Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Dia de Los Muertos Chicano Hodgepodge

I’m currently in the middle of what seems to be 1001 things to do to get ready for dia de los muertos, so I thought I’d make my post about as jumbled as my life right now.

I always make pan de muertos and lots of it. My granddaughter loves to shape the little bones for the bread.

Pan de Muertos Receta

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
5 to 5-1/2 cups flour
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon whole anise seed
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs

In a saucepan over medium flame, heat the butter, milk and water until very warm but not boiling. Meanwhile, measure out 1-1/2 cups flour and set the rest aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine the 1-1/2 cups flour, yeast, salt, anise seed and sugar. Beat in the warm liquid until well combined. Add the eggs and beat in another 1 cup of flour. Continue adding more flour until dough is soft but not sticky. Knead on lightly floured board for ten minutes until smooth and elastic. Lightly grease a bowl and place dough in it, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1-1/2 hours.

Punch the dough down and shape into loaves resembling skulls, skeletons or round loaves with "bones" placed ornamentally around the top. Let these loaves rise for 1 hour. The bones are a good way to let kids have fun and let them feel a part of your baking efforts. Kids and masa just go together, no?

Bake in a preheated 350 F degree oven for about 40 minutes. Remove from oven and paint on glaze.

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest

Bring to a boil for 2 minutes, then cool completely. Add one egg yolk and apply to bread with a pastry brush.

Another thing we make in our home for day of the dead is buñuelos with miel and atole blanco. It’s a family tradition that I started in memory of my grandmother Lupe. She usually made the buñuelos with a hot, sweet syrup she called miel and the plain, flavorless atole blanco on New Year’s Eve. What she told me was that we ate the sweet buñuelos to bring a sweet new year and the atole blanco, being so flavorless was to remind us that the troubles of the past year were gone and over with. It’s a beautiful story and I do make it at New Years but also at dia de los muertos because it reminds me of her. I’ve decided to share something with you all and give you her special secret for her lighter, fluffier and more delicious than anyone’s buñuelos that she so carefully guarded.

I think times have changed so much that we’re losing some of our culture and history in terms of the old recetas and way people did things. I want to make sure my grandma’s secret trick to her buñuelos gets out there. I think she wants it that way. Okay here goes, the Gonzales secret to perfect buñuelos is to boil the husks of tomatillos in water and use that water in your masa. That’s it. Simple and kind of weird, but it really, really makes your buñuelos lighter, crisper and with more of the bubujas (bubbles) that are the trademark of a really good buñuelo. Oh yeah, and use lard not shortening. Lard makes all the difference and it’s only a big and once, maybe twice a year won’t kill you.

My grandma never measured and neither do I so I’m making these and my daughter in law tried to measure it out. Hopefully, we can get it right but trust your instincts and go by the feel of your masa. Oyes, and whatever you do, please Santa Virgencita don’t buy tortillas and then fry them! I recently heard people do that and I almost had a heart attack. I heard someone else call them cookies and had the same reaction.


About 3 cups of flour, sifted twice
1 Tablespoon baking powder
Teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon and a half of sugar (use the Mexican kind of beige cane sugar for a better texture)
About ½ cup of manteca (lard)
2 eggs

The boiled water with tomatillo husks (still hot, but only as hot as your hands can stand)

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs one by one, and sprinkle on the sugar. Mix well. Cut in the lard with a fork or pastry cutter. Slowly add the hot water and start amasando or kneading the masa (dough). Add the water little by little or your dough will be too sticky. When it all holds together and is silky smooth without being sticky then it’s ready. I form it into balls and let them rest, covered with a cloth on the wood pastry board for about ten-15 minutes. Get your rolling pin dusted lightly with flour and sprinkle a little on the board. I use a wood board. It’s what my grandma used and it feels right. Make sure there are no splinters though. Roll out your buñuelos as thin and as round as you can. If you hold them up, you should be able to see right through them. Slide gently into hot oil. I use canola oil and a cast iron frying pan. Fry till golden brown on each side. Only turn once or you end up with soggy or overcooked buñuelos. Pull out with tongs and let the oil drip off before placing on a try lined with brown paper to absorb the oil. Don’t use paper towels, use brown paper. It’s better. Set your buñuelos aside and make the miel and atole.

Cinnamon sticks (canela)

You can also add to the miel, si quieres: guayabas, coriander seeds or star anise instead of the cinnamon sticks. I prefer cinnamon, but I make the star anise miel for my son Phillip. My other boy, Bobby loves the miel with guayabas in it. It depends on your taste.

Take about four cones of piloncillo and stand them up in a pan with two or three sticks of cinnamon. Slowly add in just enough water to cover the bottom of the saucepan and turn on the flame to medium. Keep on the stove for about an hour, slowly adding more and more water as it reduces. You should have an almost pancake syrup consistency and your whole house will smell wonderful. You can add more piloncillo if you like. If you add to much water in the beginning you’ll have basically sweet water. At the last minute add in little orange blossoms if you can get them. Ladle the hot syrup over a buñuelo and eat with a spoon. Some people just dust theirs with sugar and cinnamon but this is how we do ours. Warning: Very, very, very sweet and rich. Yum.

Tip: Place the buñuelo in a bowl to keep it swimming in the miel. My daughter used to crack her buñuelo first into pieces and then soak them in syrup to get maximum sweetness. Yes, I spent a fortune with that girl’s dentista!

Atole Blanco
One orange leaf

Boil water and orange leaf in a saucepan to a boil. Slowly sprinkle and whisk in flour (about a ¼ cup to each three cups of boiling water). Whisk quickly and make sure there are no lumps. The atole will be white and almost filmy. Serve in a cup with no sugar, nada, nada and the buñuelos. The buñuelos are so sweet you won’t mind the tastelessness of the atole. has a wonderful article on the latest discovery of Azteca ruins – read more about our antepasados here:

Danza Mexica Cuauhtemoc (my group) holds it's annual Dia de Los Muertos ceremonia at the corner of Mission and Valley in Lincoln Heights from 6:00 p.m. to 10:oo p.m. on Wednesday, November 1st. Join us in celebrating our antepasados. I haven't danced in awhile and am really out of shape, so you can swing by and watch La Sol try to keep up

Celebrate Dia de los Muertos 2006 with family, friends and Libreria Martinez!
The 7th Annual Festival de la Gente
October 28, 2006
11:00 AM - 11:00 PM

Historic 6th Street Bridge - The symbolic link between downtown Los Angeles and Boyle Heights/East Los Angeles, the heart of the city’s Latino community.Join Libreria Martinez as we celebrate at the largest Dia de los Muertos event in Southern California and host the following events and activities in and around our booth.The festival will also feature live music, art exhibits, teatro performance, storytelling, arts and crafts demonstrations and traditional Latin American cuisine. Special areas of the event will be dedicated to health, education and community empowerment and will provide interactive activity for children and their families. More info to be found at the Libreria Martinez website

If you haven't made it to this event, head on down - it's amazing and totally in keeping with our Day of the Dead theme

An Unusual Day of the Dead Art Exhibit
Avenue 50 Studio
October 14th, 2006 - November 6th, 2006
Opening Reception: Sat, Oct. 14th, from 7-11 p.m.

Spirit of the Children is an unusual art exhibit at L.A.'s celebrated Ave 50 Studio. Timed to kick-off the city's Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead celebrations, the exhibition features artists that have created works in homage to children "who have died an untimely death due to preventable disease, gang warfare, abuse and war." Kathy Mas-Gallegos, the director of Ave 50 Studio, asked me to create a painting especially for the exhibit, so I produced a small oil I've titled, War Child - a piece memorializing the children who have been slain in warfare. I'm pleased to have my painting shown alongside artworks by Edith and Rob Abeyta, Roberto Delgado, Kathi Flood, Clement Hanami, David Andres Kietzman, Betsy Lohrer Hall, Ricardo Munoz, and John Paul Thornton. More info on Mark Vallen's Art for a Change website.

Saturday, October 28th
4 PM
Tía Chucha Café Cultural
a poetry reading featuring:
Francisco Aragón
Persephone Gonzalez
Harold Terezón

Francisco Aragón is the author of Puerta del Sol (Bilingual Press) and the editor of The Wind Shifts: The New Latino Poetry—forthcoming in February from the University of Arizona Press. His own anthology publications include Inventions of Farewell: A Book of Elegies (W.W. Norton & Company), Under the Fifth Sun: Latino Literature from California (Heyday Books), American Diaspora: Poetry of Displacement (University of Iowa Press), How to Be This Man (Swan Scythe Press), Red, White, & Blues: Poetic Vistas on the Promise of America (University of Iowa Press), Bend, Don’t Shatter (Soft Skull Press) and, most recently, Evensong: Contemporary American Poets on Spirituality (Bottom Dog Press, 2006). He also has work forthcoming in Deep Travel: Contemporary American Poets Abroad (Ninebark Press, 2007). He is the author of three limited edition chapbooks, including: Tertulia (BOOKlyn). His poems and translations have appeared in various places, including, Poetry Daily, Chain, Crab Orchard Review, Chelsea, Heliotrope, Puerto del Sol, Luna, The Journal, ZYZZYVA, and Jacket A native of San Francisco and long-time resident of Spain, he currently lives in South Bend, Indiana where he directs Letras Latinas, the literary program at the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Persephone Gonzalez is a PEN USA Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellow. She is a poet and educator born in Torrance, California. She has read and performed her work in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. She was a member of the award-winnng Drama DIVAS, a theater group for LGBT youth of color founded by Cherríe Moraga. She is currently working on poetry manuscript titled, Empalaga.

Harold Terezón is a PEN USA Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellow. He teaches creative writing at San Fernando High School. He is currently working on a poetry manuscript based on his family's experiences in the United States, as well as in El Salvador titled mi casita

Hasta pronto
Feliz dia de los muertos

Gina MarySol Ruiz


Anonymous said...

gracias por las recetas!

Anonymous said...

That's a mouthwatering mouthful of culture, Esa! I copied the whole thing and will try it.

Anonymous said...

i haven't been able to eat a buñelo since new year eve 1957 when my granma made me buñelo after buñelo after buñelo. and that good miel, o my what a grand event that night was. both sides of the family were together. next week is their day: my granma is dead so many years now. bye, gramma. my other granma and granpa, he came here in 1914, she was born in pomona. my uncle alex, aunt irene are gone recently. mona's gone. her sons anthony and phillip.

thanx for the memories. i'll try the yeast bread without the anise.


daniel olivas said...

i'm sending this out to all gente! brava!

Anonymous said...

I'm traveling to DC and will miss the events--know of any celebrations I can join there?