Bones of the Dead Cookies

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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. 

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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
1 egg
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!

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    3 Discussions

    Yes :) These aren't as hard as the traditional ones at all, which can rival biscotti. These are more of a nice cookie texture.

    And I can't also help but see dog treats when I look at these simply because of the their shape.