Ossa ri muortu recipe... special treats for 'the day of the dead'!

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The 2nd of November in Sicily is "U juornu re muorti", " the day of the dead"...

This is the day when the church remembers with special celebrations those who are no longer alive, people visit the cemetery taking flowers and candles to the graves of dead relatives and friends, and children find presents `brought' to them by the "muorti".

As in other parts of the world, for example Mexico for `El dia de los muertos' or Japan for `Obon festival', it is a day dedicated to life and the family. The various traditions of the "iuornu re muorti" express the Sicilians' strong attachment to life and to their families, both those who are alive and those who are no longer with them. This is especially visible in the traditions that involve children since they create and reinforce links between them and those members of the family who are no longer with us.

Until a few decades ago, this was in fact the only celebration of the year when children received presents, usually sweets and toys. Today there are many other occasions during the year (Christmas, Epifania, Birthdays, etc.) and the tradition risks to loose its strength. However, many families still keep it alive. Parents tell their children that if they behave properly, "i bonarmuzza re muorticieddi" (the good souls of the dead) might bring them presents. Just like most kids on Christmas Eve, on the 1st of November, children go to bed in the hope to be remembered by dead members of the family while parents prepare the presents and hide them around the house. One of the traditional saying for the children to ask for many presents is this:

"Armi santi, armi santi,
Io sugnu unu e vuatri siti tanti
Mentri sugnu 'ntra stu munnu di guai
Cosi di morti mittitiminni assai."

"Holy souls, holy souls,
I am one, and you are many,
While I am in this world of troubles,
Bring me lots of presents from dead people"

The morning after the search begins as soon as they wake up and after having found them they get ready to go to visit the cemetery. This is not a sad day in any way; it is a day where `two worlds' meet to celebrate life. As usual with Sicily, food is a big component of this festivity and traditions vary from town to town, the most common sweets are "pupi i zuccaru" (sweets made in the shape of dolls), "frutta marturana" (Marzipan sweets made in the shape of fruit and vegetables) and "ossa ri muortu" (sweets in the shape of bones).

Below is the recipe for 'Ossa ri muortu':


300 g flour

300 g sugar

6 g finely ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

75 g of water.

Place the flour, cinnamon and finely ground cloves in a bowl or in a stand mixer. Place the sugar and water in a pot over a medium heat and keep stirring. Add in planetary flour, cinnamon and cloves. When the sugar has turned into a syrup let it cool down, then slowly pour it in the bowl with the other ingredients while stirring, then put this mixture back on the heat for a few seconds continuing to stir until the dough gets really soft.
Then remove it from the heat, place the dough on a floured surface and start working it to form the bone shaped biscuits. Then put them aside to dry for 3 or 4 days and cover them with a muslin.

After 3-4 days, they are ready to be baked, place them on wet parchment paper and bake them at 180° C.

After 15-20 minutes you will notice that the sugar will start melting getting caramelized at the bottom of the biscuits. The outside of the cookie which dried in contact with the air during the 3-4 days resting time, will remain white and crunchy, while the sugar in it will be released at the bottom of each biscuit forming a sort of brown base.

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