Panes de Muerto

These sweet loaves are prepared for the feast Of all souls to please the living (and the dead). They represent the animas or “souls” of the departed. They are oval or round and have raised skulls and crossbones or simple knobs that represent skulls. Others take on the shape of human figures and are decorated with colored glazes or colored sesame seeds. (The seeds represent happiness.) The bakers in Oaxaca insert tiny faces or caritas in their human-shaped loaves before they are baked in brick ovens. These small faces represent religious persons. They are detailed with vegetable dyes and toothpicks. The consumption of this bread represents the taking of Communion.


Ingredients for bread:

Mix together:

1½ C flour 

1/2 C sugar 

1 tsp salt 

1 Tbsp anise seed 

2 pkgs (5 tsp) dry yeast

Combine and heat in a sauce pan:

1/2 C milk 

1/2 C water 

1/2 C butter

Set aside for later use:

4 eggs 

 3½ to4½ C flour


Ingredients for Glaze:

1/2 C sugar 

1/3 C orange juice 

2 Tbsp grated orange peel

Baking Instructions:

Mix dry ingredients, add warm liquid, beat until smooth. Add eggs and 1 C of the flour, beat until smooth again. Gradually blend in remaining flour. Knead on a lightly floured board for 8-10 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl and let rise until doubled, about 1½ hours. Punch down dough and form into desired shapes. Let rise again for 1 hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Boil glaze ingredients for 2 minutes. Apply to warm shapes.