In our larger story, The Day of the Dead, with a Menu and Recipes, we give you some ideas for the holiday right after Halloween. No, not the one with too much turkey and cranberry sauce. The one before that: El Dia De Los Muertos; the Day of the Dead. One such idea is this Bread of the Dead recipe we ran in that story.
In Mexico, bakeries advertise different shapes of the bread for the holiday. The most common is round; others might be shapes of human beings, animals, especially rabbits in profile. Some bakeries hire extra bakers to produce loaves to meet the huge demand for this bread.
In a pan, bring the milk to a boil, then remove it from the heat. Stir in the butter, sugar, and salt.
In large bowl, mix the yeast with the warm water until dissolved and let stand 5 minutes. Add the milk mixture to the yeast mixture.
Separate the yolk and the white of one egg. Add the yolk to the yeast/milk mixture, and reserve the white. Add the flour to the yeast/milk mixture and blend well with a fork until a dough ball is formed.
Flour a pastry board or work surface heavily and place the dough in the center. Knead until it’s smooth and then move it to a large bowl and cover it with a dish towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 and 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, grease a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Knead the dough again on a floured surface, then divide the dough into fourths and set one fourth aside. Roll the remaining 3 pieces into “ropes.”
On the greased baking sheet, pinch 3 rope ends together and braid. Finish by pinching the ends together on the opposite side. Divide the remaining dough in half and form 2 “bones.” Cross and lay the bones on top of the braided loaf.
Cover bread with a dish towel and let rise for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix together the anise seed, cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar together. In another bowl, beat the egg white lightly.
When the 30 minutes are up, brush the top of the bread with egg white and sprinkle with sugar mixture, except on the cross bones. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.