by Luke Tsai
By this point I’m sure you’ve got your Halloween plans locked down, but what about the week’s other ghostly holiday, El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), which is coming up on November 1 and 2?
As per usual, here at What the Fork we’re mainly interested in what tasty treats the two-day festival has to offer, and the holiday’s signature food item, pan de muerto (“bread of the dead”), is well worth seeking out — a not-too-sweet respite from your trick-or-treat-fueled sugar rush.
The local versions I’ve had have all been eggy and just a little bit sweet, with a soft interior that’s part way between a bread and a cake — something along the lines of a challah or brioche. Typically each pan de muerto is covered with little knobs of dough that are meant to look like bones, and then the whole thing gets dusted with sugar.
At Berkeley’s Casa Latina Bakery (1805 San Pablo Ave.), each $2.50 loaf of pan de muerto is covered with a lot of crinkly granulated sugar, but the bread slices well and is more fragrant than it is sweet, flecked with caraway seeds which provide its distinctive flavor.
My longtime favorite had been the rich and intensely citrusy version sold down the street in the bakery section of Mi Tierra Foods (2082 San Pablo Ave.), available in two sizes ($1.99 and $2.99, respectively). But the loaf I sampled this year was a slight disappointment — a bit dry. That said, what’s nice for those with less of a sweet tooth is that Mi Tierra offers a version topped with sesame seeds instead of sugar.