Author Notes: On 31st October much of the Christian Western world marks All Hallows' Eve or Hallowe-en, or All Saints' Eve, a festival with arguably pagan or Christian origins. In Italy, most will wait for All Saints' (or Souls) Day itself and celebrate Tutti Morti, or Day of the Dead on 2 November. This is the day for remembering your departed ancestors.
There is no one dish associated with the celebration in Italy. Each region has its own favourites, but cookies or biscuits often play a part. Ossi dei Morti translates as 'bones of the dead' and they're one of the many types baked at this time. I've been making these little morsels for years since coming across the recipe in Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere. They're meant to resemble bleached, brittle, bones and their macabre name is part of the appeal.
I've scaled down the original recipe and the quantities I've used here will produce around 40 biscuits. I've also used a tiny drop of Amaretto liquor instead of almond essence. Hand-chopping the almonds is worth the effort for that extra crunch, but you can chop them briefly in a processor to save time. They'll keep for at least a week in an airtight container. —Evie
Makes: around 40 biscuits
ounces almonds (skin on)
ounces caster sugar
teaspoons baking powder
pinches salt & pepper
teaspoons lemon juice
few drops Amaretto liquor or almond essence
ounces soft plain flour
- Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan oven/Gas 4.
- Place the unskinned almonds on a baking tray and roast lightly for 5 minutes before chopping roughly.
- Turn the oven down to 150C/130C fan oven/Gas 2.
- Line 2-3 baking trays with baking parchment.
- Mix the sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon juice.
- Add the eggs and Amaretto or almond essence and beat well until the mixture takes on a spongy look.
- Mix in the flour and chopped almonds.
- Turn out on a lightly floured surface and roll the dough with your hands into ropes about 1 cm thick then cut into 3-4cm lengths.
- Place on the baking trays 6cm apart and bake for 15-20 minutes until very lightly coloured.