Sprinkle the yeast over warm milk and dissolve well.
Whisk in ½ cup of the flour until you have a creamy paste. Let it rise in a warm place until the dough has risen and fallen, approximately 1 hour.
If making the dough by hand: add the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, salt and the remaining flour to the fallen yeast mixture. Combine well and add the butter. Knead the dough until the consistency is smooth and elastic. Add additional flour if the dough is too sticky. Add additional milk if it’s too dry.
If making the dough with a food processor or mixer: combine the remaining flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon in the food processor, pulse until well mixed or use a dough hook for the mixer. Add the butter and mix. Add the 4 eggs and mix. Add the yeast mixture and the vanilla (and any other flavorings). Mix until the dough start to form a large ball. If the texture is too sticky then add some more flour. If it’s on the dry side, add milk (a couple tablespoons at a time).
Remove the dough from the food processor and form a large ball, place it in a large bowl.
Let the dough rise in a warm place, covered with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, until the size doubles, about 2 hours.
Punch the dough down and work the dough a few times.
To make the basic bread figures – without any filling:
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1 inch thick. Use a homemade stencil in the shape of a “guagua” to cut out the bread dough figures. You can also use a gingerbread cookie cutter (or animal shapes). Keep in mind that the shaped dough figures will rise and expand. The ideal weight is about 3oz-4oz per bread baby.
If you need to make them more rustic looking then form the doll shapes by hand, start by making a ball of dough (3-4oz). Then use your hands to shape the dough in the form of a swaddled baby. Start by turning the ball of dough into an elongated oval shape and then form the head. You can use small pieces of dough to add eyes, lips, arms, etc – but keep in mind that these might shift and expand during baking (and the babies can turn a bit odd looking).
To make “guaguas rellenas” or bread babies with a filling:
Form individual dough balls, each one should weigh ~3.5 oz. Use a rolling pin to extend each individual ball into a flat oval shape. Take a spoonful of the your choice of filling (chocolate, dulce de leche, guava jam or guava paste) and place it on the top part of the extended dough. Fold the top part of the dough over the filling part – as if you were making an empanada on the upper part of the dough (SEE PHOTOS BELOW & video for a visual tutorial). Roll the rest of dough over the filling, at the same time as you are doing this try to press down and twist the outer edges (that don’t have the filling). It’s similar to if you were wrapping a candy – the outer parts will then become the head and the swaddled bottom part of the bread figure. You can shape the head part to make it more rounded. Use small pieces of dough to add eyes/lips/hair/arms – and you can also add a neck separation.
Another way to add a filling is to shape the dough with your hands into a rustic looking oval, add the filling in the middle, then pull dough over the filling to seal it. Then shape it carefully into a longer shape, form the head and bottom part. This method does tend to result in the filling leaking so avoid a filling that will get liquid when baking: avoid fruit jams/dulce de leche and use hard chocolate (chunks or chips) or guave fruit paste.
Baking the bread figures:
Place the bread figures on baking sheet (lightly greased or with lined with parchment paper). Let them rise until half doubled, about 15-20 minutes.
In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 350 F.
Brush the tops of the bread figures with the whisked egg yolks. If adding sprinkles/raisins prior to baking you can add them after the egg wash, which will also act as a glue to help keep them in place.
Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until golden on top. It’s normal for some of the fillings to leak out, especially fillings like fruit jam (not fruit paste) and dulce de leche. Fillings like chocolate, Nutella, and guava paste are less likely to leak out.
Let the bread guaguas cool down completely, to keep the bread soft place them in a basket lined with kitchen towels and keep them covered.
Decorate (after they have cooled down) using different icing colors and sprinkles