Tacos may very well be the perfect food, but let's face it, the standard Meximerican fare can get a bit stale after a while. Taco the Town is here to highlight some of the more unusual Mexican finds in the valley.
This week: Pan de Muerto y Calaveras de Azucar, iconic treats for Dia de los Muertos
¿Como se dice?: Although Dia de los Muertos is a two day celebration of the dead, it's a far cry from the sugar highs and ghostly ghouls associated with Halloween. Instead, the two days that correspond with the Catholic All Saints Day and All Souls Day are an opportunity to reflect with family and friends on the passing of loved ones. Whether it's your first time creating an ofrenda, or your altar is a yearly staple, make sure you should put two things on your shopping list: Pan de muerto, also known as bread of the dead, and calaveras de azucar, or sugar skulls.
(sink your teeth into all the sweet details after the jump)
La Comida y El Sabor: When creating an ofrenda or altar, it should be personal to the loved ones you are honoring. So in addition to the flowers, incense, pictures, and memorabilia, you should also include food and drink for the deceased to consume in spirit.
Pan de muerto is one such treat that is shared with the dead and also consumed by the living. It is a sweet eggy bread seasoned with orange water and anise that is often sprinkled in sugar. The shape is generally a round loaf criss-crossed by two strips of dough that resemble long bones or a cross. This bread of the dead has been available at Ranch Pro Market and Food City for weeks now, and La Purisima Bakery in Glendale and Phoenix also carries the sweet seasonal confection (among many other delicious pastries).
Creating or purchasing sugar skulls is another way to decorate and personalize your altar, as each skull is primarily for decoration rather than consumption. Although the egg whites and sugar aren't likely to taste that bad if curiosity gets the better of you. Sugar skulls are often made in order to decorate them specific to each relative being commemorated. Royal icing in bright colors, tiny bits of foil, beads, and other items are used to decorate the sweet and colorful sugar skulls. The personalized skulls are then often labeled with a loved one's name and placed on the altar, although commercially available sugar skulls can still be purchased to add to an ofrenda at places like Ranch Pro Market.
Bring a bit of México to your kitchen: Given the personal nature of the celebration, making your own bread of the dead or sugar skulls is a great way to commemorate friends and family who have passed on. If you have the time, try your hand at making pan de muerto, which isn't that difficult from any other bread. Or gather family members together to decorate Calaveras de azucar, which are really just granulated sugar and meringue powder popped in a mold and allowed to dry.
Know of any Mexican gems in the valley? Reveal your family secrets in the comment section.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.