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Cookies and Treats for the Holidays

Ossi dei Morti

(Bones of the Dead)

yield: 1 dozen ‚ prep time: 20 minutes; cook time: 30-35 minutes, depending on oven space ‚ preheat oven: 300 degrees

These cookies are brittle and dry like old bones. They are made throughout Italy around November 1 and 2 to celebrate All Souls’ Day, in remembrance of deceased relatives. Don’t let their name turn you off. They are unusual to look at, delicious to eat, and a real conversation piece.



2 large egg whites, at room temperature

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fine semolina flour

2/3 cup coarsely chopped semisweet or milk chocolate

3/4 cup coarsely chopped blanched almonds



2/3 cup coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate

2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter


Generously grease and flour cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

In a medium-size bowl, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks begin to form. Slowly add half the sugar a little at a time, beating until well incorporated and the whites are stiff and shiny. Sprinkle the remaining sugar, semolina flour, chocolate, and almonds over the egg whites, and fold in with a rubber spatula.

Using 2 teaspoons, use a small portion of batter to form bone-shaped cookies about 3 inches long and 1¬Ω inches wide. (I use a cardboard template of a bone and trace it with a pencil onto the underside of the parchment paper. I then fill in the space with the batter.) Space the cookies about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cookies are fairly dry but still pale-looking. Cool on sheets, then transfer carefully to a cooling rack.

Fill the bottom of a double boiler with water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, add the chocolate and butter to the top of the double boiler, cover, and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes or until the chocolate and butter are melted.

Stir the frosting well. Dip the underside of each cookie into the frosting and, while still wet, make wavy lines through the chocolate with a fork or a frosting comb. Let the cookies dry completely.

This recipe is featured on Season 3: Episode 313 of Ciao Italia.


Mom’s Shortbread Cookies

Mom's shortbread cookies

yield: approximately 4 dozen • prep time: 20 minutes; cook time: about 10 minutes, depending on oven space • preheat oven: 350 degrees

Baking should not take all day. But quality should not be sacrificed either. I think this crunchy, rich, and definitely addicting shortbread cookie from my mother’s recipe box is a nice balance between time spent baking and the delicious results.


1 cup shelled natural pistachio nuts

2 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup dried cherries


Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast them for about 5 minutes; watch that they do not burn. Cool, then coarsely chop and set aside.

In a medium-size bowl, mix the flour and salt and set aside.

In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very smooth. Add the vanilla and beat for 1 minute. Add the cranberries, cherries, and nuts and combine on low speed. Slowly blend in the flour and salt.

Gather up the dough and transfer it to a large sheet of wax paper. Pat the dough into a rectangle roughly 4 inches wide and 18 inches long. Use the wax paper to help you roll the dough into a log shape. Neaten the ends and place the wax paper-wrapped dough in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Remove the wax paper from the log. Using a sharp knife, slice the log into ¼-inch thick rounds. (Or slice thicker rounds if you prefer.) Space the cookies about 1 inch apart and bake for about 10 minutes. The cookies should not brown but remain pale with just a hint of browning around the edges.

Cool on wire racks. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy this treat from Mom.

Note: Cookies like shortbread can be made ahead and frozen if well wrapped and sealed in tins, plastic containers, or plastic bags.

This recipe is featured on Season 22: Episode 2215.


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