back on a rack to cool.
    Easy recipe for day of the dead bread
  • Eat! Yum! You can share this bread with both the living and the dead. If you want to be EVEN MORE indulgent, you can slice these and spread clotted cream or "nata" on the slices before eating them.
Keyword Holiday baking, Sweet bread

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