Ossi di Morto, Bones of the Dead are traditional Italian cookies that are typically baked for la Festa di Morti or rather Feast of the Dead. They’re gluten free and almond flavoured with a delicate lemon scent and a wonderful chewy texture.
Origins of Ossi di Morto, Bones of the Dead Cookies
In Italy, All Souls Day or Day of the Dead is a long held tradition and widely celebrated on the 2nd of November.
It’s a day of remembrance as families honour the souls of their deceased loved ones by visiting their gravesites.
Of course in Italy, no celebration is marked without one type of customary treat. And on this day the faithfully departed are honoured with Ossi di Morto which are made to resemble the bones of the dead. Hence their name!
At first glance these Bones of the Dead cookies may appear somewhat unusual but don’t let this put you off from trying them. Especially with Halloween just around the corner.
You’ll find them so simple to make and rather playful in forming the bone shaped cookies.
So if you have small children in the house, gather them around your kitchen counter and let them help you shape these playful cookies.
The cookies don’t have to be perfectly formed and the more raggedy they look, the more appropriate for Halloween.
Ingredients to make Ossi di Morto Cookies
- roasted almonds
- almond flour
- granulated sugar
- egg whites
- almond and vanilla extracts
- lemon zest
I prefer to roast and grind my own almonds to achieve the consistency I want and for optimal flavour. However store bought ground almonds work just as well.
You’ll want to beat the egg whites with part of the sugar just until you obtain white and shiny appearance.
This can be done by hand with a whisk or a hand held mixer. Whatever works for you is fine.
The vanilla and almond extracts are then stirred into the egg white mixture followed by the ground almonds, almond flour and baking powder.
Once all the ingredients are mixed together you’ll want to transfer the cookie dough on a work surface and knead a little till you get a cohesive compact dough.
How to shape bones of the dead cookies
- Cut off pieces of dough and roll out into a 8 inch rope, approximately 3/4 inch in diameter.
- Cut the rope into 3 equal pieces.
- Using one piece at a time, place your index and middle finger over the centre of the dough. Roll out with a gentle back and forth motion. As you roll, the centre will thin out while leaving the ends slightly bigger and rounder.
- Hold the cookie down with one hand and use the other free hand to gently push in the ends with your index finger. This will give the appearance of old bones.
Place the cookies about 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. They don’t spread too much but they will definitely puff up.
Use the baking time indicated as a guide line.
If like me you prefer a softer chewier cookie then bake them for about 10 to 12 minutes.
However if you want a crisper texture then bake them for 15 minutes.
The cookies will have slight cracks over the surface and speckled brown bits of roasted almonds with a soft golden hue.
They’re aromatic and simply delicious as they are. But I love to serve them with a dash of powdered sugar in keeping with an old dusty appearance.
Italians love to leisurely enjoy cookies such as these served alongside a glass of vin santo or a shot of grappa as an after dinner delight!
But they would also make excellent dippers for any of your favourite hot cup of coffee, tea or even a cold glass of milk!
Other fun Halloween treats you’ll enjoy!
Ossi di Morto, Bones of the Dead
- 1 cup toasted almonds
- 1/4 plus 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- egg whites from 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 1/2 cups almond flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- powdered sugar for dusting over the cookies
- Place the almonds, 1/4 cup sugar and lemon zest in a food processor and pulse til you get a sandlike consistency.
- In a medium size bowl, whip the egg whites with 1/2 cup of granulated sugar just until you get a white and shiny mixture.
- Stir in both the the vanilla and almond extracts.
- Add the ground almond mixture, almond flour and baking powder to the egg white mixture and stir until well combined
- Transfer the cookie dough to a work surface and knead a little until you get a cohesive and compact dough.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Shape Cookie Dough into Bones
- Cut off pieces of dough and roll into logs about 3/4 inch in diameter and 8 inches long.
- Cut the rope roughly into 3 equal pieces .
- Using 1 piece at a time, place your index and middle finger over the centre of the dough and gently roll with a back and forth motion. (The centre will thin out while leaving the ends slightly bigger and rounder.)
- If it gets too sticky you can lightly dust your work surface with a little almond flour if needed. (I used approximately 1 tablespoon throughout the rolling process)
- While holding the rolled cookie with one hand, use the other hand to gently push in each end with your free index finger. (This will give the appearance of old bones)
- Transfer the shaped cookies onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake one tray at a time in the preheated oven for about 10 to 12 minutes for a softer and chewier cookie or up to 15 minutes for a crunchier cookie.
- Let the cookies cool completely and dust with powdered sugar.
- Whether you like the softer or harder variety they're simply wonderful dunked in Vin Santo or your favourite liqueur.