Ever since I learned about it, Day of the Dead has been one of my very favorite holidays. There's something so cheerful and earthy and poignant and colorful about it. It's the very essence of Autumn.
I knew when I began the Oberon series that I would have to set a story around this holiday. Visions Before Midnight is that book. When I found Chenoa, I knew I'd found the perfect character to tell the story of Dia de los Muertos...
Chenoa was decorating the bakery for El Dia de los Muertos; carefully placing Day of the Dead figurines among the trays in the display cases and hanging colorful tissue paper banners from the shelves.
Although she knew many people thought the holiday grim and the decorations morbid, Chenoa had always found the Mexican perspective on death––that it was no more than a change of worlds, the next stage in life––to be a comfort. Especially after her parents were killed.
It had always been her favorite holiday, even when she was a kid. While her friends were busy selecting Halloween costumes and planning their trick-or-treat routes, she would spent her time helping her grandmother, and later her aunt, set up retablos. And then decorating the little altars with photos of her parents and other relatives, plates of all their favorite foods, candles, mementos, and dozens of marigold and calendula blossoms.
The tradition––along with a lot of the decorations––had been passed down from her grandmother, to her aunt, and now to her; with each of the women adding her own personal touches. And, even though she was only about one-eighth Mexican, Chenoa had always felt that this was one area where her blood ran true.
She looked up from her work when the bell above the bakery’s door jingled; she couldn’t help but smile at the sound. Just yesterday, she’d replaced the chimes that usually hung there with a set made of jangly, little tin skeletons hung from springs. Now, the skeletons danced madly as the door swung shut. The mousy looking, older woman who’d just entered the shop glanced up at them and froze in surprise.
Chenoa is a baker, which made picking out today's recipe extremely easy. Pan de Muertos is a sweet, cinnamon bread that's traditional for the holiday. You can see it in the picture at the top of the page. Enjoy!
Pan de Muertos
- 2 packets dry yeast
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons powdered cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons orange zest
- 6 cups flour
- 4 eggs
Heat water until warm (slightly warmer than room temperature) Sprinkle yeast on top of water and allow to sit until it becomes foamy.
In a large bowl, mix together butter, sugar, cinnamon, salt and 1/2 cup of the flour.
Beat eggs and add to mixture.
Add water/yeast to mixture and then gradually work in flour a half-cup at a time until mixture forms a dough.
Knead dough on floured surface for approx. 1 minute.
Cover with a slightly damp dishcloth and let rise in a warm area until doubled in size (approx 1 1/2 hours).
Punch dough down.
Knead for another minute and then shape into round loaf.
Save approx. 1/4 of dough to shape into "bones" and decorate loaf with them.
Let loaf rise for another hour or so.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes for larger loaves.
While loaf is still warm, brush with glaze made from combining 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup orange juice that you have brought to a boil.
While glaze is still sticky, decorate with sanding sugar.
Check out these other blogs for more Tasty Treats: