Pan De Muerto, Bread of the Dead

dump all the flour on the table

the butter, eggs, extracts, and sweetened condensed milk
the butter, eggs, extracts, and sweetened condensed milk

the yeast

beginning to mix the wet and dry ingredients

squish, squish

smack the dough on the table again and again


this takes some strength


ready to rise


shaping the bread–Lily makes the tears

ready to rise again and bake

we tried to make some muertitos--but they just looked like snowmen
out of the oven--immediately brush on egg white and sprinkle with sugar

































Pan de Muerto/Bread of the Dead

5 lbs. Flour

2 1/2 cans “leche nestle” —–sweetened condensed milk

15 whole eggs, keep the whites

15 egg yolks

6 1/2 sticks butter, room temp

Orange zest, to taste

Almond extract, to taste

Scant 1/2 c. yeast

Add a little warm water to yeast and allow to rise a little.

Combine whole eggs, yolks, butter, condensed milk, and flavorings and beat until well combined.  Add the yeast.  Put flour on table or other large work surface.  Make a well in the center.   Add the egg mixture.  Now comes the hard part.  Mix and knead until the dough becomes unstuck from the table.  You need to pick the dough up and slam it back against the table again and again.  Allow the dough to double in a VERY warm place.   I heat my oven to it’s lowest setting and then turn it off.  This makes a perfect place to rise the dough. When doubled, punch down and form into balls (size is up to you).  Use dough to form “tears” that cross and then a little ball in the middle (see below).  Allow to rise again, back in the warm oven, on prepared baking sheets. Bake at 350 for ???—watch them closely.  When out of the oven but still warm, brush with unbeaten egg white and sprinkle with or dip into sugar.

I usually use colored sugar.

This is Paco’s family’s recipe.  We make it every year to celebrate the Day of the Dead and to honor our daughter, Adele. It’s a lot of work, but well worth the effort. Traditionally served with hot chocolate.

Life and Death (and Compost)

Here is the compost part:

I have been listening to the NPR podcast “You Bet Your Garden” this year.  Mike McGrath is quite a character and is relentless in his promotion of using a leaf blower in reverse to shred and gather leaves.  The shredded leaves can then be turned into the best imaginable compost or used directly on the garden as mulch.

So, I investigated (nagged hubby) and found out that our blower does indeed do this.  I just spent 2 hours filling 2 gigantic trash bags–the REALLY big ones.  It was great to be working outside on this perfect fall day.  After filling the bag on the blower about 9 times, I felt like my shoulder was going to dislocate and I had to stop.  Hopefully I can put another couple hours in this week and have a decent amount to spread on the garden. 

I am sure that the neighbor who was also busy with leaves must have thought I was an idiot.  Who would try to suck up and bag 5 acres worth of leaves?!  If only he knew the method to my madness. 

Here is the Life and Death part:

I am constantly amazed by the calm and perspective I always gain by being engaged outside.  Today was a day to ponder life and death and what a better lesson could I have had then engaging in the cycle of life right here on the farm.  As I gathered leaves, I thought of the rich soil they would make in the garden and how useful their deaths would be.  Next spring, they would be followed by a whole new avalanche of beautiful leaves that would do their jobs on and off the tree and the cycle goes round and round. The ending is necessary for the beginning.  Or perhaps, there is no beginning or end–they flow into each other.

Today and tomorrow (Nov. 1 and 2)  is the Day of the Dead (more here: ). This celebration is a very dear one to this family.  On November 2, 1996 my husband and I lost our first daughter, Adele, who was stillborn at 22 weeks.  In a poignant twist, we have a holiday that perfectly commemorates the birth and death of our first girl.  As I collected leaves this afternoon I thought of life and death and the circumstances of my own family.  I do not pretend that what happened to us and Adele was meant to be or served some higher purpose.  But this I know, her life and death was enveloped into our lives and changed us forever.  I also know, the promise of her in the womb gave my own mother the strength she needed to survive her cancer.  It is also true that the loss of Adele brought us to the circumstances that brought our 2nd daughter, Lily, to us.  And I know, she was meant to be here and with us. 

So today, the land taught me yet another lesson.  Our lives are not a line that starts with birth and ends with death, but a river that flows from one body of water and into another.  Earth and sky are all the religion I need.