The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pan de Los Muertos

browndog's picture

Pan de Los Muertos

Pan de Los Muertos, translated to Bread of the Dead, is a butter-and-egg-rich sweet yeast bread, traditionally baked in Mexico for Las Dias de Los Muertos, November 1st and 2nd. The living honor the dead at home, in the streets, and at the cemeteries.

This bread is placed at an altar in the home, then carried to the cemetery to 'share' with passed loved ones.

Online research came up with many very similar recipes. Here is mine:


125g ap flour

25g sugar

100g water, brought to a boil with 1 tablespoon anise seed, steeped for 10 minutes and strained

2 tsp active dry yeast


Mix well, let rise til ripe, 1 1/2-2 hours.



325g ap flour

56g butter, softened

35g sugar

1 egg + 2 yolks

1 tbsp orange flower water and/or zest from 1 large orange

1/2 tsp salt



Mix, knead 10 minutes, let rise 1 1/2-2 hours til nearly doubled.

Reserve enough dough for skull and bones.

Shape into a round disk about an inch thick. Form small ball and several 'bones' to decorate. Brush with egg white mixed with 1 tsp water, or glaze after baking with an orange juice/sugar glaze, or brush with melted butter after baking and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Let rise 1 hour, til well-puffed but not yet doubled.

Bake on a sheet at 375* for 25-30 minutes.

1 LARGE loaf


breadnerd's picture

Nice photo.  I love the tradition of Las Dias de Los Muertos.  

 It's such a cool holiday--and of course, it includes bread, which is just an added bonus!

browndog's picture

Thanks, breadnerd.

Yes, this was an education for me, I only just learned about Dias de Los Muertos. When I saw pictures of this awesome-looking bread I had to give it a try. It was delicious--and very fun. 

Is that fantastic oven of yours keeping busy? 

chapala's picture

Beautiful! The Mexican tradition surrounding the Day of the Dead (by the way it's LOS Días del los muertos, not las) have many positive aspects, a refreshing change from some of the attitudes towards death in the U.S.

Today, driving into one of our local Mexican towns, there were two huge figures at the main intersection, fancily dressed bride and groom skeletons about 8' or more tall. Wish I would have had my camera! Tomorrow is the big day, November 2nd, when all families go the cemeteries to celebrate and honor the lives of those who are gone. Today, November 1st, is for children who have died.

Paddyscake's picture

browndog!! The recipe sounds intriguing with the orange and anise. Are those flavors prominent or subtle? have piqued my interest in Los Dias del los muertos. I live in a town with a very large Mexican population, but grew up in New England. I'm going to do some research on the net..educate myself..Thanks

browndog's picture

I was more than a little nervous about this post because I knew there are people here who were born into and/or actually live this particular tradition. Thanks very much for your kind words and input. (And my high school Spanish has let me down! Los and not Las?! No entiendo!)

You are right, it's a lovely approach to death and the deceased.  It made me consider my own approach to departed loved ones, and think about how such a tradition could be worked in to my and my family's tiny New England world.

browndog's picture

Thanks, Paddyscake, I used orange flower water and zest, which made the kitchen, the dough and my hands smell heavenly. The baked loaf is just-right orangy, and I can barely tell the anise is there. Many of the recipes called for adding as much as a tablespoon of anise to 5 cups of flour. I liked this approach of making a sort of tea and just using the flavored water, but I wouldn't have minded a slightly stronger presence in the end.

Mike Avery's picture
Mike Avery

I made this bread this weekend.  And I printed the recipe and checked off the ingredients as I put them in the mixer, as I always do.

The dough was stunningly dry.  It was so dry the mixer bowl was making grinding noises. I was making a double batch and wound up adding about 2 cups of water.

So, did I goof, despite my care, or did you leave an ingredient or two off the ingredient list?

Despite that, the bread came out very nicely.




browndog's picture

I hate that--it's my worst nightmare whenever I post a recipe...

Well. You added two cups of water?! Pardon me saying, but holy moley.

No ingredients were left out. It's a pretty wet sponge with no added water in the final dough, only the eggs, yolks, orange flower water, and touch more sugar. I used cups but weighed the ingredients as I went. This recipe was piece-mealed from several, so I can only check against my own figures, which match what I posted. Also I made this bread twice within two days--both times the dough was quite tacky when I quit kneading. I do not use a mixer.

Was your sponge actually sponge-like or was it dry too?

All that being said, let's call it me.

I'm very glad you were able to salvage it.

If I can bear to look that much butter and sugar in the face again, I'll give it another go and report back.


goetter's picture

You have 100g water and 125g AP flour in the sponge: that's 80%.  Wet, but not overly so.

In the final, you have one whole egg (33g water) and two additional yolks (18g water).  And you add 325g AP flour.  Added to the sponger, that's 151g water total and 450g flour, for a net hydration of 33%.  No wonder Mike had to add more water.

Perhaps there's more than 100g water in the sponge?  100g water is maybe half a liquid cup.

browndog's picture

I love people like you, goetter, who can do in a heartbeat what gives me a headache even to consider.

The sponge really was just half a cup of water to a half a cup or 125g of flour. I was making only one loaf.

I just now threw the ingredients into a bowl and tried mixing---it was indeed unworkably dry and I added a third of a cup of water to get it right. Making the hydration, uh, ...higher?

I also use ungraded farm eggs and wonder if I grabbed a couple big ones without considering consistency in terms of weight.

My apologies to Mike, my gratitude to goetter, my advice to anyone else interested in making Pan de Muertos--reduce the flour, add water, or go on line and choose one of the many many recipes there, which were all pretty much the same in the end--an eggy, buttery, sweet bread flavored with anise and orange.

Or wait til you die. Maybe someone will make it for you.

goetter's picture

There's a little less than 240 milliliters (240 grams of water) in a liquid cup.  A third of a cup of water is thus about 80 grams, while a tablespoon is 15 grams.  So, refiguring the hydration:

Sponge: 100g water (half a cup or 120g, less some lossage from the boil and steep process), 125g AP flour

Final dough: 50g of water (eggs), 80g water, 15g orange water, 325g AP flour PLUS the above 100g water, 125g flour EQUALS 54% hydration which is believable since this is an enriched white-flour dough.

For purposes of ballparking dough ductility, I'll pretend that the 56g butter is water, yielding a final pseudo-hydration of 67%.  This looks like it would mix and still retain sufficient stiffness to mold those bones on the side of the loaf.

Perhaps some volume recipes should remain volume recipes!

browndog's picture

Heartfelt thanks, goetter. 

goetter's picture

As a checksum if nothing else.

Uh-oh, my number-senses tingling again....  A half cup of AP flour is probably 60-70g.  125g would be closer to a full cup. 

Ungraded farm eggs are luscious.  I have two in the fridge that I got in exchange for a loaf of Emmerbrot.  Maybe once we finish debugging this recipe I'll make /Pan de Los Muertos/ with them and parade the loaf out to where I buried my cat.

browndog's picture

Goetter, at least this time I can honestly (though still shame-facedly) allow that I MEANT to say one cup.

And, yes, it crossed my mind that this could serve as a sorry 'before' example in the "are scales really necessary?" thread.

The neighbors' chickens follow their own schedule so I'm sometimes compelled of necessity to grab a box of 'industrial' eggs while waiting for the girls to motivate. The difference in the yolks alone really is something.

And don't go talking about dead kitties. I'll get the keyboard wet. (But be sure to use tuna water in the sponge.)

pan's picture

wow.its really nice this recipe and is more that is you consired to do..i have my grand;smother recipe is you want i can give you :)..

TheGremlyn's picture

This is one of the only recipes I could find that was measured in weights, so I figured it was worth trying for that alone. I didn't read through any of the comments prior to making it and ran into the dryness issue. I ended up adding probably about 3/4 cup of water extra and it seems to be a good consistency. It smells great and we're looking forward to the final result :)

Heidela123's picture

This bread should be on the dry side in my opinion, today we are having it for breakfast. Mine is literally drenched in butter during baking , then rolled like a giant donut a few timewhiling it cools in fine fresh ground cinnamon sugar.
To me the best ones have either made, bought or had made for me, are soft, rich, sweet, but quite a dry bread with a nice tight crumb, you slice very thin and eat with coffee or Mexican hot chocolate. I sliced some off the "unseen" side, this morning,( it was privately dedicated already) it was baked yesterday and turned out just right. I will try to document the recipe, I use and share a photo, but it is dry to our liking and tradition, so I am not sure if anyone would be interested

We are face painting the little kids and participating in celebration today.

This celebration crosses all boundaries when it comes to embracing reality I think.