Ghadam tal-Mejtin (Dead men's bones)

Halloween is not a popular feast in Malta (although some children are now very fond of this feast). On the eve of October 31st one tends to see a couple of children going from door to door dressed to scare asking for sweets in return. When I was younger I never knew about Halloween but I still looked forward to the feasts of all saints and all souls celebrated on Nov 1st and 2nd, first because on these two days we were off from school and the other reason being is that mum used to prepare the ‘Ghadam tal-mejtin’ (dead men’s bones). These are traditional Maltese large almond filled pastries that are baked in the shape of bones to remind us that in November one should remember the people we know who have died and pray for them so they can go to heaven.
This year it was my turn to prepare them since funnily enough I was the only person who remembered doing them so yesterday I went to Cilia’s in Hamrun to buy the ingredients and as I am writing this blog I’m also keeping an eye on the oven since I am baking this year’s share. Here’s the family recipe and if I’ll manage to keep them by tomorrow I’ll promise to upload a couple of pictures of the process.

Ingredients to makes around 18-20 almond bones

For the pastry
800g plain flour, sifted
300g sugar
125g shortening
125g margarine (fine cake margarine my fav)
3 eggs
Juice of half a lemon
Vanilla essence
Little milk

For the filling paste

400 grams sugar
400 grams pure ground almond
80ml water

You will also need some icing sugar for decoration.

Make the pastry by rubbing in the shortening, butter and flour until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Mix the sugar with the eggs and add the mixture above. Add the lemon and the vanilla essence and knead it. Add the milk and knead it to an elastic dough.
For the filling put the sugar and the water on a low flame and when sugar melts add the almonds. Blend the mixture very well and let it cool Roll out the pastry and cut out your shapes. Make two of each figure as they will be sandwiched with almond paste. Lay the first shape on a greased and floured baking tray, spread with almond paste, leaving a small margin. Lay the second shape over the top and press the edges together. Wet the edges with a brush dipped in milk to ensure adhesion- Bake at 180'C/350'F/gas 4, for about 20 minutes, until pale golden. Cool on the tray.
When cold, coat with light royal icing let it dry for few minutes and they are ready to enjoy…

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