In Italy, Halloween is often seen as the American festival that took over our culture, but only a few know that actually our pagan traditions are very similar to this spooky holiday. This Halloween recipe, in dialect called Ossus de Mottu, is representative of what Sardinians called Is Animeddas, a tradition that occurred during the night between All Saint’s and the Day of the Dead. During this night, in the villages of the island, people would keep the house door open, in order to let the souls of the Purgatory come in and help themselves to food and beverages. Also, furniture and drawers would be left open, for the souls to take anything they might need. Spooky uh? Before the dinner of the 1st, children would go around the village houses asking for “food for the souls” and just like at Halloween, they would be given mostly sweets and fruit. Amongst the favourites, sweets would be home made cakes made with sapa, an ingredient obtained by boiling the wine must. But there are also these hard biscuits, so hard and crunchy that their name recalls dead people’s bones. The recipe used to get passed from generation to generation and each family have their own slightly modified version.
300g finely sliced toasted almonds
100g ground almonds
Zest of half a lemon
4 egg whites
Step 1 -Preheat the oven to 170 degrees. Beat the egg whites till stiff. Then add the sugar and continue whipping till the sugar is completely dissolved.
Step 2 – Add the ground almonds, cinnamon, lemon zest and combine the ingredients together.
Step 3 – Add the sliced almonds and continue to mix. You’ll probably need to use your hands at this point.
Step 4 -Once your mix is homogeneous, you can pick up a small part of the mixture. Create a long-shaped cylinder and tighten it inside your fist, being careful not to squeeze the dough too much. Place your biscuit on an oven tray lined with oven paper and repeat this step until you have run out of dough.
Step 5 – Put your bones in the oven and bake for around 40 minutes, until they are slightly golden.
Step 6 -Should you wish to sugar coat your spooky cookies, feel free to make some syrup by putting one cup of water and two cups of sugar on the stove in a small pot. Bring the mixture to boil and let it simmer till it picks up consistency.
Step 7 -With a brush, coat your biscuits making sure you use some gloves in doing so, as the syrup can burn your hands. I only coated a few, because I felt my biscuits were already very sweet without them. If the dead souls who visit won’t eat them all, they can be enjoyed dipped in your favourite coffee. Or, similar to the Tuscan Cantucci, they can also be dipped in Vin Santo.