The bones of the dead, “mort d’os” in Italian dialect, are cookies prepared for the Day of Dead (Commemorazione dei Defunti) celebrated on November 2nd, the day following All Saint’s Day (Ognissanti). On these two holy days Italians honor loved ones who have passed away preparing different sweets like this one or like Pan dei morti as well. In ancient times this rite was an integral part of the traditions. For example, the Greeks offered a bread similar to these cookies the goddess Demeter, in order to have a fruitful harvest. The name of these cookies recalls the texture (quite hard) and the shape the bones of the dead. The preparation is simple and requires only a few ingredients such as flour, hazelnuts, almonds, sugar, egg whites and spices, and the texture is crisp and inviting. The recipe that I am proposing is typical of Piedmont, learned from a friend in Turin. However, there are several variations that include the addition of raisins and pine nuts. The addition of raisins, although tasty, makes these cookies softer and less similar to the “bones.”
OSSA DEI MORTI (BONES OF THE DEAD)
320 g (2 heaping cups) all-purpose flour
410 g (2 cups) sugar
100 g (1/2 cup) hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
100 g (1/2 cup) almonds, coarsely chopped
3 egg whites
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of clove
Juice of one lemon
1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C (350°F).
2. Beat the egg whites until stiff.
3. In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, hazelnuts and almonds.
4. Add the egg whites and lemon juice to the dry ingredients. Mix and knead the dough forming a ball. Cut into quarters.
5. Work one quarter at a time. On a floured surface form each quarter into five or six snake-like shapes (about 7.5 cm, 3 in long).
6. Place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper and bake for about 15 minutes or until the edges start turning golden brown. – Paola