‘Beans of the Dead’ pastries

The ‘Beans of the Dead’ are small, delicious traditional Italian pastries, normally prepared at home or in bakeries for the feast of All Saints. It appears that in ancient Greece these colourful sweets were distributed at funerals, which is why they became associated with this religious festival. It is also thought that in the night between All Saints and the Festival of the Dead (between 1st and 2nd November), the dead come to visit their loved ones whereupon the latter prepare these pastries as a delicate and colourful gift. If we dig deeper into history, we can see that fava beans have always been a the subject of superstition, because it is known that the Egyptians did not cultivate them, and furthermore there is the legend that the black ones should be offered at funerals because they contain the soul of the deceased. All the regions of Italy, even though these days also celebrating the festival of Halloween (a typically Anglo Saxon occasion), argue about who invented the recipe for ‘Beans of the Dead’!


20 minutes Total time
10 minutes Active time
Serves 3 persons
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Prepare all the ingredients. In a bowl combine the flour, almond flour and the sugar. In another bowl, break a whole egg and an egg yolk. Beat the eggs with a fork. Add the egg mixture to the flour, along with some soft butter. Mix well and form into a ball. Divide the dough into 3 equal parts, and add to each part the alchermes (a sweet, red Italian liqueur), cocoa and bitter almond liqueur. Shape the dough into long, narrow sausages. With a knife, cut the dough into small pieces and either roll them into ball shapes with your hands or keep them elongated, in the shape of a bean. Place them on some baking parchment on a baking tray in the oven for ten minutes at 170°C.

Two tips: you can omit the butter and the ‘beans’ will be more crisp. And, secondly, you can also use icing sugar instead of caster sugar.
Pellegrino Artusi also discusses different versions of the ‘Beans of the Dead’ in his kitchen writings.

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