Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead Bread)

By / Photography By Kathryn Brass-Piper | October 07, 2015


In a large bowl, thoroughly combine 1½ cups flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and anise seed.

In a small pan over medium heat, heat milk, water, and butter until nearly boiling.

Stir warmed liquid into dry mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in eggs and add remaining flour, a little at a time, as needed, until dough is soft and not sticky.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow dough to rise for about 1½ hours, or until doubled in size.

Punch dough down and shape into a large round loaf. You can add sculpted dough pieces (traditionally bones or a skull) to the top, if desired. Place formed dough onto a baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rise for an additional hour.

Heat oven to 350°. Bake bread until golden brown, 30–40 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly, then brush with glaze (see below). Sprinkle glazed bread with sugar, which can be colored, and/or sprinkled into a design, if desired.

To make the glaze: Mix together ½ cup sugar, 1/3 cup fresh orange juice, and 2 tablespoons orange zest in a small sauce pan. Boil for 2 minutes.


  • 5–6 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 packets dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon anise seed
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup butter, plus more for greasing
  • 4 eggs
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