My friend Maggie took me to my first panaderia about six years ago. I was so excited when I was instructed to pick up a big silver tray and tongs and to wander cabinet to cabinet scooping up ridiculously cheap treats. I don't remember what I tried that day, but since then (partially thanks to moving to Houston) I've learned a thing or two about tasty Mexican baked goods. Before last weekend I'd still never tried Pan de Muerto, and I was excited to discover if it was similar to the other items I've sampled. I was also really excited to shape and decorate the dough.
He had told me that I’d have some prep work to do the day before. It turned out that I had to completely make the dough, which left only the shaping, baking and decoration for our Sunday baking session. The dough-making process was pretty straightforward. I used my food processor to cut the flour into my dough, mainly because I didn't want to wait for the butter to come to room temperature. I used my hand mixer to blend in the eggs. It was the craziest dough I'd ever dealt with! It kept creeping up my beaters to the mixer itself. And it was SO thick that it was hard for my mixer to cope, and the poor little machine started smoking. I uplugged it, let it cool, and threw it in the garbage! I'll have to grab a new one. At any rate, after adding the eggs, I had to add quite a bit of flour (maybe about a cup?) to get the dough even remotely thick and un-sticky enough to handle. It seemed unreasonable to add more, so I finally gave up and decided, "It is what it is!"
I set my timer for two hours, and when time was up I found that the dough you see above had morphed into the dough you see below.
I decided it hadn't doubled in size, so I set the timer for two more hours. Then I fell asleep for 8+ hours! When I woke up, it looked like this:
Quadrupled in size? Yeah, maybe! Heh. I hoped it might contract a little during its two hours in the fridge, but it did not. Thankfully I don't think the recipe suffered because of my slip.
Forming the loaves was really fun. I had to oil my hands several times to keep the dough from sticking to me, but it wasn't annoyingly sticky so long as I kept that up. I didn't do the best job making my Friedas, but they came out pretty cool though somewhat bug eyed. Haha.
They puffed up a LOT while baking. They only took about 15 minutes to be almost overdone. As I often say, my oven is extra speedy. I really need to get one of those oven thermometers!
I forgot to snap a picture before decorating, but here's the finished product:
As you can see, I brushed on a simple orange glaze before decorating. I'm happy I did! My puffy, light Pan de Muerto had a nice bready taste with notes of cinnamon and citrus. They begged for a cup of coffee or tea. This recipe would make for a fun and tasty yearly tradition. I bet I'd eventually be a real artist! I'd like to make loaves that look like my wonderful grandfather, great aunts and uncles, and friends who have passed away. They were awesome people and they deserve to be remembered and celebrated.
I think that my Pan de Muerto was a success. Personally, I was just really happy they came out light and airy. A while back I got a bread baking book for Christmas. I took the advice of the author, and I tried making a simple loaf first. It came out like a brick. The next two batches of the same recipe came out terribly, too, so I quit trying to bake bread. I gave up too quickly, and I’ve been carrying around the burden of worrying that I can’t bake bread. So it was very nice to get this minor success under my belt.