Our international bakery tour continues today with some special treats for Dia de los Muertos! One of the major things we miss in Chicago is the proliferation of Mexican bakeries. There are at least a few in every neighborhood, but the largest concentration is in Pilsen and Little Village, and we have spent a lot of time exploring the best bakeries. One of the longest-running bakeries in Pilsen – open since 1973 – is Panadaria Nuevo Leon (1634 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608), and it is one of our favorites.Nuevo Leon is absolutely full of wooden and glass pastry cases, and you pick up a set of tongs and a metal tray to make your own selections. There are a huge variety of pan dulce: emblematic conchas, cuernos de mantequilla (butter horns), empanadas, guava pastries, puerquitos (seen below), and a huge selection of assorted cookies (our favorites are the smiley faces and the watermelon shapes). The prices are not as cheap as some other Mexican bakeries in the area, but are still really reasonable. One of the other unique features is that there is a wide selection of made-in-house flavored tortillas (mole, chipotle, avocado, etc.). Plus, they mark vegan items (and there are quite a few).We love that Nuevo Leon stocks up on the special holiday treats. For Day of the Dead, Nuevo Leon is our go-to for tasty anise-flavored Pan de Muerto in both small and large sizes, with both the traditional round shape with bones (above) and others shaped like miniature people. You can see below that they also set up an ofrenda above the baking racks for Day of the Dead. However, this is not the only time of year to visit the bakery for something special. Around Christmastime their buñuelos (thin, fried dough with cinnamon and sugar) are a must! We can’t wait to go back for the next round.
Tag Archives: Pan de Muerto
We don’t have any Mexican bakeries near us anymore, unfortunately, so we have to turn to making our own treats for Dia de los Muertos. Key among these is the sweet Pan de Muerto (Bread of the Dead), with its signature crossed bone pattern and flavors of anise and orange blossom water. Today is All Souls’ Day so there is still time to enjoy this bread – but really – why not make it all year long? Bon Appetit has a new recipe for Pan de Muerto that begs that exact question (plus an instructional video on how to shape the bread). It’s not too late, why not give it a try?
It seems like the iconic sugar skulls for Día de los Muertos/the Day of the Dead, have become increasingly popular in mainstream US culture – I have even seen recommendations for calavera Halloween costumes! But we cannot forget about the other sweet staple that is a necessity for any ofrenda (an altar set up to commemorate the dead) – Pan de Muerto – literally, “bread of the dead.”
Dia de los Muertos as celebrated today is a combination of Pre-Columbian and Catholic traditions and encompasses All Saints’ Day (Nov 1) and All Souls’ Day (Nov 2). The purpose of the holiday is to commemorate and celebrate deceased ancestors and relatives, and the purpose of the pan de muerto on the ofrenda is to provide sustenance for the souls of the returning relatives. For this same reason, other favorite foods and drinks of the deceased are included on the ofrenda. However, not just used as an offering, Pan de muerto is also eaten in the period leading up to Día de los Muertos, and is a mainstay in bakeries and cafes during the season.
Pan de muerto is a simple sweet bread, think brioche, that is flavored with orange blossom water, orange zest or anise (or all of the above). Pan de muerto takes on different shapes, depending on the region, and the iconic Mexico City version of pan de muerto is usually round with strips of dough representing bones crisscrossed on the top. Pan de muerto may be topped with sesame seeds or a generous helping of sugar (as seen below). Though the round versions are the most common in the US, other other versions have the bread made in the form of little people, bones, angels or even for elaborate shapes. Check out this recipe from Cooking in Mexico to make some Pan de Muerto of your own. Kitchen Parade even has a tutorial to show you how to make the distinctive “bones” for your bread.