This vegan pan de muerto is soft and tender, sweet, and with a hint of orange. It is made using time-honored baking techniques with vegan ingredients!
What is Pan de Muerto?
Pan de muerto or day of the dead bread is an orange blossom scented bread in the form of a round loaf with knobs decorating the top. It is a very traditional bread that is made for el Dia de los Muertos (Dia de Muertos).
El Dia de Muertos is a celebration of life and triumph over death, the intermingling of the religious beliefs of the indigenous people of Mexico, and the faith of the Spaniards that conquered them. Purple and orange tissue paper banners line altars decorated with marigold petals, colorful sugar skulls, and a bounty of fruit and vegetables.
Both the indigenous people and the Church of the Spaniards believed that death was not an end, but only a passageway to another life. That is why this is a joyous occasion, a homecoming festival, and at the same time a way to mock death and the power it holds over our bodies.
Ofrendas or Altars
A big part of the celebration is to make altars or ofrendas for those who have passed, preparing the dead’s favorite foods, and gathering at the cemetery to decorate a loved one’s grave, share a meal, and reminiscence. It is a tradition full of symbolism that truly honors the dead, those we keep in our hearts, but somehow with the passing of time fade in our memories. Pan de muerto is one of those symbols included in the altars.
Pan de Muerto Meaning
Legend says that the Spaniards began making a special bread in the form of a heart and covered in red sugar as a way to replace the human sacrifices the indigenous people of Mexico practiced. Today, the pan de muerto is not meant to resemble a heart, but instead, the round shape represents the cycle of life and death, the knob in the center represents a skull, and the four strips and knobs represent the bones of the deceased.
The Recipe: Vegan Pan de Muerto
According to my husband, this recipe might be better than the non-vegan version. I have substituted the eggs with potatoes, resulting in a moist, soft, and sweet bread. It is perfect for dipping in hot chocolate or coffee. I recommend that you take the time to find bread flour to make this, it will result in a much better bread. It has become very common in Mexico to stuff your pan de muerto, like this one stuffed with chocolate.
Vegan Day of the Dead Bread
- 1 pack (.25 oz) Active dry yeast
- ½ cup (3.5 oz) Almond milk, room temperature, 3.5 oz
- 3 1/3 cup (17.5 oz) Bread flour
- ¾ cup (5.5 oz) Sugar, granulated
- 1 tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. Orange zest
- ¼ cup Orange juice
- ¾ cup (6 oz.) Potato, Yukon gold, cooked, mashed
- ½ cup + 1 tbsp. (4 ¼ oz.) Vegan butter room temperature, cut into 1 inch pieces,
- 2 tbsp. Vegan butter, melted
- ½ cup Sugar, granulated
- In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in the almond milk and add 2 tbsp. of the flour. Whisk to incorporate and let rest in a warm place for 20 min.
- In the bowl of a mixer, with the dough hook, combine the dry ingredients: the rest of the flour, salt, sugar, and orange zest. Mix.
- Add the wet ingredients: the orange juice, mashed potato, and yeast-flour mixture. Mix on low until the dough begins to incorporate.
- Add the ½ cup + 1 tbsp. of softened butter little by little and increase speed to medium. Mix for 15 min. until the dough has come off the sides of the bowl and is stretchy but not sticky.
- Place the dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough and fold the side over unto each other and flip. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day take the dough from the fridge, remove the plastic wrap and cover with a towel. Let rise in a warm place (70-75F) until the dough comes to room temperature, about an hour.
- Take a piece of dough, weighing about 3 oz., and set aside. Divide the remaining dough into four pieces. Roll them tightly into rounds and place on a sheet tray lined with parchment. Press down on the rounds lightly.
- Use the reserved dough to make 4 small balls the size of a quarter and set aside. Use the remaining dough to roll out eight strips long enough to cover the rounds. Place two strips on top of each round forming an x, use your fingers to press lightly on the strips to form knobs, they should resemble bones. Repeat the process with the rest of the rounds.
- Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 ½ hrs. in a warm place (70- 75F) or until double in size.
- Meanwhile preheat the oven to 350F. Place the small balls in the center of the rounds with a little bit of water. Bake for 20-30 min. until the rounds have become a rich brown color. Cover with foil and bake for 10 to 15 min. more, until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 190F. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack.
- While the bread is still warm melt 2 tbsp. of butter and brush the bread with it. Sprinkle evenly with sugar.
- Let bread completely cool before eating.