Make the dough
Put the milk, butter, and orange zest in a small saucepan over medium heat; stir until the butter melts, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool until warm. Discard the orange zest, add the orange blossom water, and whisk in the eggs.
Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup lukewarm water (no hotter than 110°F) and let stand until the mixture bubbles slightly, 5 to 10 minutes. (If the yeast doesn’t bubble, discard it and start again with new yeast.)
Mix the flour, sugar, and salt on a work surface. Make a well in the center. Gradually pour the yeast mixture and the milk mixture into the well while mixing with your hand . Knead until you have a nice, uniform dough, about 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth but still slightly sticky. If it seems too sticky, add more flour as needed.
Put the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a towel, and leave in a warm place (about 70°F) until doubled in size, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
Shape the bread
Cut off a piece of dough about the size of a lemon and reserve. Divide the remaining dough in half and shape the pieces on a lightly floured surface into 2 rounds. Lightly oil a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet or line it with parchment; put the dough rounds on it and flatten the tops with your hands.
With some of the reserved dough, form 2 balls the size of large marbles; set aside and cover with plastic. Divide the remaining dough into 6 pieces and roll them with your hands from the center out, making ropes that are slightly longer than the width of the loaves. As you’re rolling, press with your index and middle fingers spread about 1 inch apart to make knobs that represent bones. Arrange 3 of the ropes on top of each dough round, overlapping the ropes in the center. Cover loosely with a cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.
Dab a little cold water on the top center of each round where the ropes meet and put the reserved dough balls on top, pressing slightly so they adhere. Bake until the loaves have an even golden color, 30 to 40 minutes. Cover the loaves loosely with foil and continue to bake until their bottoms are browned and the internal temperature is 190°F, 10 to 15 minutes more. Remove from the oven and cool for a few minutes on a wire rack.
Top the bread
Brush the loaves all over with some of the melted butter. Holding one from the bottom (if it’s too warm, use an oven mitt or a piece of cardboard), sprinkle half of the sugar all over the top, tilting the loaf slightly to help coat it evenly. Repeat with the other loaf and remaining sugar. Cool to room temperature before serving. The bread is best eaten within a day of baking.
Make Ahead Tips
The baked loaves can be wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 2 months
Round your Day of the Dead party menu out with Tequila-Infused Queso Fundido, Mexican Turkey Drumstick Mole, and Jícama, Avocado, Radish & Orange Salad with Cilantro.
Use any leftover bread to make Bread Pudding.
nutrition information (per serving):
Photo: Colin Clark