By Matthew Randell, Second-year MRes, Translational Health Sciences
These traditional Maltese biscuits make for a great alternative to the usual Halloween treats.
Literally translated to mean “The Bones of the Dead”, these traditional Maltese almond biscuits originate from the small archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea just off the coast of Italy. I have fond memories of childhood holidays, sleeping on the floor of my great-aunt’s flat in Żejtun, a city in the South East where my paternal grandmother is from. Being a very Catholic country, Halloween is not a massive holiday in Malta so despite their spooky shape, these biscuits were originally created to celebrate ‘All Souls Day’ (The Day of The Dead), which is celebrated on 2nd November. Brittle biscuits with an almond paste “marrow” filling, these days għadam tal-mejtin are sold in shops across the country during October and November. The bones were originally intended to honour deceased relatives, but nowadays they tend to just be a seasonal snack. In fact, the Maltese people love these sweet treats so much they eat the exact same thing at Easter - but cut into much friendlier shapes and are called figolli.
If you aren’t planning a trip to the Mediterranean anytime soon then never fear, they’re not too hard to make at home:
For the dough:
500g plain flour
227g cold butter, grated
150g caster sugar
1 large lemon, zest
2 medium egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the filling:
270g ground almonds
170g caster sugar
100g icing sugar
2 egg whites
Extra lemon zest
- Mix the dough ingredients together in a large bowl until smooth and chill for an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Meanwhile, make the paste filling by mixing together all of the remaining ingredients.
- Once the dough is chilled, cut out bone shapes about 0.5cm in thickness and cut out slightly smaller bone shapes from the paste filling.
- Assemble by sandwiching the paste between the two larger biscuit bones.
- Brush the edges of the biscuits with milk and press firmly down to seal the biscuit with the filling enclosed.
- Bake for around 20 minutes, ideally until just before they turn a golden brown
Once cooled, enjoy as they are or dip into a mix of icing sugar and water for that boney-white topping. As you can see, my presentation needs some work, but the great taste is hard to mess up! I’ll definitely be making treat-sized versions for guests at future Halloween parties.
featured image: Matthew Randell
What's your favourite Halloween sweet treat?