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Pan de muerto

  • Author: Maura Wall Hernandez
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes + 4 hours inactive prep time to rise
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours, 32 mins
  • Yield: 6 individual servings 1x
  • Category: Pan dulce
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: Mexican


Pan de muerto is a traditional yeasted pan dulce perfumed with orange blossom water or orange zest and dusted with a sugar topping. This sweet bread is typically eaten to celebrate Day of the Dead and is also given as an offering on altars for Día de los Muertos. 


  • 225 grams bread flour
  • 36 grams granulated sugar (I use Zulka brand)
  • 6 grams fast-rise instant years
  • 40 grams unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 125 grams whole milk, warmed
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 grams kosher salt

For topping:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar for dusting

For greasing the container where you’ll proof the dough:

  • Cooking spray such as PAM Original

For flouring your work surface:

  • All-purpose flour, as needed


  1. Add 225 grams bread flour, 36 grams sugar, and 6 grams of fast-rise instant yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the dough hook attachment, turn mixer to speed 2 to combine dry ingredients.
  2. Add 125 grams warm milk, 1 tablespoon orange blossom water, 1 large egg, and 40 grams of butter to the bowl and increase speed to 4 for 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and 3 grams kosher salt to the bowl and continue to mix on speed 4 for about another 10 minutes, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and mostly gathers around the hook. You may need to stop the mixer partway through to scrape down the sides with a spatula so no dough is wasted.
  4. Prepare a large glass bowl or a 6-quart food container with lid for proofing the dough by spraying the inside with cooking spray so the dough won’t stick to the sides.
  5. Turn the dough out from the stand mixer bowl into the bowl or container to proof. If using a glass bowl, cover with plastic cling wrap and a kitchen towel. If using a food prep container, seal with the lid. Allow dough to rise undisturbed for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
  6. Once dough has doubled in size, turn out onto a floured surface (use all-purpose flour for this part, just enough so the dough doesn’t stick to your work surface). Using a bench scraper or very sharp knife, divide the dough into the number of serving sizes you want, making the sizes as close to equal as possible. 
  7. Cut 1/3 of each piece of dough off and then cut again to make the 2 “bones” across the top of the bread, and the dough ball for the top.
  8. Use your hands to roll the main piece of dough into a ball. If you have any seams, they should be on the bottom. For the bones, roll two skinny ropes by rolling it with your fingers to make indentations. Roll the ball for the top, again making sure any seam is on the bottom so it won’t be seen. Place the bones in a cross-shape over the top of the main piece of dough, then top with the ball. 
  9. Cover with plastic wrap and a lightweight kitchen towel and allow to rise again until nearly doubled in size (about 1.5-2 hours). 
  10. Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree F oven for about 12 minutes, until the tops and sides are sufficiently browned but not burned. 
  11. Once you remove the baked bread from the oven, brush each bread with melted butter and liberally sprinkle sugar on top. Serve immediately or allow to cool before storing.


This recipe can make 6 small individual rolls, 4 medium individual rolls, 2 large or 1 extra large pan de muerto breads for sharing with up to 4-6 people.

TO MAKE THE DOUGH AHEAD OF TIME: If you’d like to make the dough the night before, you can allow it to rise overnight in the refrigerator so long as you keep the bowl or container covered so the dough does not lose moisture. The cold temperature of the refrigerator will slow the growth and rise of the bread, but overnight will be plenty of time for the dough to double in size. It’s OK if it rises a bit more. 

STORAGE: This bread should be eaten within 2-3 days of baking. It will dry out over time. Ideally, if you can store it under glass in a cake dome, it should retain moisture fairly well. If you store it in a plastic bag, the sugar topping will sweat a bit and dissolve, but you can just dust with some additional sugar before serving if you want it to look pretty.

Keywords: pan de muerto, pan dulce, day of the dead, día de los muertos