Saturday, November 2, 2013

Aymara T'antawawas (Bread For The Dead)

As I have previously mentioned, Dias do los Muertos is not primarily a Mexican holiday amongst indigenous people, it is quite simply the most celebrated Native holiday of the year and it is ceremonially marked on two continents and many, many countries.  Where ever there are celebrations to and for the dead, there is one version or another of bread for the dead.  T'antawawas are the Aymaran version of this from the Andes.  They are also called "bread babies" because they are most often shaped like people, but they can also be shaped like important indigenous symbols, like ladders, or Catholic religious symbols as well. This particular recipe was first printed in Native Peoples magazine and was later put into a cookbook produced by the magazine called Body, Mind & Spirit:  Native Cooking Of The Americas authored by the magazine's food editor and her photographer Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs.  It was later reprinted in a much large book by the same two people Spirit of the Earth:  Native Cooking From Latin America.  This recipe was adapted from a family recipe of well known Aymaran musician Jose' Montano, who lives here in the US.


1 package dry yeast, or 1 tbsp. bulk yeast
1 tbsp. sugar, divided
1 cup tepid water, flavored or plain
2 cups white bread flour
1 cup quinoa flour or whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
4 to 6 tbsp. tepid, melted lard or vegetable shortening, divided
1/4 tsp. annatto seeds (achiote) (optuonal)
Egg Wash:  1 egg beaten with 2 tbsp. water

1.  In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and 1 tsp. sugar and the tepid water.  If using the annatto seeds, place them in 2 to 3 tbsp. of the melted lard or shortening and heat to color.

2.  Place the bread flour in a large mixing bowl.  When the yeast begins to bubble, make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast.  Gradually mix the flour into the yeast until well combined.  Cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth, set in a warm place and let rise for two hours.

3.  Punch the dough  and add the quinoa flour or whole wheat flour, the remaining sugar, salt the beaten egg and 4 tbsp. or the lard or shortening, if dry gradually add more tepid water, 1 tbsp. at a time, until the dough is smooth.  Knead the dough until it becomes elastic and no longer sticks to your hands or the the side of the bowl.  Place in clean bowl and cover with a clean, damp towel, and allow to rise until double in volume, about 20 minutes.

4.  Punch the dough down again, divide into 6 to 8 pieces, depending on the size of the t'antawawas desired.  Shape the dough into forms representing people who have passed away (or, as is done in Peru, into the form of babies).  Llamas or horses, suns, moons and ladders to heaven are other popular shapes.  Use cloves or raisins for eyes and slivered almonds for mouths.  Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Cover and allow to rise for about 20 minutes, until the dough has doubled in size.

5.  Preheat oven to 400ยบ F.  Before baking the bread, color the faces with brushing them with the rest of the lard that the annatto seeds have been soaked in (or just brush them all over with the remaining lard, if not using the achiote).  Then brush all lightly with the egg wash.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.  Remove the t'antwawas to a cooling rack and all to cool.  Dough may also be baked in a lightly greased loaf pan.  

Beverly Cox notes that this bread is "wonderful when toasted for breakfast."

I don't know if anyone remember this video that went viral in the Fall of 2008 during Days of the Dead, leading up to the Presidential election or not....but, well, lets just's interesting!

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