The Noll Surf Classic, Home-coming and Sea Cruise – all local events that announce fall. So is the annual tag sale at the Methodist Church, my favorite rummage sale of the year. Friday I came home with aged linens, all hand-embroidered and each one more exquisite than the next. One is a hand towel embroidered with a pink ballerina that I’ll give my granddaughter.
I also bought Christmas decorations. Just couldn’t help myself. I am such a pushover for the holidays.
For me the holidays begin with Halloween, a night that always reminds me of when my kids were young. Some years were better than others, but every Halloween had jack-o’-lanterns and hot apple cider. One year we lived on a street where parents drove their kids to trick or treat because the houses were close together and most were heavily decorated. It cost a small fortune to stock enough candy for 400 kids that night, but it was worth it.
Immediately following Halloween comes a holiday that Rick and I became acquainted with a few years ago. We celebrated Day of the Dead for the first time when we took a conversational Spanish class together. One class meeting fell on Nov. 1, the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, and our class threw a party.
I made Bread of the Dead for the first time and Rick provided the beverage, Mexican hot chocolate.
You don’t have to celebrate the Day of the Dead to try this recipe, which is from the October 1997 Sunset Magazine. I make it every year now for Nov. 1 and every year it turns out looking just like the picture in the magazine. It’s delicious as a dessert with Ibarra Mexican chocolate.
1 package active dry yeast
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup butter cut into small pieces
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
About 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sesame seed
2. Heat milk and butter to 110. Add milk mixture, sugar, and salt to softened yeast.
3. Lightly beat eggs to blend. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the eggs into a small bowl, cover and chill. Add remaining eggs and vanilla to yeast mixture; stir to blend. Add 2 ¼ cups flour, nutmeg, and cinnamon; stir to moisten, then beat with a mixer on high speed until dough is stretchy, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in 1 cup flour.
4. Knead dough. If using a dough hook, beat on high speed until dough pulls cleaning from bowl and no longer feels sticky, about 5 minutes. If dough is still sticky, beat in more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
If kneading by hand, scrape dough onto a well-floured board. Knead until dough is smooth, elastic and no longer sticky, about 12 minutes; add flour as required to prevent sticking. Return dough to bowl.
5. Cover bowl airtight and let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles, about 1 1/2 hours.
6. Punch dough down. Knead on a lightly floured board to expel air. Form into a 7-inch round and set on a buttered 12- by 15-inch baking sheet. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until puffy, about 40 minutes.
7. Uncover dough and brush gently with reserved beaten egg. Sprinkle loaf with sesame seed. With a sharp, floured knife, make a slash about ½ inch deep across the middle of the loaf.
8. Bake loaf in a 350 oven until richly browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or cool. If making ahead, wrap cool loaf airtight and let stand at room temperature up to 1 day; freeze to store longer.
9. If desired, cut a slit in the bread and insert a Day of the Dead decoration such as a miniature skull or skeleton.