One of the fun things about living and traveling abroad is that we get to add to our own little holiday festivities as we discover new traditions from our host country. An interesting holiday that people celebrate here in Quito, Ecuador for Halloween is Dia de los Difuntos or Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). This celebration takes on a very reverent and spiritual focus versus our fun pumpkins and trick or treating kind of festivities. From what I am told the Day of the Dead here has origins from the indigenous Indians and mixed with Catholic beliefs. It’s a time to commemorate their loved ones who have passed away. Some think upon them, others set up altars and others just enjoy the food: the Guaguas de pan and colada morada.
As we learn and explore other holidays or traditions, we take it as a learning experience. But if they don’t interest us or align with our values and beliefs, then we move on and take it as a learning experience. Halloween for example, for many involves witchery (is that a word) and other things that don’t align with our beliefs and family values, so we enjoy the more light hearted festivities of Halloween like dressing up and trick or treating. Day of the Dead is not a custom we have ever participated in but last week we enjoyed the yummy Guagas de pan and colada morada and invited our neighbors to decorate them with us. It was a fun time getting to know our neighbors in our little community and it also gave us an opportunity to learn more about this tradition.
If you want to make this Halloween Tradition from Around the World an educational activity you can share with your child or class a bit more about the country of Ecuador, here are some fun facts for kids on Ecuador.
We invited our neighbors to join us with their kids to decorate the Guaguas de pan and enjoy getting to know each other. So what are guagas de pan? I always try to find something similar in our culture to help explain other cultures to our children. So the closes thing that Guaguas de pan remind me of is gingerbread men. The are shaped like people and decorated but with the difference that Guagas de pan are shaped like a baby swaddled in a blanket.
Here’s our first Halloween Tradition from Around the World: Guaguas de Pan from Ecuador. Guagua is a Quechua word that means baby. Puerto ricans call guaguas a van or bus type of vehicle. So, the first time I had an Ecuadorian tell me to hold my guagua, I was thoroughly confused.
You can actually use this recipe to make some delicious sweet bread. I made pumpkin braided sweet bread with caramel icing with this same recipe. Next time, I will work on making the Guagas a bit prettier. The bread turned out soft and delicious.
Halloween Traditions From Around the World: Guaguas de Pan from Ecuador
Day of the Dead Bread – Guaguas de Pan Recipe
- 1/2 cp sugar
- 1/2 cp butter
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 cp sour cream
- 4 tsp dry yeast
- 1/2 cp warm water
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 -4 1/2 cps flour
egg yolk for brushing
1. In a small sauce pan over low medium heat place sour cream, sugar, butter and salt until butter dissolves. In a large bowl dissolve yeast and warm water. Let it stand for 5 minutes. If it doesn’t bubble then you may need some new yeast.
2. Pour warm sour cream mixture (make sure it’s not hot), eggs, vanilla, cinnamon in with the yeast mixture and stir. Slowly add in the flour. Cover dough tightly for at least 5 hours. Update–I’ve done this for as short as 30 min and it was still delicious but the longer it rises the more it expands in the baking process.
3. The picture above shows the dough after 5 hours of rising.
4. Flour your surface where you will be rolling the dough. And divide dough into 4 equally sized balls. Work with each ball and knead one at a time.
For the Guaguas de pan you need to make the head and the body separate and then join them. First make small balls for the head and then double the size of that for the body. Flatten the balls and fill them with chocolate morsels, caramel or jelly. You can see the picture above how I closed them back up by rolling them. The caramel can get messy so if you put too much filling it will ooze out and you won’t be able to close them back up quite right.
5. Once they are closed up and rolled you can start shaping the balls. In order to attach the head to the body you will need to lay the head over the part of the upper body and work it in. You can wet the tip of your fingers to work it back in.
6. Brush them with egg yolk. Next time I will leave the egg yolk step out.
Place on a cookie sheet and place in oven 375 for 15- 20 minutes.
Once they’ve cool down you can decorate them. If you decorate them while they are warm the icing will not stay on.
Note: the first two examples below, I tried rolling out the dough, cutting them out into a swaddled baby shape and then I stuffed them. I placed dough over the stuffing to cover it. It turned out looking weird so my rolling them into balls method I shared above, are the ones to the right, see below.
Since these are swaddled baby bread you can decorate the body/blanket however you want and just add the face.