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.


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.