Henry James said, “A tradition is kept alive only by having something added to it.” Learn what we added to our Dia de los Muertos tradition with our Story of Three Breads.
Thanks to General Mills for sponsoring this post and reminding why traditions continue to mean so much, year after year.
Putting out pumpkins the first day of fall.
Eating your aunt’s casserole on Thanksgiving, even when you don’t like it.
Making tamales on Christmas eve.
For many of us, that’s exactly what traditions are…things you do because you’ve always done them and they are just “what you do.”
This year I vowed to start a new tradition and observe Dia de los Muertos. It’s a beautiful Mexican tradition that I’ve always appreciated because it recognized loved ones lost with colorful, creative expressions rather than the dismal ones that are normally observed for those that have departed.
A few years ago I was even fortunate enough to be in Mexico during Dia de los Muertos and it was absolutely breathtaking. The celebration, the honor, the beautiful altars, and the open invitation to recognize and remember those that have died…it was truly a moving experience that I wanted to bring home with me.
When my grandmother passed away it was that much more important that as a family, especially my young children, could remember her passing as a joyful occasion instead of the one that reminded them of all the time that mama was sad.
So out came the cookbook, the flour, the anise and the enthusiasm as the kids and I began to make the pan de muerto, the traditional bread made for Dia de los Muertos. The tradition is to make the bread and then leave it at the altar so that the people that have passed can keep it with them as they pass over into the next world. I didn’t have much time to make it, but I was intent to make it happen especially because it wouldn’t be hard to make…
The kids and I worked together to roll out the dough, add the spices, and even add a little something extra from them we had picked up at Walmart: Trix from Taylor and Cinnamon Toast Crunch from Jackson. It was their way of giving something of them to go with grandma. In my head, the cereal was a symbol of them individually; Jackson, my little rainbow that has brought so much happiness, and Taylor Rose, my sweet little lady who gives every part of my life a lot more spice.
Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out so well.
Somewhat frustrated and now even more determined, I headed to the kitchen to knock out a bread. This time I worked the dough, rolled it out and looked over the recipe, over and over and over again, reading through every step, time and time again. I was sure I knew what I was doing. I was sure this round was going to be a winner.
After two bad outcomes, I was no longer determined, I felt defeated.
All I could hear were the thoughts in my head, “You can’t do this.”
“You don’t know how.”
“Why are you even trying?”
“What’s the point?”
“You aren’t good enough.”
Those are the ones that always get me. They sink into my head and take over, making it impossible to take on new challenges or overcome the old ones.
The tears started to fill my eyes as I worked to keep in the emotions. But there wasn’t any point…the waterfall of sadness took over as I realized that it wasn’t that I wasn’t good enough…it was that whenever I had heard that voice, the one of pure negativity and demise, I had called my grandma. She was voice that always knew what to say, how to say it, and to either give me the hug or the kick in the pants I needed to “get it together.”
At that moment I understood what I needed to happen.
I took a deep breath and I began to roll out the dough to make the pan de muerto.
However, this time I didn’t read a recipe. I didn’t get upset. I didn’t get motivated about how I was going to show that I could do it despite the times before.
I just enjoyed it. I enjoyed thinking about moments as I kid, rolling out the dough for rolls and cookies with my grandma…just as I had done with my kids. I thought about the times we spent together, the good ones and the bad, and how she was such a big part of my life…it was a walk down memory lane and for a moment she was there with me as I continued to make the pan de muerto.
I did give a little blessing as I put the bread in the oven and thought to myself, as she would have asked me, “I gave it my best.”
When the timer went off, I opened the oven to be greeted with the smell of anise and cinnamon.
And also with a beautiful pan de muerto, golden and perfect.
I couldn’t have been more pleased…I actually felt like a little girl that had done something right and was waiting for my grandma to say, “you done good.”
While I know I can’t pick up the phone anymore to hear her say the words, I know she there with me that day. And she will continue to be with me, forever, and in my heart for the rest of my life…
Now this is what a tradition is all about.
Add your something special to your family traditions with Big G Cereals like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Lucky Charms, Trix and Cocoa Puffs. Remember, it’s the little things that always make a difference.
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees)
- 3 cups flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons anise seed
- 1/4 cup white sugar
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup Trix, grounded
- 1/8 cup Trix, halved to be folded into bread and the other half used to garnish the outside of the dough
- For the glaze
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon orange zest
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- In a large bowl combine 1 cup of the flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and 1/4 cup of the sugar.
- Beat in the warm milk mixture then add the eggs and orange zest and beat until well combined. Set to the side temporarily.
- Heat the milk and the butter together in a medium saucepan until melted. Remove from the heat and add warm water (at least 110 degrees.)
- Whisk in the warm mixture slowly into the flour mixture until blended. Stir in 1/2 cup of flour, 14/ cup ground Trix, and continue adding more flour until the dough is soft.
- On a lightly floured surface, knead dough until smooth and elastic. Lightly fold in half of whole Trix into dough, working not to crush the cereal.
- Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This will take about 1-2 hours.
- Punch the dough and shape it into a large round loaf or desired shape.
- Add additional Trix cereal to the outside of the loaf strategically on the outside of the dough.
- Place dough onto a baking sheet, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until just about doubled in size.
- Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) oven for about 35 -45 minutes. Remove from oven let cool slightly then brush with glaze.
- In a small saucepan, combine sugar, orange juice and orange zest.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 2 minutes.
- Brush over top of bread while still warm.
- Sprinkle glazed bread with white sugar.
- If you would prefer a more traditional dough, switch the ground Trix for ground Cinnamon Toast Crunch or regular flour.