In The Evils of Beans – Part I, we mentioned a tradition still carried on by modern Italians, the making of fave dei morti. These bean shaped cookies are traditionally made for Il Giorno dei Morti on November 2 — All Soul’s Day and are believed to be a vessel for the souls of the dead.
Here, in part two, I tell you how to make fave dei morti yourself! I am always a bit skeptical when recreating these traditional or historical recipes, but these cookies far exceeded my expectations and turned out to be delicious.
1 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter (melted)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
As I am currently in a very rural area, (no gourmet shops, no Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods), I was only able to procure sliced almonds and ground those up in the food processor. This was my first step.
Measure out the almonds and place them in the food processor or even a blender will work if you don’t have one. Grind them down until they are just a little bit finer than couscous, like this:
Next, mix sugar, butter and ground almonds.
Mix flour, cinnamon and lemon rind.
Combine butter mixture with flour mixture.
Beat egg and add to butter and flour mixture.
Make the fave dei morti by taking pieces of the cookie dough and shaping them into small, fava-shaped beans and place directly onto a greased cookie sheet. Now, this does present some problems. Let me begin by saying 95% of the fave dei morti I have seen is not bean shaped but more like a small, round ball or even regular cookie. Because of the soft butter in the dough, the cookie will spread and expand a lot. In result, it is important that you chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least a couple hours or overnight. Work quickly to form the bean shape by hand. If the warmth of your hands “melts” the dough too much, just put your baking tray with the shaped cookies in the freezer for five to ten minutes prior to baking. If you want to forgo the bean shape, as many Italians do, just form the dough into little balls and place them a good two inches apart on the baking sheet.
Bake the cookies in a 325 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes – keep an eye on them though because they do burn easily.
Allow to cool. Buon appetito and remember your ancestors.