Sugar skulls, tamales, and spirits (the alcoholic kind) — these are things you might find on homemade altars to entice those who’ve passed to the other side back for a visit. The altars, built in homes and around tombstones, are for Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, a tradition originating in central Mexico on Nov. 1 and 2.
The Aztecs developed the ritual some 3,000 years ago because they believed one should not grieve the loss of a beloved ancestor who passed. Instead, the Aztecs celebrated their lives and welcomed the return of their spirits to the land of the living once a year. That’s where the food, drink and music ofrendas, or offerings, come in. – from NPR
I’ll be making tamales tonight, but I’ve already given you recipes for those. How about one to make Sugar Skulls:
- Granulated Sugar (adjust amount depending on how many sugar skulls you will be making. Approximately 1 cup per 6 small sugar skulls, 4 medium or 1 large whole sugar skull.)
- Large bowl
- Sugar Skull molds (shape and size of your preference. (Some are faces only and some include two parts that you put together to make a whole skull.)
- Meringue powder, 1 teaspoon for each cup of sugar. (Helps to hold the sugar together.)
- Powdered sugar for the sugar skull decorative icing.
- Paste food coloring to color the icing.
- Icing decorator bags
- A large, dry area for the sugar skulls to dry in. (Once for the sugar to dry in the mold, and once for the icing to dry.)
- Any other decoration you like such as foil, beads or feathers.
For every cup of sugar, mix in 1 teaspoon of meringue powder and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of water on top.
Work the water into the sugar with your fingers until the mixture feels like cool beach sand. This takes a few minutes, so be patient. The sugar is ready when you can press your finger or thumb into it and the print will stay. Fill the mold with sugar and press firmly with the palm of your hand. When the skull is full and pressed into mold, use the back of a knife to scrape off excess sugar and flatten back.
Lightly re-press the scraped surface to smooth it. Place a piece of cardboard or flat plate over the sugar skull. Hold the skull on the plate tightly and flip it over. Set the plate down and carefully remove the mold. Let the skulls dry for 12-24 hours.In a large mixer, mix 2/3 cup water, 1/2 cup meringue powder and 2 pounds of powdered sugar until icing peaks or about 9 minutes.
Separate the icing into smaller portions (disposable cups and popsicle sticks work well for this) and use the paste food coloring to color the icing.
Place the icing in the icing decorator bags. Snip the end of each bag when you’re ready to decorate. Start very small with the snip, you can make it bigger if necessary.Use your icing to decorate the skulls. If you’re adding foil, beads or feathers, use the icing as a glue to attach them. If you add non-edible items to the skull, do not attempt to eat it! Duh.
Here is the rest of that lovely article from NPR on the Day of the Dead: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/11/01/163549325/day-of-the-dead-decoded-a-joyful-celebration-of-life-and-food