Oss de mord (Almond biscuits for All Souls Day from Lombardy)

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Oss de mord is Lombardy dialect for the Italian ossa da mordere, which literally translates as “bones to bite”. They are almond, lightly spiced, crunchy biscuits traditionally made only around All Souls Day (il giorno dei morti, in Italian, the second day of November,) – they should resemble dry bones and are meant to honour i morti,  the deceased ones. This time of the year, one can taste traditional sweets made to remember the dear departed, all over Italy. They tend to be rather simple treats, spiced biscuits and sweet breads with dried fruit mainly, generally sold from panettieri (bakeries), rather than from usual more formal pasticcerie (patisseries).
Oss de mord are really excellent dipped in Marsala or with morning caffelatte.

òss de mòrd
Adapted from Le ricette regionali Italiane by Anna Gosetti della Salda (This is one of the must-have books if one is interested in Italian food).

almonds, blanched, toasted and finely ground, 200g (do not reduce them to a flour though, you want some texture)
pinch of salt
3 cloves
pinch cinnamon
00 flour, 150g
caster sugar, 100g
dry Marsala or dry Vermouth, 8 tbsp approximately

Grind the cloves with one tablespoon of the sugar.
Mix the ground almonds, the spices, the salt and the remaining sugar
Add the Marsala or Vermouth until you reach a medium dough, between six and eight tablespoons in my kitchen, with my flour. Add the liquid gradually and work using your hands.

Roll the dough into short cylinders, about 7 cm long and a couple of centimetres thick.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.

They will be still a little soft when you take them out of the oven but they will crisp up cooling down. If you taste them (once cool) and they are not as crunchy as you would like them to be, put them back in the oven for 10-15 minutes more.

 

Notes
Grind the almonds with a little bit of the sugar and take care not to process them too much: some texture is needed for the biscuits and you do not want the almonds to become oily – if this happens it will be difficult to mix the dough.
These are equally good with a mix of almonds and walnuts. Toasting the nuts will always improve their flavor but it is not imperative.
I once made them without blanching the almonds and I found the final biscuits a little too dark in appearance: oss de mord should be a pale, dust colour. If you are not bothered by such things, save time and use whole almonds.
Sometimes I have added some grated zest of orange/lemon. Orange or lemon extracts could be used too.
A couple of drops of almond extract boosts the almond flavour
They keep well for weeks in a tin, actually I find they improve with age
I like my oss de mord only lightly spiced, but you can increase the cloves – the original recipe uses 5 cloves, which I find too much.

4 thoughts on “Oss de mord (Almond biscuits for All Souls Day from Lombardy)

  1. When it comes to baked goods, Stefano, I live by a simple rule: if it contains almonds in any form, I’m going to love it. With that in mind, I’m sure I’d love these. The first I’ve heard of biscuits for All Souls Day was a few minutes ago on another blog. There is nothing similar in my family’s customs. I guess this was one of the traditions that got lost as my grandparents’ boats crossed the Atlantic. 🙂 Pity. They sound delicious!

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    1. in my experience, most of these celebratory sweet treats are rarely made at home these days, also in Italy – most people buy them from bakeries. …. you could start a new family tradition and check what are the typical all souls day marchigiani sweets (there must be something…) + hope yr family is ok (re:earthquake) – s

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      1. My family is all fine, Stefano. Thanks for asking and I hope that you can say the same. I do know that some parts of Marche prepare lumache (snails) on All Souls Day. It’s a delicious dish but I certainly wouldn’t call it sweet. Which reminds me. It’s been an very long time since I’ve prepared them and it’s about time I did something about that. 🙂

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