Baker/Owner Pratt Morales cradles two piping-hot loaves of green chile bread. The bread is one of his most popular items at Golden Crown Panaderia, and made with fresh tomatoes, onions, cilantro, green chile (roasted on site), parmesan cheese and spices. Look closely at the loaves and you’ll see a coyote howling at the full moon.
The first thing that hits you is the aroma, then the warmth of the ovens. The air inside the Golden Crown Panaderia is soft and heavy with the scents of whole, fresh anise, cinnamon, sugar, yeast and fresh bread. Behind the counter, father and son bakers Pratt and Chris Morales are busy filling orders for Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. The celebration of departed friends and family spans the first two days of November; and, as the Morales men will tell you, it takes a lot of bread to feed all those hungry souls. "Bread is the stuff of life—it's universal, and something you share," says Pratt. "For Dia de los Muertos, we welcome back the departed souls we knew, and we honor them with altars decorated with things like flowers, candy, cut paper and their favorite foods." The breads for this ofrenda (offering) were baked by the Golden Crown Panaderia (1103 Mountain NW, 243-2424). Masks Y Mas in Nob Hill (3106 Central SE, 256-4183) provided the beautiful decorations, candleholders and service ware.
Traditional pan de muertos (center) is similar in taste and texture to pan dulce, or Mexican sweet bread (the small swirled loaf at the bottom left of this picture). Pan de muertos is fashioned into large disks and decorated with white strips of dough or special frosting, which represents bones bleaching in the sun.
The dead love to eat sugar. Calaveras de azucar, or sugar skulls, are made from a boiled sugar paste that is cast into different sizes of skull-shaped molds (kits are available at Masks Y Mas). Once dry and hardened, the skulls are decorated with colorful foils, icings, "jewels" and the names of the departed. Place them on graves, give them out as gifts or enjoy the sweet and simple pleasure of crunching one up with your teeth. You can make them with chocolate, too!
Basic Pan de Muertos
This "bread of the dead" is usually shaped into skulls or flat, round loaves with strips of dough rolled out and attached to resemble bones or elaborate scenes with skeletons.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
5 to 5-1/2 cups flour
2 packages instant yeast
1 pinch salt
1 pinch cinnamon
1 tablespoon whole anise seed
1/2 cup sugar
1) In a saucepan over medium flame, heat the butter, milk and water until very warm but not boiling.
2) Meanwhile, measure out 1-1/2 cups flour and set the rest aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 1-1/2 cups flour, yeast, salt, cinnamon, anise seed and sugar. Beat in the warm liquid until well combined. Add the eggs and beat in another 1 cup of flour. Continue adding more flour until dough is soft but not sticky. Knead on lightly floured board for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
3) Lightly grease a bowl and place dough in it, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. (This may take between 1-1/2 and 8 hours. You may just want to let it rise overnight.) Punch the dough down and shape into loaves resembling skulls, skeletons or round loaves with "bones" placed ornamentally around the top. Let these loaves rise for 1 hour.
4) Bake in a preheated 350ºF degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.