To celebrate Día de los Muertos, we looked to none other than Baggio Ardon and the talented bakers of La Monarca, L.A.’s beloved Mexican bakery known for their pan dulce and cafe de ollas. We’re lucky to share with you their recipe for pan de muerto — a just-sweet-enough loaf encrusted with rolls shaped like bones in honor of the holiday.
How do you celebrate Día de los Muertos?
Día de los Muertos is a holiday of togetherness. It is a day we remember our loved ones, get together with our friends and family, and share pan de muerto and chocolate.
What kinds of foods make you think of the holiday?
The staples of the holiday! Pan de muerto, a cup of Mexican hot chocolate, and some cafe de olla for the altar. The combined smell is deep and rich — emblematic of the holiday.
What is a Día de los Muertos tradition that’s unique to you?
The La Monarca tradition is centered around the Monarch. Each store is set up with an altar and prominently features monarch butterflies, a symbol of our ancestors and a reflection of our mission to preserve their habitat.
Is there anything about Día de los Muertos that you wish people understood better?
Día de Muertos is a celebration of life rather than being “Mexican Halloween.” It’s an ancient celebration drenched in symbolism intended to honor our departed loved ones.
What is your food heritage?
Originally inspired by the panaderias of Northern Mexico, we love sharing authentic recipes from all over the country. The coffee from Oaxaca, guavas from Aguascalients, honey from Veracruz, they all combine to create the sweet flavor of Mexico.
What spices, herbs or recipes remind you of home?
The mix of coffee and cinnamon and the smell of fresh baked pan dulce. It’s such a unique and characteristic scent of growing up in Mexico.
What makes a Place Ours?
A place full of happy moments where friends and family come together, where memories and traditions are created and passed down.
Ready to get baking? Let’s go.
La Monarca’s Pan de Muerto
YOU NEED4 cups (500 g.) all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. active-dry yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
5 5/8 tbsp. (80 g.) butter, room temperature
5 5/8 tbsp. (80 g.) unsalted margarine, room temperature
4 eggs for dough, 1 egg lightly beaten for egg wash
1-2 oranges, for zesting
1/4 cup (60 mL.) warm water
1 tsp. orange blossom water
Colorful sugar, to decorate
- Mix 4 eggs, margarine, salt, and half of the sugar in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add yeast to the warm water, then start alternating adding small amounts of the flour and the water-yeast mixture into the bowl.
- Add the butter, orange zest, the rest of the sugar, and orange blossom essence. Combine ingredients by hand until a soft dough forms. Dust with flour as needed and knead for 10 minutes. The sides of the bowl should be relatively clean with the ball of dough in the center.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 1-2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.
- Separate enough dough to form the decorative bones later on (a small ball that should fit in the palm of your hand for each bone should work!). Line your Perfect Pot with a sheet of parchment paper or grease with margarine.
- Take the small balls of dough reserved for the decorations, press the dough on your working surface so that it reaches the length of your fingers open wide. Roll the dough with your fingers open wide to create the decorations on top of the bread called huesitos, which means little bones. They should almost resemble a string of beads, with 4 large pieces connected by thinner sections. Finish off by rolling a small ball to create the “skull” that will top off the bread.
- Beat an egg with a tablespoon of water to create an egg wash. Varnish the loaf and bones with the mixture and save the remaining wash. Then form the structure of the pan de muerto by layering equal sections of the loaf with the bones, topped with a small ball at the center for the skull. Cover and set aside for another 1-2 hours to rise once more.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Varnish the bun once more with the remaining egg wash and carefully add to the pot (if you weren't using it already to let rise).
- Place the pot in the oven for approximately 20-25 minutes or until golden brown (time will vary).
- Remove bread and brush with butter. Sprinkle sugar and top with cempasuchil petals.