Guatemalan Mollete Is The Sweet Stuffed Bread For Día De Los Muertos Celebrations

Halloween traditions in the United States tend toward the macabre. The holiday that launched the iconic "Halloween" movie franchise (are we sure Micheal Myers is finally dead and gone) plays into our collective fascination with all things scary. But that's not the case everywhere. In some parts of the world, annual observances that coincide with Halloween are a celebration of life, a time to happily share memories of loved ones who have died. Such is the case in Guatemala, where Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) brings colorful kite festivals meant to symbolize a living connection with the dead, family gatherings at loved ones' gravesites, and food, glorious food.

Case in point, Guatemala's traditional mollete (pronounced moh-yeh-teh). Not to be confused with torrijas – it is an equally popular but unstuffed cousin — a mollete is a custard-stuffed sweet roll that's coated in an egg-flour bath and fried until it's golden crispy. The finishing touch? The fried molletes are dipped in a blend of sugar syrup and spices. (An adults-only twist adds a few drops of rum). For comparison, some fans describe mollete as being similar to stuffed French toast. As tempting as a mollete is in all its custardy goodness, it's not strictly reserved for the living.

Día De Los Muertos welcomes spirits

Food — and music and colorful decorations — are all integral to Día de los Muertos. Family members clean, paint, and deck the gravesites of deceased loved ones with flowers in anticipation of the annual event. They light candles to guide ancestors to the gathering place and bring enough food to share with spirits who, according to tradition, pass freely between the worlds of living and dead on this one day.

Mollete is similar to Pan de Manteca, a slightly sweet bread with origins in Puerto Rico that is a soft and chewy leavened bread, the Caribbean incarnation of a Spanish sweet bread, shaped and baked into circular mounds. Sometimes compared to French brioche, mollette holds special significance in Guatemala where its custard-filled version is often front-and-center during the annual Día de los Muertos celebration of the dead.

While it's widely on offer at bakeries throughout Guatemala, mollete is surprisingly easy to make at home. Whether you hail from Guatemala or elsewhere, whipping up a batch of custard-filled molletes to celebrate Día de los Muerto — especially with kids in the group — can open the door to sharing memories that may otherwise be lost to time.