And November is upon us! I don’t know how your Halloween was, but I spent mine with friends, a firepit, and cosplay in my kitchen. Wait, you may think, that sounds like a nifty idea for a blog feature. Well, that would be because it is! Starting now this new section “Cosplay in the Kitchen” will feature my fabulous friends cosplaying and cooking recipes inspired by their costumes in my kitchen.
In honor of Día de los Muertos, I decided to bring in my good friend Jessi Stephens of Kuiosikle Industries to cook with me in her La Muerte costume from The Book of Life. I have to say she was a real trooper, think making bread is an arduous task? Try making it while balancing atop platform stilts with a giant LED-covered sombrero on your head! As you can see, her depiction is just fantastic.
So for those who have never seen The Book of Life, this film is a fun adaptation of the figures behind the Day of the Dead, and a story of their meddling with humans — all played out by CG-animated wooden puppets. La Muerte is the Queen of the Land of the Remembered – where all who die remembered go to live and party for eternity, preserved by the memory of their loved ones. She is depicted as a goddess of immortal beauty and benevolence, with skin of white sugar candy and black licorice rope for hair.
On the Day of the Dead, families often set up shrines with orange marigold and food offerings for their dead loved ones to attract their souls on the one time a year they may walk among the living. Most commonly the food offering includes sugar skulls and pan de muerto. Since Pan de Muerto is also featured in the film, I decided this would be a good dish to put together for this post.
Pretty much every recipe for Pan de Muerto – a soft, sweet bread coated with an orange and sugar glaze – follows a similar formula. It’s usually spiced with anise seed, but I decided I would try to base the flavorings off of the character La Muerte herself.
The film bases La Muerte on a number of traditions and legends from Mexican and Spanish culture. Most obviously, she resembles popular Day of the Dead figure La Calavera Catrina – a figure drawn at the turn of the 20th century by printmaker José Guadalupe Posada to satirize the Europeanization of Mexico. La Catrina and La Muerte probably have their roots go back thousands of years to the Aztec goddess of death Mictecacihuatl, the Queen of the Underworld. She then evolved with Spanish Colonization to Santa Muerte, taking influence from Catholic and European iconography, and danse macabre and memento mori traditions, and from there eventually evolved to La Catrina that we see today.
Since the character is a hybridization of Mexican and Spanish traditions, our Pan de La Muerte will be spiced with coriander, saffron, Spanish paprika, and cinnamon, and coated with an orange and horchata glaze. If you’ve never had horchata before, it is a Spanish/Mexican spiced rice and almond drink. It’s very tasty, but also rather time-consuming to make. For this recipe, due to lack of time and patience, we will be using Rumchata — because baking is a lot better with booze! Just make sure you don’t drink all of it before making your glaze.
Many thanks to Adam J Albert and Briana Lamb for their photography assistance!
Pan de La Muerte
Makes 2 loaves
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup milk
- ½ tsp (small pinch) saffron
- 1 stick of butter
- 5-5 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tb ground coriander
- 1 Tb ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ tsp Spanish sweet paprika
- 1 tsp salt
- ¾ cup sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 packages of yeast
- ½ cup Rumchata
- 1 Tb orange zest
- Cooking spray
- Boil water in a small saucepan, turn off heat and add saffron. Cover pan and let steep while you are prepping the other ingredients.
- In a large mixing bowl mix together ½ cup flour, salt, ½ cup sugar, yeast, coriander, cinnamon, and paprika until thoroughly incorporated.
- Heat up the saucepan again on low heat. Add the milk and butter in tablespoon sized blocks. Whisk until completely melted. Remove pan from heat and liquid mix cool to somewhere between 105-110°F.
- Gradually add and beat the liquid mix into the flour mix until completely mixed.
- Add the rest of the eggs and flour 1 egg and cup at a time, mixing in-between each addition. You may have to switch from the whisk to a spatula or your hands until the dough is soft, but not sticky.
- Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead for about ten minutes. The dough will be smooth and elastic by this point.
- Spray the bowl with cooking spray and put your dough into it. Spray the top of the dough and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled (1 to 1.5 hours).
- Punch dough down, divide the dough in half. Cut off a small portion of each half. Shape what’s left of the halves into loaves and use the cut off portions to decorate the loaves however you like.
- Place loaves on a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Let rise another hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F, bake for 40 minutes.
- During the last 10 minutes of baking. Heat saucepan on the stovetop on low, add Rumchata and orange zest. Stir sugar in and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has slightly thickened.
- Remove bread from oven and brush glaze onto the bread before it cools.