Recipe: Italian Traditions

|November 8, 2011|read comments (0)
Author: Mama's Kitchen

All Soul’s Day

November 2nd is ALL SOUL’S DAY – also know as the “Day of the Dead” – it is the day following All Saint’s Day.

All Soul’s Day is a Roman Catholic Holiday – a day of remembrance for those that have passed on. There are church services and festivals in honor those that have died.

In Italy, they begin selling special cookies starting before November. Ossa dei morti – known as bones of the dead – are cookies that are flavored with cloves (Sicilian), and from other areas they may use almonds, some using hazelnuts. These sweets are to meant to bring cheer, compensating for the sadness of All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day.

Different regions in Italy have different recipes:

And may I remind you – these are what Italian babies teethe on!

These are made with cornmeal:

Bring 2 quarts water to a rolling boil; sift in (about) 1 pound cornmeal, stirring constantly, until you have the consistency of soft mashed potatoes. Stop adding cornmeal at that point. Keep stirring. When done, let it rest a couple hours.

When ready to make the cookies: Whip it, adding salt and pepper (a good dose of pepper); work in wheat flour (a good handful) to give it a good consistency; remove dough from pot.

Form into breadsticks – wider in the middle and tapered at the ends. Place on lightly floured baking sheets. Bake in preheated 360* F. oven until hard and cracked – you’ll see fine cracks.

In some regions, bones of the dead are made from risen bread dough, that has butter and oil added to it, as well as sugar and anise seed. These can also be sweetened with honey. When using bread dough, shape into sticks shaped like fingers. These get baked twice. The first time for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on size), cooled and baked again.

You can also find these cookies made with sweet wine, spices, dried fruits, chocolate and pignoli.

Peel and grind ½ lb. almonds until they are half the size of a grain of rice, adding ½ cup sugar as grinding. Add 1 cup flour; work in 2 tablespoons butter and one large egg. Flavor with some lemon zest, or orange zest, or vanilla along with enough sweet liqueur to make a soft dough. Break dough into pieces the size of a fava bean, brush with egg yolk and place on floured baking sheet. Bake at 375* F. until done. Because of their size they bake quickly.

When Carmella made hers:

Cup* flour, half cup sugar, some pine nuts, blanched, peeled and finely chopped almonds**, lemon zest from half a lemon, cinnamon, and a shot glass of grappa. Pull off small pieces, roll and shape with floured hands, place on greased and floured baking sheets, brush with beaten egg, and bake at 350* F. until done.

**be careful not to grind to the point that the oils come out of the almonds

*Carmella didn’t own measuring cups – she used a cup from the dish set. Just like we all did in the family. No measuring cups, no measuring spoons. Our measuring cups were our tea cups, our measuring spoons are our teaspoons and dessertspoons from our silverware. I still use my hands to measure – it’s easier and it hasn’t failed me yet. I was raised to bake and cook by look and feel.

Like I said – every region has their own recipes for these – there are no set rules – it’s the thought that counts.

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