Reader Selena wants to know if it’s possible to add more flavor to pan de muerto, i.e. make it more like a long-fermented artisan bread. Yes, Selena that’s very doable, though you’ll be changing the texture of the bread in the process. Generally long fermentation creates a denser texture with smaller holes in the crumb. The reason for that is because “wild” yeasts tend not to produce carbon dioxide with the same verve as the packaged stuff. They get the job done, mind you, but the gas bubbles they make are smaller and they take more time to develop. That’s a good thing from a flavor standpoint since enzymes and flavor-creating bacteria need time to do their thing creating sugars, alcohols and whatnot.
Mexican sweet breads are very often cottony light on the inside, a clear indication that they’ve been blown up fast with plenty of packaged yeast — FOOM! Well, not really foom, but you get the idea. The upside is you get a very tender and airy texture and the bread takes very little time to produce. The downside is of course the depth of flavor, which tends to be lacking, and which is why these breads often have some sort of flavoring agent added to them: sugar, citrus zest and/or spices.
If you’d like to add a little more artisan bread flavor to the mix you can do that by reducing the flour, milk and yeast in the recipe by 1/3 and substituting an equal weight of bread starter. That should do the trick! If not get back to me and we’ll keep talking!