Pan dei Morti-Bread of the Dead Cookies

Pan dei Morti-Bread of the Dead Cookies

This is a traditional dessert in Northern Italy, made in Lombardy, especially in Milan, and in Tuscany. Pan dei morti is eaten the night between November 1st and 2nd to observe the Day of the Dead, hence the name. Catholic tradition, pan dei morti is eaten with two other, less elaborate desserts, bones of the dead and beans of the dead.


Makes: about 6 dozen (depends on how large you make them)

Prep: about 45 minutes

Bake: 25-30 minutes

  • 1/2 C. Raisins or currants

  • 1/2 C. Sweet wine such as Marsala, Vin Santo, even Vermouth is fine etc. ( I like Marsala)

  • 10 oz. (about 2 3/4 cups) Almond or Plain Biscotti or the crisp type ladyfingers – crushed

  • 7 oz. Amaretti Cookies- crushed(these are very crisp cookies like a snap – found at Italian or specialty markets and Fresh Market)

  • 4 oz. (1/2 cup) Dried Figs

  • 4 1/4 oz. ( a little more than 1/2 C.) ground almonds ( you will grind these with the dried figs)

  • 2 C. Flour

  • 1 1/2 C. Sugar

  • 1/2 C. Cocoa powder

  • 1 Tsp. Baking Powder

  • 1 Tsp. Cinnamon

  • 1/4 Tsp. Allspice

  • Pinch salt

  • 1/2 C. Pignolis – toasted

  • 6 Egg Whites, not beaten

  • 1 Generous Tsp. Fresh Orange Zest

  • Powdered Sugar for dusting


  1. Soak the raisins or currants in the sweet wine for a couple of hours.

  2. (Often I grind and crush the biscotti, cookies, figs, and almonds a day ahead and seal them in plastic bags. Then I also measure out the dry ingredients and bag those together also. It cuts the time on baking day.)

  3. Crush the biscotti or crisp ladyfingers and the Amaretti in the food processor OR put in a bag and use a hammer! Then place in a large bowl.

  4. Then grind the figs and the almonds together and add them to the crushed cookies in the bowl.

  5. Measure out the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, spices, salt. Add them to the bowl and mix together.

  6. Add the pignoli and mix.

  7. Now pour in the egg whites, wine along with the soaked raisins or currants, and the orange zest.

  8. Mix well and work this all into a smooth dark dough. At first, it will be very crumbly – keep working it. I like to begin this in a large bowl and when it starts to come together, pour it onto a board or surface and finish forming your smooth ball.

  9. You can cut it in half for ease of use.

  10. Take about 2 tbsp. of dough and form it into a football shape for each cookie. Flatten with your fingers. I like to keep a little pile of flour on the side and put some on my fingers or sprinkle on the dough – making it easier and less sticky. Don’t use too much flour though. Each cookie can be about 4 inches long. You can make them smaller if you like.

  11. Place the cookies on parchment paper or wax paper on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes. Do not over bake.

  12. Sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar and cool. Keep in a sealed container or freeze.

  13. PAN DEI MORTI COOKIES are simply amazing warm right out of the oven

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