Pan de Muertos

This recipe is for 1 large loaf, but children can use the dough to make their own mini breads or rolls (just be sure to reduce the baking time). When done, bread will lightly brown and sound hollow when tapped.

Pan de Muertos
Country of Origin
Preparation time

1 envelope (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 tsp. plus 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp. anise seeds
4 tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp. orange extract
2 tbsp. grated orange zest
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


1/4 cup sugar
Juice of 1/2 orange
Colored sugar crystals, for decoration


1. Make the bread: In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1/4 cup warm water. Let stand until the yeast begins to foam, about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a small pan, scald milk and anise seeds over medium-high heat. Add butter, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, orange extract, zest, and salt. Cook until butter melts. Remove from heat. Cool until lukewarm.

3. Beat eggs into yeast mixture. Add cooled milk mixture. Whisk until blended. Gradually stir in flour with a wooden spoon to make a dough. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead for 5 minutes, until it is smooth and pliable. Return dough to bowl. Cover and set bowl in a warm place. Allow dough to rise until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Punch air out of dough and knead it again for a couple of minutes. Pinch off about 1/2 cup of dough. Form remaining dough into a round loaf on a cookie sheet. With 1/2 cup of dough, create 2 bone or 4 teardrop shapes. Arrange shapes on top of loaf. Allow dough to rise again for 1 hour, then bake for about 35 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a saucepan, combine sugar and orange juice over high heat. Bring to a boil and, stirring, reduce until mixture lightly thickens into a syrup. Brush orange syrup over warm bread. Decorate top of bread with colored sugar crystals.