Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ossi da Mordere

In Potluck Italiano #1 I promised to write about my adventures with Ossi da Mordere cookies in a separate post. Here it is.....

A few months back I attended an 8 week Italian cooking course at nightschool. I went with a girlfriend from work and we teamed up with another two people who were, by sheer coincidence, colleagues of my husband. In each class we cooked an entire dinner consisting of appetizer, main course, sides and dessert which we'd eat in the classroom accompanied by a nice glass of red wine - typically a New Zealand Pinot Noir. It was a very civilised affair despite the plastic wine glasses. Each week we'd be given recipes for the following week and we would take turns as to who was in charge of what dish so the same person didn't end up always making the same course. The week we made the Ossi da Mordere our sole male team member was in charge of the cookies and he made the innocent mistake of transposing the quantities of icing (powdered) sugar and cocoa powder. The "dough" if you could call it that, had the colour and consistency of dog doody and the taste was not at all pleasant.

Ossi da Mordere translates as "bones to bite" or "bones to chew". I have seen several different variants on the spelling and I don't know Italian so I have no idea which is correct. I have also seen the cookies referred to as "bones of the dead". Our tutor told us that in some parts of Italy the cookies are formed into the shape of skeletons. I think the bones thing in the name is in reference to that brittle, slightly holey look that old bones have which is what the cookies look like when you bite into them. I have read that they are made all over Italy around November 1 and 2 to celebrate All Souls' Day, in remembrance of deceased relatives. Don't let their name turn you off.

I have made the recipe several times and they are delicious when you get it right. Ideally they should be crisp and light with slightly chewy centres. The second time I made them I used a little too much egg white and they weren't so good as they didn't have the chew factor. You really do need a stiff, solid paste just the recipe says. The original recipe calls for whole almonds which you pulverise in a food processor. The lazy person in me wondered whether you could just save time and use pre-ground almonds and also whether you could mix the ingredients by hand to save on washing up. You know what? You can!

Ossi da Mordere

100 grams (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) blanched almonds (or ground almonds if mixing by hand)
200 grams (1 1/3 cups) icing (powdered) sugar
20 grams (scant ¼ cup) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 to 3 ½ tablespoons egg whites
Milk to glaze

Heat the oven to 325 degrees F/160 degrees C
Grind the almonds to a coarse powder in a food processor fitted with the steel blade
Add the sugar and cocoa and process to a fine powder
Add the 3 tbsp egg whites & process to a stiff, solid paste
Add the additional egg white if necessary
Pinch off pieces of dough the size of a fat cherry and roll between your hands into balls. Do not flatten
Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with baking paper
Lightly brush the tops with milk
Bake for 20 to 22 minutes
At first the cookies will flatten out and look like nothing at all, but given a few minutes, each of these little cookies will puff up and their tops will become cracked and shiny
Cool on racks

Recipe courtesy of Paula Harris

Paula is a multi-talented woman. Apart from her passion for things Italian she is a naturopath and holistic aromatherapist and I have recently discovered that Paula is a poet.


Deb R said...

Oh my, looking at that recipe, I can see where transposing the amounts for sugar and cocoa would not be a good thing!!

Lis said...

I'm so happy you posted about these, I had been wondering about them ever since I read the Italian potluck post! They look wonderful, I'd really like to try these!

Question though.. if I decided to buy ground almonds, would I still need 3 ¼ cups + 2 tablespoons of it? Or is that the measurement before the almonds are ground?

Morven said...

ERRATA!!!!! Thank goodness for comments is all I can say.

Lis the measurement for the almonds is 3/4 of a cup not 3 and 1/4 cups. Yikes!

I used the weight measurement rather than volume. 100 grams is a little over 3 and a 1/2 ounces

Lis said...

I forgot to ask you in this morning's e-mail.. thanks for the correct measurement, but is it 3/4 c of GROUND almonds - or whole almonds before ya ground them?

Can ya tell I've never used ground almonds before? hehee