When I was young, I distinctly remember hiding out for nearly a whole day in a Jeep in my mother's friend's garage.

I remember hearing them calling for me, and me refusing to answer because I was so very, very upset with all of them.

What happened to make me act out like this?

I was not allowed to go to my great Uncle Norman's funeral. In fact, I was the only member of my family not allowed to go. My brothers, just a year and 2 years older than I was, were allowed, but I was literally shipped off to another state to spend the day.

I know my parents were just doing what they felt was best. They didn't want to expose me to such sadness and grief, I'm sure, and they may not have wanted my little self nagging them in the middle of their mourning, either. I certainly don't blame them now, but at the time I was livid!

When my daughter lost her Grampa John, instead of a sad funeral we were able to bring her and a friend to a wonderful celebration of life, where they could see pictures, slide shows, and share lovely memories with others. What a difference that made to all of us.

Many cultures far older than ours have been celebrating their ancestors on special days for hundreds and hundreds of years. Mexico's Day of the Dead is probably the most well known, although similar days take placing in Bolivia, Brazil, Japan, and Eastern Europe. In China, the seventh month of the Chinese calendar is the Ghost Month, where ancestors come back to visit their families still on this side of the veil.

Italians celebrate those departed from us on All Soul's Day, November 2. Families gather for visits to cemeteries, and special treats are baked. One of the most popular is Ossi di Morto, or Bones of the Dead. Not as firm and hard as biscotti, they're crisp and chewy, and meant to be dipped in coffee or wine while you share stories and family history together.

There is no one absolute, traditional recipe for Ossi. Different regions, different families have their own special recipes. We developed this recipe for our Cookie Companion cookbook. We love the sweet almond flavor and the chewy interior. Each bite invites you to take another, and slow down for just a bit... to remember.

Let's make Ossi di Morto.

In the bowl of your mixer, blend:


  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon almond extract, or a few drops bitter almond oil, to taste
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons milk

To get just a drop of oil at a time, try dipping a straw or coffee stirrer into your bottle, then letting the dangling drop plop into your mix.

Beat the mixture on medium speed until you have a soft, smooth dough.

Transfer the dough to a heavily floured work surface.

Divide it into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope about 1/2" to 3/4" in diameter, and 16" long. Cut each rope into pieces that are approximately 4" long.

You can use your fingers to shape the dough into rough bone shapes, plumping the ends to look like the joints.

I like to make my bones a little more shaped. To do this, split each end of the rope with a bench knife about 1". It will look like you have little "Y"s on the ends.

Curl the fingers of the Y to the center and tuck in. Press and pinch gently with your fingers.

Transfer the "bones" to the prepared baking sheets and refrigerate overnight, uncovered. Yes, uncovered. You want a little dry skin to form on the outside of the cookies.

See? Just a little dry and firm to the touch the next day. Allow them to rest at room temperature for 1 hour. Towards the end of the rest, preheat the oven to 300°F.

Bake the cookies for 15 to 25 minutes. Bake less time for a cookie that's lightly crunchy on the outside and chewy within, and longer for a hard, crunchy cookie.

And here it is – light, crisp exterior, and a chewy almondy interior. The textural contrast reminds me of our Almond Cloud Cookies, and to me is completely addictive. Just one more bite!

Whether you're making these cookies for a traditional celebration, or for a more modern Halloween party, these cookies are a distinctive way to bring sweetness to your table.

I hope you'll feel comfortable to take a moment to share a comment with us about your loved ones. We'd like to share and celebrate their life with you, our friends. ~ MaryJane

Filed Under: Recipes
MaryJane Robbins
The Author

About MaryJane Robbins

MaryJane Robbins grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Vermont 20 years ago. After teaching young children for 15 years, she changed careers and joined King Arthur Flour in 2005. MaryJane began working on King Arthur Flour's baker’s hotline in 2006, and the blog team the following year. MJ loves to create decorated cookies for the catalogue, and blog about all kinds of foods, especially sweet treats.

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