Monday, October 25, 2010

Pan de Muerto

Ah... okay. This one had some disasters along the way to completion, but turned out tasty. It's a long recipe (although not hugely complex), and here's the link to it.

Even better? There's an audio sideshow!

So... here's what happened when I tried it. But first, for all the people who were too lazy to click the link: the recipe:

Pan de Muerto

For the bread
1/2 cup whole milk (I used ¼ cup each 1% and half & half)
2-3/4 oz. (5-1/2 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Two 4x1-inch strips of orange zest (use a vegetable peeler; avoid the white pith)
1 Tbs. orange blossom water
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 oz. (1-3/4 tsp.) active dry yeast
15-3/4 oz. (3-1/2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
Vegetable oil as needed
For the topping
2 oz. (4 Tbs.) unsalted butter, melted (I used 2½ tbsp)
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Make the dough Put the milk, butter, and orange zest in a small saucepan over medium heat; stir until the butter melts, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool until warm. Discard the orange zest, add the orange blossom water, and whisk in the eggs.

Or, you can add orange zest and strain it out later!
Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water (no hotter than 110°F) and let stand until the mixture bubbles slightly, 5 to 10 minutes. (If the yeast doesn’t bubble, discard it and start again with new yeast.)

Mix the flour, sugar, and salt on a work surface. Make a well in the center.

This is where things got awkward for me.
Gradually pour the yeast mixture and the milk mixture into the well while mixing with your hand.

Yeast mixture in? Okay! Milk mixture? Okay! Mixing? Uhm...

Or until the liquid leaks all over the place and your counter is a mess...

Knead until you have a nice, uniform dough, about 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth but still slightly sticky. If it seems too sticky, add more flour as needed.

Full recovery from the mess. It's good to know you can recover!

Put the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and leave in a warm place (about 70°F) until doubled in size, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.

Shape the bread
Cut off a piece of dough about the size of a lemon and reserve. Divide the remaining dough in half and shape the pieces on a lightly floured surface into 2 rounds. Lightly oil a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet or line it with parchment; put the dough rounds on it and flatten the tops with your hands.

With some of the reserved dough, form 2 balls the size of large marbles; set aside and cover with plastic. Divide the remaining dough into 6 pieces and roll them with your hands from the center out, making ropes that are slightly longer than the width of the loaves.

These little bits represent bones! You're going to lay them on top of the bread.

As you’re rolling, press with your index and middle fingers spread about 1 inch apart to make knobs that represent bones. Arrange 3 of the ropes on top of each dough round, overlapping the ropes in the center. Cover loosely with a cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Ready to go in the oven!

Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

Dab a little cold water on the top center of each round where the ropes meet and put the reserved dough balls on top, pressing slightly so they adhere. Bake until the loaves have an even golden color, 30 to 40 minutes. Cover the loaves loosely with foil and continue to bake until their bottoms are browned and the internal temperature is 190°F, 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes on a wire rack.

Gorgeous! And they smelled great.
Top the bread Brush the loaves all over with some of the melted butter.

Mmm. Glistening with butter!

Holding one from the bottom (if it’s too warm, use an oven mitt or a piece of cardboard), sprinkle half of the sugar all over the top, tilting the loaf slightly to help coat it evenly.

Make sure you get all the corners!
Repeat with the other loaf and remaining sugar.

The ball on top popped off of this one.
Cool to room temperature before serving. The bread is best eaten within a day of baking.

Ta Dah! The finished product!

All in all, I think this was a great recipe. It was relatively easy, with the exception of my failure with the well. Overconfidence will get you every time, I swear. I can't stress this enough, but the orange blossom water makes this bread! It lends it a gorgeous floral tone that's in no way overpowering. I would definitely make this one again!

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