Think of iconic Italian celebrations and images of Halloween don’t’ readily spring to mind in the same way that Carnevale conjures up impressions of mask-wearing revellers in the piazzas of Venice. On that basis, there is no real tradition of wood-fired pizza ovens being used in Italy at the time of Halloween and the Italian feast that coincides with Halloween (running from All Saints Day to All Souls Day) is a very different one indeed. On the other hand, fires are very much associated with the origins of the celebration in the UK and firing up the pizza oven, for a Halloween night on the lawn or patio, is a real joy.
Halloween is beginning to be adopted in Italy … but very slowly. It arrived on the back of US blockbuster movies such as Friday the 13th, ET, Nightmare on Elm’s Street and, of course, Halloween. However, it is really only celebrated by those young people wanting any excuse for a ‘festa’ and it has been easy for Corinaldo, in Marche, to lay claim to being the ‘Italian Capital of Halloween,’ as there is not that much competition!
All Saints Day is very much a family day out, to visit cemeteries and remember relatives and loved ones who have passed. Originally celebrated in May after its initial introduction by Pope Boniface IV, back in the 7th century, it was moved around 100 years later to the start of November. Halloween, as we know it, stems from the pagan festival of Samhain and this is where primitive wood fires come in, as Samhain traditionally involved offering up sacrifices to the gods, using bone fires, later to be known as bonfires.
Pumpkin carving, ghost train rides on steam railways, ghostly goings on and trick and treating would be rare to find in La Bella Italia but, of course, here there is a real thrill to be outside on a chilly October evening, celebrating dark deeds and strange occurrences. When you add to that the thrill of firing up a wood oven, there’s little better!
Given that the Ancient Celts were not averse to a bit of apple bobbing, we’ve put together three apple-based recipes that you could use, if you wish to rustle up a Halloween delight in your garden pizza oven this year. Pop a few jacket potatoes, wrapped in foil, at the back, or to the side of the wood oven, whilst you cook these apple delights (according to where you build your fire) and you could have the basis of both an al fresco main dish and an accompanying dessert cooked up the woodfired way. Both will cook delightfully in an oven that is only moderately hot and not at the pizza-cooking level of intensity that will burn your dessert or potatoes. Have fun experimenting and have a real hoot this Halloween!
Make your choice of pastry for the top and bottom of the pie or buy ready-rolled
100g of white sugar
100g of brown sugar
A squeeze of lemon juice (preferably from Amalfi lemons)
1 tsp cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg
Six or seven apples
75g almond flakes
Optional – 3 tbsps of Amaretto
Egg for brushing over pastry
Sugar – and a few more almond flakes – for sprinkling
1. Heat the wood oven to a temperature around 190°C
2. Wash, peel, core and slice the apples
3. Place the apples in a bowl with the flour, sugar, almond flakes, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg and combine (add Amaretto, if using).
4. Grease a wood-fired oven ready pie dish and line with the pastry bottom
5. Add in the apple mixture
6. Cover with the second pastry round/sheet and trim and then crimp the sides
7. Put two slits in the pastry top
8. Brush with the egg and sprinkle with sugar and a few almond flakes
9. Bake in the oven for around 25 minutes whilst covered with foil, taking care to turn the dish after around 13 minutes
10. Remove the foil and cook for a further 20-ish minutes, until the pastry is cooked and golden
11. Remove and serve with custard or vanilla ice cream
35 oz of unsalted butter
60g of plain flour
Five Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples
1 tsp ground ginger
Half a cup of milk
2 pinches of baking powder
Icing sugar for decoration
1. Heat the pizza oven to a temperature of 190°C
2. Grease a suitable dish and line the bottom with greaseproof paper
3. Wash, peel and core the apples, before thinly slicing
4. Mix together, in a bowl, the eggs and sugar, until the mixture becomes paler and the sugar is absorbed
5. Stir in the flour and mix
6. Add the milk little by little, keeping on mixing as you go
7. Add the ginger and baking powder and then the apples, stirring all together well.
8. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and put in the wood fired oven.
9. Cover the top with foil and bake for 10 minutes.
10. Remove foil, turn the dish and bake for around 25 minutes
11. Remove when golden and firm to the touch
12. Insert a skewer and check that no mixture is left on the skewer on its removal. If still picking up mixture, bake a little longer, until the skewer comes out clean.
Baked Apples with Sticky Toffee Pudding sauce
90g sultanas or 100g raisins (according to preference)
1 tsp of cinnamon
100g unsalted butter
100g brown sugar
Grated lemon zest
Bought-in Sticky Toffee Pudding sauce or Salted Caramel ice cream
1. Heat the pizza oven to a temperature of 190°C
2. Mix all the ingredients together, apart from the apples
3. Cut a small slice off the bottom of each apple, to give it a stable base
4. Wash the apples and remove the core
5. Fill the apples with the mixture and pop on to a greased tray, suitable for use in the wood-fired oven
6. Bake the apples until golden brown all over.
7. Serve with Sticky Toffee Pudding sauce or Salted Caramel ice cream