Ossi dei morti ("bones of the dead") cookies are a popular Italian treat for All Saints Day. There are as many variations on these bone cookies as there are regions in Italy!
While traditional ossi dei morti in general are a made of a hard meringue that crackles like crunching bones, I decided to try a gentler approach. I wanted to make a cookie that was great to snack on without needing to dunk it in my espresso.
These super tasty bone cookies are a fun treat for Halloween too! The basic recipe is great for kids, and I've thrown in an added twist for more refined palates.
Step 1: Gather your Ingredients
This recipe is easy to customize, but here are the 'bare bones' (har har har) to make 3 dozen tiny cookies:
55 grams of slivered almonds (or hazelnuts, etc) (2/3 cup)
200 grams of sugar (1 cup)
1 teaspoon lemon (or orange) juice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
dash of salt
splash of almond (or other) extract
115 grams of all purpose flour (2/3 cup)
1 teaspoon lemon (or orange) zest
Sea salt for topping (opt.)
Step 2: Preheat
Preheat your oven to 300F (150C). You don't have an oven thermometer yet?? Do you want to ruin your cookies? Go get one!
Step 3: Toast Your Nuts
To start, toast your nuts! I like to use a dry pan over medium heat.
Alternatively, you could roast your nuts in an oven at 350F (180C) for about 6 or 7 minutes.
After they've cooled, chop them up, either by hand or with a chopper. I pulverized mine, but you don't have to turn them into meal.
Step 4: Mix it up
In a large mixing bowl, combine 200g sugar, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, and a dash of salt.
Add one egg and a splash of almond extract, and beat on medium speed for about 3 minutes.
Sift in the flour and add the chopped almonds.
I don't like using a big, cumbersome sifter, so I use a whisk to break up the flour!
Step 5: Get those bones in shape!
Grab a chunk of dough and roll it out with your hands into a snake about the thickness of a pencil. I did this on an un-floured surface because I didn't want the cookies to get tough.
Sometimes it stuck, so I used a knife to scrape it up and moved it to another part of the surface.
Cut your snake into 3" pieces and shape them if you like. I did a few different things to try and make them look like bones- pinched the ends to make them look like bones, folded the ends over and crimped them, and folded them in figure 8s.
Step 6: Bake them Bones
Place the cookies at least an inch apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. See how they rise while they're baking?
Bake for 6-7 minutes, rotate the cookie sheet 180 degrees, and cook another 6-7 minutes. Always let your cookie sheets cool before adding a new batch to them.
If you want to add a little zing and really bring out the flavors, sprinkle cookies lightly with sea salt before baking. Yum!