Bread of the Dead or Pan de Muerto

In Mexico the sweet loaf Pan de Muerto is as much part of the celebrations for the Day of the Dead as mince pies are part of Christmas.
There are almost as many variations of the Pan de Muerto recipe as there are cooks, but this is the one we use:

Ingredients for bread
500 gm (4 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
115 gm (½ cup) butter
100 gm (½ cup) granulated sugar
120 ml (½ cup) water
120 ml (½ cup) milk
3 eggs
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1 level tsp salt
2 tsp dried yeast.

For the glaze
Juice of 1 orange
3 tbsp granulated sugar.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit ), gas mark 4.
Combine half the flour (reserve the rest), sugar, yeast, salt and spices in a bowl then put to one side. Melt the butter together with the milk and water. Once melted allow to cool until lukewarm then mix with the dry ingredients.
Add the eggs, mixing to make a wet batter, then slowly stir in the remaining flour until a soft, slightly sticky dough is formed.
Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Add more flour if the dough is too wet.
Return the dough to a clean bowl, cover the top and allow to rise in a warm place for approx 90 minutes or until risen to twice the size.
Shape the dough into a circle, cutting off a few pieces to make bone or skull decorations for the loaf (depending on your modelling skills!).
Transfer to a baking sheet then leave the shaped dough to rise for another 90 minutes. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 – 50 minutes or until golden brown*.
Make a glaze by combining the orange juice and sugar over a low heat, simmering gently until the sugar has melted (try not to stir the mixture).
Once the bread has cooled brush over with the glaze.

*Baking time is given for one large loaf. If you have made several smaller shapes (skulls for instance), shorten the baking time and decorate with coloured icing once the bread has cooled.

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