In the Andean regions of South America, the Catholic religious holidays All Saints Day (Dia de Todos los Santos) and All Souls Day (Dia de los Difuntos) have blended with some of the indigenous traditions related to remembering family members who have passed away. One popular practice is to make bread in the form of people or babies. They are given as gifts, placed on the table, and even carried to the gravesite of beloved family members.
The style and name of these bread figures vary from place to place. In Ecuador they are known as guaguas, but in parts of Peru they are called tantawawas (a hybrid word derived from the Quechua language) or tantaguaguas. They can be decorated simply or very elaborately, and they come in all shapes and sizes, as well as in sweet and savory versions.These guaguas are made with a sweet dough, similar to the dough used to make king cake or Mexican pan de muerto. They have a sweet sugar glaze and are filled with nutella (a filling of dulce de leche would also be delicious). Kids will enjoy decorating the guaguas with colored icing.
Prep Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
Yield: 5 7-inch bread figures
- 2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (1 packet)
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup milk
- 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- 1/3 cup Nutella
- 1 egg yolk
- Icing for decorating cookies, assorted colors
- Place the warm water (not too hot) in a bowl with 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and set aside for 5 minutes, or until mixture is bubbly. (See How to Proof Yeast).
- Cut the butter into 8 pieces and place it in a heat-proof bowl. Place the milk in a saucepan and heat over medium heat until just about to boil. Remove from heat and pour the hot milk over the butter. Stir occasionally until butter melts. Let cool until mixture is below 110 degrees (or until it is just warm to the touch, not hot).
- Place 4 1/4 cups of the flour in the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add the salt and mix briefly. Separate the two eggs and set the whites aside to use later. Add the egg yolks, sugar, yeast mixture, vanilla, cinnamon (if using), and cooled butter/milk mixture to the mixing bowl. Knead until dough starts to come together, adding a bit more flour if dough seems too wet and sticky. Keep kneading for 5-8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Dough should be soft, not stiff. Add more water or flour in small amounts to get the right consistency.
- Remove dough to an oiled bowl and cover loosely with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
- Punch dough down and cut into 10 pieces, 5 larger pieces and 5 smaller ones. The larger pieces should be approximately double the size of the smaller ones. Roll the smaller pieces into smooth balls and set aside.
- Flatten each larger piece of dough into a 4 inch by 6 inch rectangle on the counter. Spread about 1 tablespoon of Nutella over each rectangle, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Roll the rectangles up lengthwise, forming a cylinder.
- Attach one round piece of dough to the end of each cylinder of dough, using a small amount of water to help the dough stick together. Roll the entire piece of dough a small amount to extend the length and help join the two pieces. Arrange the figures on a large, parchment-lined baking sheet. They should look at bit like mummies, or swaddled babies. You can uses pieces of scrap dough to form arms, etc.
- Whisk the reserved egg whites with a tablespoon of water and brush the bread with the mixture. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and place bead in a warm place to rise. Let rise for about 45 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush the bread figures with the egg yolk. Place the in the oven to bake. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool.
- While the bread is baking, make the sugar glaze: Bring 1/3 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of water to a boil. Simmer until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Brush bread figures with the sugar syrup when they come out of the oven, while they are still hot.
- Once the breads are cool, decorate them with the colored icing.