Monday, November 1, 2010

Pan dei morti (the bread of the Dead)

The “pan dei morti” is a sweet bread and as the name implies, is prepared and eaten during the celebration of the Dead. The Day of the Dead is a Catholic holiday established on November 2nd in the tenth century AD, along with November 1st , the feast of All Saints from the year 853.
The custom of preparing food for the commemoration of the dead has spread since ancient times and in different civilizations. In Northern Italy (Lombard area), they celebrated the dead by offering sweets, bread, fruit and other food to dead relatives and friends or to the poor of the village. These customs were also known in Ticino. Some claim that they have existed here since the year 1930.
The bread of the dead consists of sweet rich ingredients: dried and candied fruit, cocoa, chestnuts ... ideal to “warm up" in the cold autumn days.
Although consumption is still linked to the period of the Dead, generally the way to eat it no longer has a relationship with their commemoration.
It is eaten for breakfast or snack with tea or coffee or a meal with red wine or dessert wine. If hardened, you can dip in milk or coffee in red wine.
The recipes for the bread of the dead may vary according to the tastes and areas. Following is a "easy version" to prepare:
100 gr Amaretti biscuits
100gr classic dried  biscuits
300gr finger biscuits
120 gr ground almonds
300gr sugar
50 gr cocao powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
250 gr flour
125 gr dried figs
10gr baking powder
120 gr almonds
A pinch of nugmeg
6 egg whites
120gr raisins
100ml vin santo (or a heavy sweet white wine)

1.) Combine the biscuits and mix in a bowl until they turn into fine crumbs.
2.) Process dried figs in mixer until cut into little pieces
3.) Combine all the above ingredients in a large bowl.
4.) Add sugar, flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, cocoa powder and egg whites.
5.) Soak the raisins in water or wine until they are softened and then add to the mixture.
6.) Mix all the ingredients well and add “vin santo” little by little.
7.) Knead the mixture then transfer it onto a lightly floured work surface and continue kneading until dough is smooth and fairly consistent.
8.) Divide the mixture into small portions of 90-100 g each and shaped them into low (1cm) and approx. 12 -15 cm long and 5-6 cm wide “boats”.
9.) Cover a baking sheet or pan with greaseproof paper and place your “boats” flattening each piece with your hand. Allow for a few cm from each other. If you wish, with the help of a knife you can make a small cut on the length of each piece.
10.) Cook the bread of the dead in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
11.) Sprinkle with icing sugar and let cool.
12.) Serve the bread of the dead only after letting them sit for at least 2 days in a closed tin box.

Buon Appetito!!!

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