Day of the Dead is upon us, and if there is one tradition that the people of Corsica keep close to their hearts, it’s the one of their Bread of the Dead.
A delicious specialty from the town of Bonifacio, Corsica’s Bread of the Dead (known as Panu di i morti) is a rich and flavourful brioche, packed with raisins and walnuts. It is traditionally enjoyed on the Day of the Dead (November 2) as a nutritious snack, before families go pay a visit to the cemetery to flower their deceased’s tombs.
Before it was known as the Bread of the Dead, this brioche was more commonly called a “uga sicata” (meaning, raisin bread in Lingurian). Over the years, people from Bonifacio adopted the custom of leaving this sweet bread on their tables the night before Day of the Dead as a symbolic offering for the deceased (who were said to visit people’s house on that night).
Today, this delicious sweet bread can be found year-round in all bakeries and market stalls of the Corsican island. But the tradition of preparing your own bread at home, for the Day of Dead has remained.
Raisins and walnuts are always the base ingredients (making it a very nutritive bread) but every region and family add their own twist to it (orange blossom, lemon zest …). This version is flavored with anise seed, which I believe is the most evocative of true Corsicans’ flavors.
- This recipe makes 3 small to medium sized Bread of the Dead loaves. I kept one for myself and offered the other two, as tradition requires.
- Making this recipe doesn’t require a lot of kneading. I made it by hand, and it was quite simple. But you can certainly use a stand mixer if you prefer.
- As with most French brioches, the dough needs to prepared the day before, to sit overnight in the fridge allowing to double in size. This step also helps to develop aroma and flavor – so do not skip it!
- If you are not fond of anise seeds, swap for 2 teaspoons of orange flower or some citrus zest – or leave it plain (it’s just as delicious!).
PS: Check out the Caccavellu recipe, another great Corsican bread!
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment or share a photo using #pardonyourfrench on Instagram.
Bread of The Dead from CorsicaPrint This
1 cup (140g) raisins
4 cups (500g) all-purpose flour
¾ cup walnuts (100g) roughly chopped
10 tsp anise seeds
1 ¾ tbsp baker’s yeast (fresh yeast) (15g) OR 2 ½ tsp active dry yeast
¼ cup butter, cubed and at room temperature.
2/3 cup sugar (130g)
The day before, steep the raisins in a bowl of water (just enough water to cover them) and let sit for 1 hour.
In a mixing bowl, mix the flour, walnuts and anise seeds.
Mix the yeast in a little bit of luke-warm water (to dissolve it). Add it to the flour and mix roughly. Add the raisins (keep the steeping water aside), the eggs, the sugar and the butter.
Mix by hand, while slowly adding some of the steeping water as needed, until you get a smooth dough. Shape it into a big ball, and place in a large bowl. Cover with a dish cloth and place in the fridge overnight (the dough should double in size).
The day of, preheat your oven to 350F.
Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces and shape them into 3 medium-sized round loaves.
Bake for 35 minutes.
Optional: Prepare a sugar syrup (heat water and sugar together in a sauce pan, bring to a simmer and keep stirring until you reach a syrupy texture), and brush the syrup on the loaves 10 minutes before they are done baking. This will create that golden shiny finish.