Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ossi di Morti (Bones of the Dead)

Although Italy doesn't have a Halloween tradition per se, there is Giorno dei Morti, All Souls Day, on November 2nd. During that day people go to the cemetery to visit their loved ones and bring flowers and candles to their graves. It is a common tradition to go to mass and pray for the deceased. Fairs are set up in towns all over Italy. In Sicily, where All Soul’s Day has the same importance as Christmas, people leave food out the night before for spirits and children would awake on the next morning to find small gifts from their deceased ancestors. I know it sounds freaky! But it is a cheerful holiday rather than the sad one you may expect. As in many other Italian celebrations, special breads and sweets are made for the occasion and even an empty place is left at the dinner table for the ones that are missed.
One of my favorite treats for the occasion is Ossi di Morti or Bones of the Death. There are many different recipes for bones of the death but all of them have a crunchy texture and a shape that resemble bones. Last year I brought them to a Halloween party and was a real hit. I wanted to share with you a recipe a friend of mine brought to my class two years ago and I adapted for people with dairy and nut allergy (several kids from my son class have bad food allergies).  The original recipe is from King Arthur Flour and you can find it here:

Ossi di Morti (Bones of the Dead)
Makes 32 ccokies
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 ¼ cups All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons white wine 

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Beat in the wet ingredients to make a smooth, soft dough. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and 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 4" pieces. 
Working with one piece at a time, pinch the center, giving it a slender "waist" about 1/2" thick. Plump the ends into knobs so the whole thing resembles a bone. 
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. Remove the cookies from the oven, cool, and roll the cookies in non-melting sugar. 
If you don't have non-melting sugar, coat in confectioners' sugar just before serving.