Urban legend in USA has it that we cannot offer the children home baked goodies at Halloween (some weirdos excel in filling them with crushed glass). More is the pity since our European traditions offer a selection of medieval traditional fare
Here are the recipes for cakes of all sorts, which seem to have been part of the early celebrations of All Saints and All Souls
Le Fave or Pan dei Morti from Italy
The Broad Beans of the Dead are sometimes also called the bones of the dead (ossa dei Morti) and are made of 300 gr finely pealed and chopped almonds, 450 gr of flour, 300 gr of sugar, 5 gr of soda, 2 eggs, 75 gr of butter and the grated peel of a lemon. Optional is amaretto or cinnamon. Knead it all by hand and form it into small balls, which you flatten and into oval “beans”. Bake them at 170o C and dust with sugar. Perhaps the name is a nod to the ancient Roman tradition of casting black beans across your should while walking barefooted through the streets during the limuralia.
Another version is a plain focaccia bread baked with dried figs, nuts and raisins. Begin by preparing a leavening dough mixed of 1 dl water, 1,5 dl flour and 15 gr. fresh yeast. Set it aside and mix in a seperate bowl 1 kg flour, 6 dl water, 200 gr brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of salt and 200 gr olive oil. Mix all with the leavening dough and knead it well for 10 min. before placing it in a bowl cowered with a wet cloth. Let it rise for 4 hours.
When the dough is risen, mix the dried fruit and nuts into the dough by kneading it vigorously. Divide the dough into six breads and shape them like oblong beans; Slice the brads with one oblong cut at the top and let them rise for another 2 hours before baking them for 20 min at 200o C. They are supposed to be brown. Dust them with icing sugar (NOT a Roman tradition).
The colour should be brown and in some regions the Italians use coco to get the right colour. Some places – Parma and Venice – they give the breads a chocolate glaze.
In Sardinia the traditional recipe is somewhat the same, but here the breads will be formed like an “S” and flavoured with different aromatic herbs and ingredients according to locality. They use wild mint at Alata; elsewhere they use sage.
Finally, a special delicacy from Sicily should be mentioned: the Frutta di Martorana in Sicily
Frutta de Matorana are fabulous pieces of painted candy formed out of marzipan (martorana in Sicilian) and painted in lively colors. Get the inspiration from the photo
Allerheiligen Striezel from Germany
In Southern Germany is bread was plaited in order to look like the cut-off hair of the dead. However, here the bread is baked of a soft mixture of flour, eggs, yeast, butter, raisins, milk and salt; according to region, juice from a lemon or rum mightbe added and served as a buttered cake. Modern usage is to sprinkle the bread with a mixture of chopped almonds and tea-sugar. Such breads might also be formed into buns, baked, and offered to kids or beggars going the rounds on Halloween. Traditional recipe: Dissolve the 70 gr yeast in 5 dl milk and let it work for 20 min. Next, mix the yeast and milk with the 1 kg flour, 4 whipped eggs, 150 gr. sugar and 1 tsp salt, knead it well and let it rise for 30 min. Then knead the dough again, divide it into long bands, braid it and place the bread on a baking sheet. Let it rise for another 20 min, baste it with milk or whipped egg and finally bake it by 200o for 20 – 25 min.
Niflettes from Provins near Paris
Ne flete means “cry no more”. These cakes are made of small tarts filled with cream pudding made of ½ litre milk, four eggs, 100 gr sugar, 40 gr flour and 50 gr soft butter. Let the milk boil. Wisp the eggs with the sugar before adding the flour. Vigorously wisp the boiling milk – drop by drop – into the cream. Heat the cream up while whipping the butter vigorously into the mixture. Bake the filled shells at 180o for 15 min.
Castanyada in Catalonia (and all over Iberia)
In the Mediterranean the remembrance of All saints and All Souls traditionally collided with the Castanyada – the feast for the Chestnuts. One treat is thus to sample roasted chestnuts at street-vendors and bring them home to enjoy in front of a blazing fire 8or you can roast them yourselves after having cut them in the top). Afterwards the treat is topped with panellets, small round cookies made of 150 gr sweet potatoes, boiled, cooled and mashed. To this add 130 gr sugar and grated lemon. Knead it by hand with a sprinkle of water and add and egg yolk, 170 gr of peeled and grounded almonds and form it into small round balls (12 – 14). These should be rolled in pine nuts and baked for 15 min at 180o.
Serve it all with local sweet wine (Vin Santo, Port or Muscatel) and let the children sip, if you believe in teaching youngsters that moderate alcohol is not a vice; as they believe in Southern Europe, where children are “taught” to drink wine mixed with water.
In the Middle Ages, bread was the staple and soul cakes offered were probably nothing more than buns made of ordinary dough; occasionally it may have been mixed with dried apples, nuts and perhaps drizzled with honey (a number of medieval versions can be found here.) In a more modern context the traditional English Soulcake is of course a traditional Parkin Cake made of flour, treacle, and spices. Here is a traditional recipe.
Sift 225 gr plain flour with 1/2 tsp bicarb soda, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp each of cinnamon, mixed spice, and ginger. Melt 140 gr. butter with 110 g.r sugar, 110 gr. golden syrup and 110 gr. black treacle. Mix with the flour and spices and blend it with one whipped egg and 1 1/2 dl milk. Poul the mixture into a square and buttered tin and bake in the oven for 90 min at 150o C.