Pumpkin Spice Pan de Muerto is the traditional Day of the Dead bread flavored with sweet pumpkin, cozy spices, and a sprinkling of sugar.
Pan de Muerto is the traditional yeasted, slightly sweet bread made around this time every year for Dia de los Muertos. You’ve seen me make many variations over the years but I’ve fallen especially hard for pumpkin spice this year and it upped and slipped its way into my pan de muerto too.
What is Pan de Muerto?
Upon first glance pan de muerto may seem a little intimidating but if you’ve made any sort of yeasted bread before than this is no different. The shaping of the “skull” and “bones” on top is really the hardest part (aside from waiting for it to rise) and that takes little more than rolling the dough into ball and snake shapes which is something you’ve been doing since preschool so I know you’ve got this.
How Do You Make It?
For step-by-step pictures on how to shape the loaves go to my Chocolate Anise Pan de Muerto recipe which breaks it down in photos plus features a very adorable 3-year-old Hiro. Just make sure you read the recipe all the way through once or twice because it does involve about 4 hours of rising so you want to make sure you give yourself enough time to make the bread all the way through.
I made this Pumpkin Spice Pan de Muerto recipe for the big Dia de los Muertos fiesta that I threw with Beard and Bonnet and Salt and Wind which if you are thinking of throwing a get together to celebrate Day of the Dead you should definitely check out. There are decorating ideas, ideas for making your own altar, a complete menu, and lots of photo inspiration.
Pan de Muerto Recipes From Years Past
First and last photos courtesy of Beard and Bonnet
- 2/3 cup milk (I used almond milk but any type of milk works)
- 1 (7-gram) package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dried yeast
- 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 large eggs, plus 1 more for egg wash
- 3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
- 1 teaspoon orange flower water
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pour milk into a glass measuring cup and heat in the microwave to between 105°F-115°F (about 20 seconds). Or you could heat gently in a small pan over low on the stove. Use a thermometer to be accurate.
- Pour milk into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Sprinkle yeast and 1/4 cup flour over the top and whisk to combine. Let sit about 10-15 minutes until creamy and slightly puffed.
- Add oil, 3/4 cup of the sugar, and pumpkin and stir on low to combine. Add the 2 eggs, one at a time, until completely incorporated. Add pumpkin pie spice, flower water, salt and remaining flour and mix on low until a dough forms, about 1 minute.
- Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead dough on medium for 8 minutes.
- Grease a large bowl and transfer dough to the greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place until doubles in size, about 1-2 hours.
- Transfer dough to a clean surface and cut into 3 equal pieces. Take each piece and cut off a hunk of dough about the size of a lemon from each (about 1/4 of the dough). Form the larger pieces of dough into round loaves. You can use a little flour if you need to prevent sticking but try to use as little as possible.
- With the smaller lemon-sized pieces of dough you will cut each one in half. Take one half of each and roll that into a ball (you should have 3 walnut-sized balls). Place those balls on top of the larger round loaves you already formed. Press gently to adhere.
- With the remaining dough pieces you will cut each one in half and roll them into long snake-like shapes. Cut each snake in half and place each half on the round loaves around the ball on top shooting out diagonally, like a skull and bones. Press to adhere.
- Place loaves on a parchment covered baking sheet. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise until doubled, about 1-2 hours.
- Heat oven to 350°F. If the skull and bones on top of the loaves have shifted, rearrange them on top of the loaves. Beat remaining egg with a tablespoon of water and brush egg wash over the loaves. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of sugar over the top of each loaf and bake in the middle rack on the oven until golden and hollow sounding when tapped, about 50 minutes.