One of our readers has written in with a wonderful food mystery on his hands — there’s a certain almond bread he remembers from back in the 1970s, and he is hoping to find the recipe to share with his family.
Now, I’ve run this question past a couple of food-savvy friends, and checked my own cookbook library, but the bread isn’t ringing a bell…
Can you help?
Here’s the story.
Gary from California writes:
(I’m paraphrasing a bit here, to combine a couple of emails)
Every time I see someone with Italian Recipes I look in VAIN for a recipe my Godmother used to make. Nobody in the family bothered to get it from her and write it down.
I am now the only one left of the Grandchildren, and am teaching my boys and their familys to cook different Italian dishes, breads etc.
I believe it was called “Ocenti“… a small sweet bread with an almond flavor and topped with sugar … may have been a regional recipe.
She was from Lamporo, located in Vercelli, Piemonte, Italy.
It didn’t taste like a yeast bread but more like a roll, it was about 4 inches long shaped liked a log, cut at an angle on the ends. She would make 2 indents on the top using the sides of her hands so it had 3 humps on the top, sweet, light almond taste with sugar on the top.
If you have anything close to this recipe… I would be forever thankful as I have been looking for the recipe since 1971 when she died.
I am now 70 yrs old and would like to give this recipe to my family.
Hope this information helps, and looking forward to hearing from you with some GOOD NEWS!
Thank you again for taking up your valuable time in trying to help me.
Now, I’ve run this question past a couple of chef friends, and the bread isn’t ringing a bell in any of their memories. We did wonder if maybe “Ocenti” might be a half-remembered variation on “Osso d’ Santi” — sort of in there somewhere between the “Osso dei Morti” cookies/biscotti that are traditionally baked for All Souls’ Day, and the “Pan de Santi” bread for Easter — but that’s pure conjecture, with no basis in fact. Another theory — could “Ocenti” have been “Occitani” (as in Occitan Valleys) originally? No way to know… and I’m just throwing it out there, in case someone can confirm (or rule out) any of these wild theories.
My friend, the bread-loving Guilherme Zühlke O’Connor, who lived for some time in Italy, says that “by the description it could be a variety of breads or pastries, almonds (and bread for that matter) are very popular over there.” Without more to go on, it was hard to say…
And I’ve flipped through my cookbooks on Italian cuisine without finding any bread that looks like it might fit the bill…
So, over to you!
Can you help Gary to find that old family recipe? Does the long-lost Italian almond bread sound like a recipe you know and love?
If you have any idea of what it might be, please leave a comment — Gary and his family would be grateful, and I’d love to know as well!