The "Dia de los Muertos" (Day of the Dead) - that Unesco declared proclaimed Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2003 - is a celebration which goes back to indigenous times dedicated to the goddess Mictecacihuatl. Today, all throughout South America people honor their dead celebrating the children, on November 1st, and the grown-ups on the 2nd. Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars called ofrendas (presents) honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed visiting graves with these as gifts. Guaguas de pan, or bread babies, are made to represent and remember the children. Here is a simple recipe.
Recipe for Guagas de Pan
7 g active dry yeast
1 + 1/2 cups milk
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 cups all purpose flour + 1 cup used during kneading
2 sticks unsalted butter cut in small cubes (room temperature)
4 yolks + splash of milk for the egg wash
nutella or fruit jams for filling (optional).
In a small saucer, warm the milk until it reaches 110F (43°C). Pour the milk into a bowl and add the active dry yeast, the salt and the sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add the 3 tablespoons of flour, and stir until incorporated. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 15 minutes until the mixture bubbles.
Place the 4 cups of flour onto the kitchen counter and form a well in the center. Add the diced butter and incorporate it with your hands until the flour has a mealy texture.
Form a well again. Add the 4 eggs, slightly beaten, into the well and slowly incorporate the flour with the eggs. Form a well again, and slowly add the milk and yeast mixture into the well and incorporate the flour with the liquid.
Begin kneading and add the extra cup of flour, about 1/4 cup at a time until the dough is uniform and doesn’t stick to the counter anymore. Should the dough still be sticky, add another 1/4 cup if necessary. Knead the dough for 15 minutes. Place the dough ball into a big bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest to rise for 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450F (230°C).
Place the dough onto the kitchen counter dusted with flour, and divide the large dough ball into smaller pieces - about 8 smaller pieces. Begin forming the dough into the desired doll-like shapes.
Cut slits in the center of the dough shapes and fill with Nutella or fruit jams if desired. Close them up by pinching the dough back together. Place the bread babies onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and let them rest and rise for another 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the egg wash. Brush the egg wash over each bread baby.
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes until golden brown. Let it cool for a few minutes before decorating the bread babies with sugar icing.
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