Gracias, General Mills, for partnering with me on this post to share about our family’s traditions for Día de Los Muertos. Like always, all opinions are mine.
Día de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is not a day we normally observed in my house growing up. My parents are Bolivian, and my mother told me of the festivities she remembered having growing up. However, religiously, they didn’t have the same beliefs as before. As I teach my own girls about Latino traditions, we combine what’s important to us, and make our own memories. One of these is making pan de guaguas (pronounced Wa-Wa, like my favorite gas station) or bread shaped like swaddling babies, for Día de los Muertos or Día de los Difuntos.
My girls have always loved the Sugar Skulls and bright colors from Día de los Muertos that they’ve seen on television, movies, and in stores. They were curious and asked me what it was about, so I told them it was about remembering our family and friends who have passed away.
When I lived in Ecuador, I remember the pan de guaguas. They were decorated with different colors, and in Loja, where I happened to be during Día de los Muertos, they made pan de animales, too. People would visit the cemeteries of their loved ones and bring gifts and food.
Now, I involve my girls! They love to cook with me, so we make the dough together, and I let them decorate the pan de guaguas however they want. They requested Trix, their favorite Big G cereal, which I easily found in the cereal aisle at Walmart. After the bread cools, we add icing, and I let them have at it to use whatever patterns they want.
While we eat our pan de guaguas, we talk about family members who have passed away. My children have grandparents, great grandparents, great aunts, and even friends who are no longer with us. We’ll share stories or favorite memories of them and answer any questions they might have.
We observe Día de los Muertos as a time to enjoy and respect life while honoring those who are still a part of our lives in our hearts. The most important thing is to be together as familia and creating traditions for our children. Good food doesn’t hurt, either.
Pan de Guaguas Recipe
1 package active dry yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons
4 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
4 whole eggs
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional) My girls like it sweeter with cinnamon.
2 egg yolks, for brushing
Dissolve yeast in warm milk, then add 1/2 cup of flour from the 4 cups used in the recipe. Mix well and let rise for about 1 hour.
Mix all the ingredients except the butter. Knead the dough, then add the butter and knead again until forming a ball.
Use flour to prevent dough from sticking. If dough is too sticky, add more flour. Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place for approximately 2 hours or until dough doubles in size.
Cut the dough into the shape of guaguas de pan. I cut out a pattern from paper and use a pizza cutter to cut faster. However, watch your edges. Some of my shoulders on the guaguas were too pointy.
Place guaguas de pan on a lightly greased baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Let rise for another 20 minutes.
Brush with beaten egg yolk.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until browned.
Cool completely before decorating.