The Day of the Dead, or All Saints' Day, falls on November 2 each year. In Mexico, families pass from house to house visiting altars and friends. Integral to the ritual is the sharing of pan de muertos, which translates as "the bread of the dead". This sweet, brioche-style bread is scented with anise and orange blossom and needs nothing more than a cup of Mexican hot chocolate for dipping.






Skill level

Average: 3.9 (26 votes)


  • 115 ml milk
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water (see Note)
  • 60 g raw sugar
  • tsp dried yeast
  • 465 g plain flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground anise
  • 2 eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 110 g unsalted butter, softened
  • Mexican hot chocolate to serve


  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp water
  • ¼ cup raw sugar

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Resting time: 2 hours

Warm the milk in a small saucepan to around 50°C, add the orange blossom water and sugar and stir until dissolved. Pour the milk into a large bowl, add the yeast and ½ cup of flour. Mix until combined, then set aside in a warm place until the mixture begins to bubble (about 20 minutes).

Add the remaining flour, salt and anise and knead until a dough forms (mix on a medium speed if using an electric mixer). Gradually add the eggs and continue to knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Add the softened butter, a few pieces at a time and knead until fully incorporated. Place the dough into a clean bowl and cover with cling film. Set aside for 1­1½ hours until doubled in size.

Knock back the dough and knead for 30 seconds. Pinch off a ball of dough about the size of a passionfruit to use for the decoration. Form the remaining dough into a ball and place on a baking paper lined oven tray. Roll three quarters of the reserved dough into a long sausage shape about 1 cm thick. Cut in half and drape over the dough in a cross pattern. Form the remaining dough into a ball in place in the centre of the cross. Cover with a tea towel and set aside in warm place to prove for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 180°C. For the glaze, combine the egg yolks and water. Brush the glaze all over the dough and sprinkle with sugar. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes until golden and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from the oven cool a on wire rack.

Serve with Mexican hot chocolate.



• Orange blossom water is available from Middle Eastern food stores and some international delicatessens. If unavailable simply omit, the bread will still be delicious.


Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Kristine Duran-Thiessen. Coloured glassware from Market Import; tiles from Di Lorenzo.