Halloween - it only comes once a year, and too bad it doesn't last longer. That's probably because in the U.S., the holiday doesn't have the same cultural impact that it does in Mexico.

But even if you're not lucky enough to be in Mexico in October, you can still celebrate the occasion with a few traditional Dia de los Muertos treats with family and friends at your Halloween party - and enjoy expanding your cultural horizons!

Here what you can do:

First and foremost, invest in Mexican folk art skeletons and bright paper doillies to hang around the room, with lots of candles and gords, pumpkins and corn in traditional fall colors, which will add to the festivity.

If you feel comfortable building an altar to a loved one, it's a nice gesture in the true spirit of the holiday. Or if that's too personal, create an artsy altar instead, perhaps to a favorite artist, author, actor you loved that has passed on, The altar will  add a culturall touch to the party without being too personal. The idea here is to place flowers, food, and small gifts that would have been loved by the deceased.

The centerpiece of your food display will be the traditional Pan de Muerto. This bread is usually rounded into a loaf and then strips of dough criss crossed the top to resemble bones, or shaped into a skull. It is a traditional food gift offered at day of the dead ceremonies. Since its to be the centerpiece of your table, you'll be creating it to look like a skull.

Pan de Muerto

1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. milk
1/3 c. water
5 c. flour
2 packets dry yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbl. anise seed
1/2 c. plus 1 Tbl. sugar
4 eggs

Glaze
After bread has baked place 1/2 c. sugar, 1/3 c. fresh orange juice and grated zest of 1 orange in a small saucepan. Boil 2 minutes, then paint on bread with pastry brush.

Preheat oven to 370.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, heat butter, milk and water until butter is melted and mixture is warm but not boiling. In a large bowl combine 1 c. flour, yeast and salt, anise seed and sugar. Beat milk mixture into flour until well combined. Add eggs and beat in another cup of flour. Continue adding flour until dough is soft but not sticky. Knead on a lightly floured surface 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil bowl and place the dough in it, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. Punch down the dough and shape into skeleton. Let rise 1 hour.

Bake loaves on a pizza stone or baking sheet until loaf sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. Remove from oven and paint on the glaze while bread is warm. Cool to room temperature before serving.

Mexican Coffee with Chocolate and Cinnamon

6 c. water
1/2 c. ground dark roast coffee
2 cinnamon sticks plus more for garnish
1c. whipping cream or half and half
1/3 c. chocolate syrup
1/4 c. dark brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. whipping cream
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Cinnamon

Place water in coffee maker. And coffee and cinnamon sticks to the filter. Combine 1 c. of the whipping cream, chocolate syrup, brown sugar and vanilla in the coffee pot. Place coffee pot in coffee make and make coffee as normal. Brew coffee so that it drips into the coffee pot with the chocolate cream mixture.

Meanwhile whip remaining 1 cup of cream in a deep bowl. Sprinkle in sugar and vanill and beat to stiff peaks. Pour coffee into cups top with whip cream and garnish with cinnamon and cinnamon sticks if desired.

The rest of your feast can consist of tamales, mexican food or your own Halloween favorites but by adding these two traditional items and decorations you can say you've truly celebrated Dia de los Muertos!  


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