Halloween is here, but will be gone in a matter of hours. And since I haven't already had enough sugar this weekend I give you....
One of my best friends, Yayo (and the DP of all of my videos on this blog, as well as countless other fun projects), is a native of Hermosillo, a large-ish town in Sonora, the northern Mexican state right below us here in LA. I always bring him back snacky souvenirs, like chocolate sables from Millette Pastry in the Sf Ferry Building (which never got eaten by the way, for shame), cajeta when I visit the east side, and oysters from the Santa Monica farmers' market, so when he brought me a book all about El Día de los Muertos from his recent trip to Tuscon, it was my turn to dig in.
The Day of The Dead has always captured my imagination. On the periphery of my halloween experience, I'd see marigolds, hear guitars playing, and smell pan dulce from just around the corner. It was a blend of the sweet and macabre, a celebration of memory but with goulish images of the dead.
The sugar skulls are the perfect expression of the holiday. Left on the gravestone of the deceased to honor their memory or passed out to children to celebrate, sugar skulls have become culturally iconic and an immediate touchstone for the Day of the Dead.
So Yayo and I had a mini Day of the Dead party to kick off All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day this week. I made a sugar skull in honor of my sister and her affinity for hot pink and punk studs (her new shoes from UNIF were a major inspiration) and a more traditional one for my friend and chocolatier Jonathan, the owner of Compartes. The skulls were VERY simple to make and a great chance to cut my arts and craft teeth since I haven't made a dollycake in a while.
Here's a basic recipe if you want to make them yourself:
For 5 large skulls or 10 small ones
1/4 cup high quality meringue powder
About 3 tablespoons water
Plastic skull molds
cardboard, cut into squares the size of the mold
Royal Icing for decoration
In a big bowl, combine the sugar, meringue powder, and then the water. If you want to color your skulls, add the food coloring to the water. The sugar mixture should clump together in you hand like damp sand, not crumble away or feel wet.
Push the sugar mix into the mold and scrape off the excess with the cardboard. Place the cardboard onto the back of the skull mold and flip. Lift the mold and if the skull cracks or crumble a bit, just put it back in the mold, press, and flip again. Let the skulls dry until hard, about 8 hours for large ones.
Tip: It's really hard for the sugar to dry in humid or wet weather, so if it needs a little help. Warm your oven up on the lowest setting, turn your oven off, and let the skulls dry out in the oven.
To fashion both sides of the skull together, use royal icing as the glue. Decorate with sprinkles and different colors of icing. To make the white chocolate studs, take chocolate chips and shave for hard edges with an exacto knife. Put the studs in a baggie with edible silver dusting powder and shake to coat.