These delicious bread babies are always a hit with kids. They’re fun to make and fun to eat. I have vague memories of deliciously fragrant bread babies being sold on street corners when I was a very small child of three or four. Bread babies are an All Soul’s Day tradition in some parts of South America including Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Argentina where the day of the dead is religiously observed. Bread babies are just little loaves of sweet bread made to resemble babies wrapped in blankets.
All Soul’s Day, or as it’s known today “The Day of the Dead” is celebrated on November 2 all over the world and while several cultures claim that they invented it, it’s actually an ancient pre-Christian pagan festival that was later incorporated into the Roman Catholic faith in about the 8th century A.D. Samhain as it was known, was a Celtic harvest festival in honor of the lord of the dead that lasted several days and it marked the beginning of winter. The Celts believed that the souls of the dead returned to hang out with the living during this time so they devised a clever and sneaky way to fool the pesky ghosts and goblins by wearing disguises (HA!) to throw them off. After the church adopted the Samhain festivities into their calendar and christianized them so to speak, they became Halloween on Oct. 31st, All Saint’s Day on Nov. 1st and All Soul’s Day also known as the Day of the Dead on Nov. 2nd. These Catholic traditions were then brought to the New World by the Spanish Conquistadors where they became entwined with ancient Indian traditions. Over the years these festivities became important celebrations in many parts of Latin America. In Ecuador the delicious smell of bread babies fills the air for days before the holiday, and they are known as Guaguas De Pan .
Guagua or WaWa is the Qechua word for baby. It is believed that the little baby shaped loaves were originally made on the day of the dead to honor and remember all the small children who have died. In some parts of South America, bread babies are traditionally eaten accompanied by a thick drink made of purple corn flour, fruits and spices called Colada Morada. You can make WaWas with your favorite sweet bread yeast recipe and just shape the loaves into babies. Raisins and cloves can be added for the eyes, nose and mouth. Or you can use little bits of dough for these features. If you prefer, you can add the faces with colored icing after the loaves bake and cool . You can also brush them with a sugar glaze after they’re baked if you want. Don’t forget to brush an egg wash over the babies before popping them in the oven so that they will bake up nice and shiny!
There are many bread baby recipes online. I like Laylita’s recipe:
Here is Laylita’s page with lots of bread baby pictures: