I'm going to make this for Halloween:
MEXICAN PAN DE MUERTO (BREAD OF THE DEAD)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) lukewarm milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) butter, cut into 8 pieces; or lard (traditional)
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 large eggs
3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon anise seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons sugar
To make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients together, and mix and knead them--by hand, mixer, or bread machine--to make a smooth, soft dough. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, and allow it to rise for 90 minutes; it may not double in size, but will become quite puffy.
Break off a piece of dough about the size of a large baseball (7 1/2 ounces or so, if you have a scale). Divide this smaller piece into three pieces; two of them should be large, and one small (about half the size of one of the larger pieces). Place these dough pieces in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
Shape the large piece of dough remaining into a smooth ball. Flatten it to a 6 x 3/4-inch tall round. Place the shaped loaf on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, or into a lightly greased 9-inch round cake pan. Cover the loaf, and allow it to rise at room temperature for 90 minutes; it will become puffy, though it won’t double in bulk.
Just before the loaf is fully risen, remove the smaller pieces from the fridge. Shape the smallest into a round ball. Roll the other two into 10-inch ropes.
To make the topping: Mix together the anise seed, cinnamon and sugar.
To shape and bake the loaf: Brush the top of the bread with an egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water, or spray it with Quick Shine. Sprinkle with the topping mixture.
Drape the two ropes across the loaf at right angles, so they form a cross over the bread. Use your fingers to flatten the ropes in places, and at the ends, to give them a “gnarled” appearance. Take the ball, flatten it slightly, and set it in the very center of the loaf, atop the spot where the ropes cross. Pinch it onto the ropes to help hold it in place.
Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil after 20 minutes to prevent over-browning. The interior of the finished loaf will register 190°F on an instant-read thermometer when it’s done. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack.