Feliz Dia de los Muertos

So I might not be in Mexico or have any ties to the country outside of a brother who has spent a hefty amount of time there and is fluent in Spanish.  I do, however, have a huge appreciation and love for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  As someone who grew up in the Catholic tradition this Latin/Catholic tradition is something I relate to and think is very important for those people in Western cultures to explore.  Death seems to be a dirty word in America.  We cover it in black, wrap it up in shiny coffins and homemade casseroles and try to say farewell to those who die.  Dia de los Muertos (which is celebrated November 1 and 2, also known as All Saints and All Souls Days) is a celebration of those who have died, the things they loved and the lives they led.

I have been celebrating this holiday for 4 years now and each year I have constructed my own Dia de los Muertos altar as is tradition.  Altars include bright flowers, photos of the dead, objects and foods they loved as well as the traditional pan de muerto (bread of the dead) and brightly painted skulls made of sugar.  This year I decided to take the plunge and make the bread and skulls and include them in my altar.

I researched recipes online and found that both the bread and sugar skulls were simple recipes so long as a little bit of artistry was allowed for the shaping of each.  The bread is usually baked in the shape of skulls or in rounds with “bones” laying across the top of the bread round.  The recipe I used made enough dough for me to make one of each.  The flavors are interesting with the use of Anise Seed, sugar and an orange glaze.  Here’s the bread start to finish:

Rising dough

Rising dough

Skull bread.

Skull bread.

Bones bread

Bones bread

Baked Bread of the Dead

Baked Bread of the Dead

Baked Bread of the Dead

Most of the bones fell off of the bread round but I think that is because I made them too short and stubby.  Learning curve!

I also made the sugar skulls which consisted of confectioners sugar, vanilla, an egg white and corn starch.  They were a lot of fun to decorate.  I found these amazing food color pens!  The tips are like paint brushes and you can actually paint onto whatever frosted surface you want.  They were the perfect tool to decorate my skulls.

Sugar skulls before painting

Sugar skulls before painting

Sugar skulls after painting

Sugar skulls after painting

Much like kneading bread, I really enjoyed the hands on sculpting aspect of the skulls.  What started out was two balls of starchy sugar turned into something that I’m really proud to say I created.  Decorating them was really enjoyable as well because there’s really no wrong way to do it.  Sugar skulls are just supposed to be bright and beautiful and really, how could I go wrong there?!

After my cooking and confectioning were completed I took my creations up to my kitchen table where I had created my altar.  I purchased bright flowers, arranged various “saints” candles along with a photo of my grandparents, a list of other relatives and friends who have died and my roommates also included things from family and friends who have died.  It was really special to see both of them latch onto the concept of Dia de los Muertos and I felt honored to be able to fascilitate a place where people they loved could be honored.

The completed altar.

The completed altar.

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5 responses to “Feliz Dia de los Muertos

  1. Wow… nice. I have never celebrated dia de los muertos and I’m latina. My mom is old school, she grew up in an era of English Only – we held on to few traditions, but this one was lost. I definitely want to start up next year. Thanks for the great resource. I will save your tips and use them next year. Muchisimas Gracias!

  2. Pingback: Meal Ticket :: Blog Archive :: SNACK TIME: Yes we did (make pizza), spelting bee, a cocktail even Pat Burrell would love, creating anew from maki materials, Day of the dead Bread, unpalatable at any speed, how to avoid home kitchen nightmares :: Philadelp

  3. Pingback: Meal Ticket :: Blog Archive :: SNACK TIME: Yes we did (make pizza), spelting bee, a cocktail even Pat Burrell would love, creating anew from maki materials, Day of the dead Bread, unpalatable at any speed, how to avoid home kitchen nightmares :: Philadelp

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