Pan de Muerto Recipe

Under the hood, Pan de Muerto is very similar to pan dulce, the fluffy, slightly sweet white bread that Mexico is famous for. The main difference is that it’s flavored with anise seeds. The presentation is different as well, as it’s typically shaped into round loaves decorated with bone- and teardrop-shaped dough pieces, then glazed. Here’s the basic recipe:

Dough

19.25 ounces (3 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
1.75 ounces (1/4 cup) sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons anise seeds or (1 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
2 teaspoons orange zest (or orange blossom water or 2 drops orange oil)
8 ounces (1 cup) milk
2 ounces (1/4 cup) butter or shortening or lard
2 eggs, room temperature

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Making Pan de Ramerino

These little Tuscan breads are ingenious. Neither completely savory nor sweet they’re scattered with raisins, perfumed with rosemary and olive oil and lightly painted with an apricot glaze. They’re a variation on the hot cross bun, and as such appear around Easter in Florence. Traditionally this bread was made in loaves on Holy Thursday for the observance of the Last Supper. The loaves would be baked, taken to church for a blessing then eaten after mass. Nowadays I’m told this bread is mostly baked up in buns, and no longer just for Holy Thursday. You’ll want to eat yours all year round as well. Begin by assembling your ingredients.

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Pan de Ramerino

“Rosmarino” is how you say “rosemary” in Italian, but in the Tuscan dialect it’s “ramerino”. The formula has a few extra steps compared to a typical herbed bread as the aim is to infuse the oil with rosemary flavor instead of adding chopped herb to the dough. The results is a very light and elegant flavor. If you like a stronger rosemary flavor, add a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves at the same time you add the raisins to the dough. The bread goes like this:

2 ounces (1/4 cup) olive oil
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3.5 ounces (2/3 cup) raisins
3 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 ounces (scant 2 tablespoons) sugar
17.5 oz (3 1/4 cups) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup water
2 eggs
egg wash
apricot glaze

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How to Make Hot Cross Buns

These come together so quickly and easily you’ll want to bake up a batch every Friday (or Saturday, or Sunday, or Monday…). They’re light, slightly sweet with a hint of spice and candied fruit. Delicious but not so much of a Lenten indulgence that you’ll have to go to confession afterward. Use whatever dried fruit is handy. Raisins are very common, currents are very English, citron is very hip, dried apricot is very, um…Louisville. Mix and match them to your heart’s content. Start by

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Hot Cross Bun Recipe

I’m normally a long-fermentation snob where it comes to bread, but frankly with all the spices in these little guys it’s mighty hard to pick up the subtleties that a long rise offers. A full tablespoon of instant yeast blows this dough up in no time — foom — which means from mixing to glazing, you can have these done in about four hours.

1 lb. 9 ounces (5 cups) bread flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups warm milk
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs, room temperature
4 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup golden raisins
egg wash
simple icing

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Making Kugelhopf

Eating kugelhopf is a little like traveling in time. You’re reminded of what “cake” was like before it became the ultra-rich, ultra-sweet, ultra-moist sort of device that it is now. I’m not complaining about modern cake, mind you. I’m just saying that “cake” as it was defined a few hundred years ago is a beautiful thing. I served this as the closer for Mrs. Pastry’s birthday party the other night, complete with candles, and it was a hit. A sweet white dessert wine positively makes this, as it blends elegantly with the toasty-sweet crust, tender buttery interior and tangy rum-soaked raisins. Talk about a grownup cake, I want one for my birthday!

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Kugelhopf Recipe

I’ll be starting with Gaston Lenôtres famous Kugelhopf recipe, though I’m not ruling out that I’ll change it a bit, since one or two very interesting ideas came in from reader Regine last week and I intend to explore them. For now here’s the starting point.

1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) rum
3.5 ounces (1/2 cup) sugar
3.25 ounces (1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon) water
4.5 ounces (generous 1/2 cup) raisins
3.5 ounces (1 cup) slivered almonds
14-16 ounces brioche dough, chilled and ready
egg wash
powdered sugar for dusting
melted butter for the top of the cake
orange flower water, or a few drops of the extract of your choice

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Making Black Bread (Pumpernickel)

Here’s how I like to eat a real pumpernickel: with lox, cream cheese and capers. Why? Because this moist, ultra-dense bread calls out for accompaniment. Smoked fish and cheese. A nice slice of pork fat with onions and chili powder on top. Something — and something rich. Oh, and beer.

Not that this bread doesn’t taste great on its own of course. This is an all-rye bread. No white wheat flour, no caraway seeds, nothing to mask it’s pure, peasant the-wheat-crop-failed-this-year-and-we-have-nothing-else-to-eat rye-ness. You’ll get it when you taste it. It ain’t no sandwich bread but it’s great for canapés, toast, or just eating with butter.

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How to Make Rye Starter

A rye starter is basically the same thing as a white or whole wheat starter: a fermented mass of wet flour, only with rye flour as a base instead of some other type. Rye flours are quick to ferment for reasons that will be discussed later this week, meaning you can make one in a bout half the time of a white wheat starter: about three days. All you need to do is mix maybe an ounce of rye flour with an ounce of water, stir it and let it sit out overnight. The next day add two ounces of rye flour and two ounces of water and again let it sit out overnight. The next day add four ounces of rye flour and four ounces of water…and you should have a ready starter about four hours later. Bingo.

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Black Bread (Pumpernickel) Recipe

This recipe, for a very dark Polish and/or Lithuanian-style rye, diverges from most in that it uses neither espresso powder nor cocoa for color. That’s the upside. The downside is that you have to special order both dark rye flour and rye meal to execute it. Happily both are available on Amazon via Bob’s Red Mill.

Notice that this recipe, while very “Old World” in that it uses starter and is built in several stages, is still “spiked” with commercial yeast at the end to prevent it from becoming a complete brick. God love the modern world and neo-traditionalist bakers! This recipe is adapted from Inside the Jewish Bakery by Stanley Ginsberg and Norman Berg. It makes one large free-form loaf or two smaller 11″ x 4″ sandwich loaves. I may well adapt this to fit a pullman pan at some point in the coming week.

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