There are very few things that are better than the warm smell of freshly baked pan dulce at a panaderia. And while all of it smells so good, every pan dulce is actually super different – each with its own unique qualities. Curious to know which pan dulce best matches your personality? Take the quiz and find out!
**Warning: This quiz might make you very hungry and will most likely make you want to run to a panaderia ASAP.
The yearly calendar for Mexican social life pretty much is dictated by baked goods. You know the year is wrapping up when bakeries and supermarkets start stocking traditional pan de muerto, a type of bread that is placed on altars and enjoyed by families around Day of the Dead. It is a delicious, spongy delicacy that tastes like brioche but has a distinctive smell, product of the orange peel and orange blossom essential oils that the traditional recipe calls for. This is what you need to know about pan de muerto. Hey, if you wanna get on your abuela’s good books this is your chance to impress her.
1. The origins of pan de muerto seem to go back all the way to Aztec times.
Of course, the original owners of the land on which Mexico City exists now did not have wheat, eggs and oranges (the main ingredients for pan de muerto) before the Spanish arrived. Rather, according to chronicles from the time and some historians, they made a sort of cake with amaranth flour. Some believe that this bread contained blood product of human sacrifices and that it was an offering to the gods.
2. The Spanish conquistadores changed the recipe, as they found this culinary practice violent and barbaric.
During colonial times the Spanish learnt of this practice and changed the recipe (it no longer contained actual dead people’s blood!). The amaranth was replaced with wheat flour and the top was sprinkled with sugar turned red with a colorant, which symbolized blood, an echo of the Aztec tradition. Some bakeries still use red sugar.
3. So what about the circle in the middle of the bread?
The circle represents a skull, and the elongated pieces of bread stand, of course, for the bones. The skull and bones are the most coveted bits of every pan de muerto, so snatch them as soon as you can (although you might get someone upset, as there is nothing worse than finding a boneless pancito de muerto laying around in the kitchen!). The long bones also symbolize the tears we shed for those who have passed away before us.
4. So you have noticed the sesame seeds in lieu of sugar in some panes de muerto?
Well, that reveals that the bread is from the Mexican state of Puebla, where sesame seeds are sprinkled on top. This has to do with the French influence on culinary affairs, and we all know French bakers like to get creative.
5. And in Oaxaca pan de muerto has a completely different shape and actually features a corpss. It’s much less creepy than it sounds.
Everything is just a little more elaborate in Oaxaca and pan de muerto is no exception. The Oaxacan variety is made with extra egg yolks and has an anthropomorphic design, complete with a little edible doll which represents the dead. They are simply delicious.
6. BTW, the orange blossom essence in pan de muerto has a very poetic meaning.
Orange blossom has a delicate and comforting smell that inevitably takes us back to the Day of the Dead altars that have been important in our lives. The smell is meant to symbolize the everlasting presence of the faithful departed. It is a sweet celebration of the connection between life and death.
7. Pan de muerto is a perfect example of contemporary Mexican identity.
This bread is the epitome of the cultural mish mash that defines contemporary Mexican identity. It has a prehispanic origin with religious connotations, but it has developed into a European food (bread is, after all, a product brought by the colonial power). It is also used in a celebration that fuses ancient indigenous beliefs and Catholic tradition.
8. It is round, like the circle of life.
Its roundness is also a reminder of the cycle of life and death, a cycle that has no definite end and no definite beginning. Indigenous cosmology frames life and death as coexisting and complementing realms.
9. If the bones form a cross, they stand for the four cardinal points.
The compass directs each arrow, or bread bone in pan de muerto, to a point ruled by the Aztec gods Quetzalcóatl, Tláloc, Xipe Tútec and Tezcatlipoca.
10. Panes de muerto are placed on altars so the dead can feast.
Of course, come November 3 you can have the delicious pan for yourself, and if you make a traditional chocolate caliente it will be even better.
11. Of course, as with everything else, pan de muerto has been gentrified. Just look at this delicious monstrosity.
Yes, we gotta admit that this looks absolutely delicious and we don’t wanna get all puritan when it comes to popular culture (which, far from stable, is a mutating thing), but having melted conejitos (a traditional Mexican chocolate) is a bit too much. Is it Day of the Dead or is it Easter? You can’t always have both!
12. Oh, hipsters, just sprinkling matcha on absolutely everything!
Yes, perhaps following the gentrifying wave of Starbucks some Mexican bakeries are starting to add green matcha tea dust in with the traditional sugar. Verde que te quiero verde, hipsters seem to recite in unison.
13. Can everyone just please stop? Is innovation just killing the true meaning of this Mexican traditional bun?
We mean, what fresh hell of deliciousness is this? No, seriously, a pan de muerto hamburger is just a tiny bit over the top, isn’t it?
It’s National Picnic Week and since you’re reading this, we’re assuming you’re the altruistic, enjoy-every-moment type. So trust that as we help you set the tone of your fictional (or real) picnic, we’ll give you a vetted, Latino driven and focused organization that deserves your money. Who knows, maybe you’ll even plan the picnic IRL to raise awareness for the cause?
Vamos a ver.
Where's the picnic at?
@thatssohaute / Twitter
Pick a basket, any basket.
Will there be salad?
@FoodHeaIth / Twitter
Play a song to set the mood.
What food can a picnic not exist without?
Whose *not* invited?
Pick a field of flowers you'd want to be in.
Ok, really, talk about the humans invited.
@Whatawonder2018 / Twitter
What's one word you want your guests to describe your picnic?
Pick a butterfly.
Pick a beverage.
What's the dream ending to your picnic?
Dessert: will it make an entrance?
@OneGreenPlanet / Twitter
Will there be ghost stories?
@KillingEve / Twitter
Plan A Picnic And We’ll Tell You What Organization You Should Donate To
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
NLIRH is doing the research nobody else is--understanding how Latinas suffer under gender inequality, especially in regards to access to healthcare. Then, NLIRH is using policy change and Latina leadership development to advance a reproductive justice agenda to include immigrant healthcare, abortion access, and affordable healthcare.
You're ready to let patriarchy rest in pieces, now more than ever. We're not rewinding history and we're not letting women of color and immigrants get left behind in anyone's version of feminism. This is it, you're here for it.
Trans Latina Coalition
TLC is formed by Trans Latinx leaders *for* trans Latinx immigrants living in the U.S. They work with policy makers to find solutions to trans peoples' unique needs, especially those living in detention centers without access to appropriate healthcare.
You are abounding in inclusive energy because you know justice reform must be intersectional, and you are intentional about creating space for this advocacy work from picnic conversations to your pocketbook.
Freedom for Immigrants
Freedom for Immigrants is devoted to abolishing immigration detention, while ending the isolation of people currently suffering in this profit-driven system. They are the only nonprofit in the country monitoring the human rights abuses faced by immigrants detained by ICE through a national hotline and network of volunteer detention visitors, while also modeling a community-based alternative to detention that welcomes immigrants into the social fabric of the United States.
You and Freedom for Immigrants have a lot in common--you're both changing the world one person, one step at a time, and feel everyone has a right to a safe space of belonging.
Spay Mexico is aiming to end pet overpopulation and homelessness in Mexico one animal at a time. It's vision is to create affordable and free spay and neuter surgeries for responsible guardians and homeless animals alike.
You can't imagine your animal companion left to fend for him or herself in the streets anymore than any other dog or cat. Your heart is big enough to extend to a range of issues, and you won't leave anyone behind.