This post for gluten-free Day of the Dead Bread contains affiliate links.
I’ve debated whether to post this recipe as I hadn’t even heard of Day of the Dead Bread until just a few days ago.
You see, my 13-year-old son volunteered me to make this bread for his Spanish class.
When he broke the news to me, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe he volunteered his gluten-free mama for such a task!
He was at first worried I wouldn’t do it as I hemmed and hawed about making such a bread. But then I decided I could figure it out. My son was happy again.
I researched recipes online, watched a few YouTube videos, and finally began trying to figure out how I could make Day of the Dead Bread gluten-free.
What is Day of the Dead Bread?
Day of the Dead Bread (also called Pan de Muertos) is a sweet bread prepared in Mexico during the last days of October and the first days of November. These are the days leading up to Día de Muertos, a holiday to remember those who have died and to support their spiritual journeys.
The bread is slightly sweet and shaped like a bun. It also is decorated with dough shaped into bones. Mexicans eat the bread on Día de Muertos, often at a loved one’s gravesite.
While this is not a traditional bread for me, and I’ve never heard of it, I was determined to figure out how to make it for my son’s sake. Plus, I was a bit curious how this Day of the Dead bread would taste!
How to Make Gluten-Free Pan de Muertos
I’m going to be really honest with you… I really don’t know how to make this bread. I studied a few recipes – all slightly variant – and used my knowledge of gluten-free baking to figure it out.
The first thing I did was swap regular wheat flour for my trust Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 gluten-free flour blend. Using this flour is the only way I know how to even begin to bake this bread.
I then combined all the ingredients and was surprised to find that I had a nice round dough to work with. The dough is a bit sticky and it crumbled a bit. If I were using regular wheat flour, I would have kneaded it to develop the gluten to get a fluffy, stretchy bread, but without the gluten, it felt a bit dense.
One of the more interesting ingredients in Day of the Dead Bread is anise seeds. Anise is known for its medicinal properties (aids in digestion) and it has a strong taste (it tastes like black licorice). If you love black licorice, you’ll love this bread. It’s not my favorite flavor profile, but I only added 1/2 teaspoon of anise seed to the bread, so the taste wasn’t overpowering but you could definitely taste it.
The bread is supposed to rise, but I noticed that my bread didn’t rise much at all. I can’t decide if it was because I used gluten-free flour, or because my house too cold or yeast not good. I’m not sure, but I think if I make it again, I’ll try to find a warmer spot to proof it. We had a small snowstorm last night so the weather is a bit cool today and that could have affected its rise.
I’m certain whatever I made will work for my son’s school project. He’s not getting graded on it – nor am I. I’m not sure this is exactly what his teacher was hoping for, but it’s what they’re going to get as they learn about this holiday in class. Maybe his Spanish teacher and class will have a good chuckle at my creation, or maybe I did it right after all and they’ll be singing my praises. Who knows!
Oh, and don’t forget to sprinkle some sugar atop your bread when it’s done for an extra touch of sweetness.
I’m happy to report that, if you’re gluten-free, you can still enjoy this gluten-free Day of the Dead Bread for your Día de Muertos celebrations. It tastes pretty good too – subtly sweet with the slight taste of black licorice in the backdrop. Enjoy!
Gluten-Free Day of the Dead Bread
Gluten-Free Day of the Dead Bread
- 15 grams active dry yeast about 1.5 Tbsp.
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 500 grams Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 Gluten-Free Flour about 2.5 cups
- 150 grams sugar about 3/4 cup
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp anise seeds
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 cup salted butter cut into cubes
- 3 Tbsp butter melted
- 1 Tbsp. sugar for sprinkling on top of bread
- In your standing mixer with the dough attachment, combine yeast, warm water and 1 Tbsp. sugar. Mix together and allow mixture to bubble for 5 minutes.
- Add flour, 150 grams sugar, salt, anise seeds, butter and eggs to bowl and mix until well combined, about one minute.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow mixture to rise for about 1 hour.
- Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take a small handful of the dough mixture and set it aside (this is for the decoration). Divide the remaining dough into two large balls and place on baking sheet.
- Create your decoration (should be shaped like bones but as you can see, it doesn't always bake up so pretty) and place the decorations onto the bread.
- Cover bread with plastic wrap and allow another hour for rising.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Brush bread melted butter and bake for about 35 minutes. Remove from oven and brush again with butter and then sprinkle remaining sugar on top of bread.