Baking

High-end country cuisine: Baci di Dama

Baci di dama presents a nice play between contrasting tastes and textures.
Vera Dawson/Courtesy Photo

At least 100 years is how long this classic Italian cookie has been popular. Named Lady’s Kisses because it was thought to resemble a woman’s puckered lips (I know, I don’t see it either), it consists of two rounds of crispy hazelnuts that kiss a sweet chocolate filling…a nice play between contrasting tastes and textures.

Older recipes use a topping of melted chocolate and ground hazelnuts (see topping one below) while newer ones replace it with a commercial chocolate-hazelnut spread (topping two below) or topping plain with chocolate and butter (garnish three below). ). They are all good; the choice is yours.

If you don’t have hazelnut flour, prepare it by processing the peeled hazelnuts in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of the flour indicated in the recipe until they are very finely ground, stopping before they form a paste.



Baci di Dama

Make on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper

Makes 3 dozen cookies



The recipe works at any altitude

Biscuit

  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons hazelnut flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose bleached flour, spoon and level
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 8 tablespoons (one stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional

Possible fillings

First version

  • 1 1/2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup hazelnut flour

version two

  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella type)

version three

  • 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Make the dough

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, with a rack in the middle position. Add hazelnut flour, all-purpose flour and cornstarch to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and mix until it disappears and the mixture is floury. Add the sugar and vanilla (if using) and pulse until small lumps form (this takes a few minutes; if necessary, stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and stir the contents). Place the mixture on a sheet of waxed paper and knead gently until it comes together. If crumbly, add a little cold water.

Form cookies

Break off pieces of dough and roll them into balls just over 3/4 inch in diameter (the size of a scoop of chocolate malted milk) and place on the prepared cookie sheets. When a sheet is full, lightly cover the balls of dough and place the sheet in the freezer until the balls are quite firm (this will help prevent spreading when baking the cookies). Continue by filling and cooling the second cookie sheet.

Bake the cookies

One sheet at a time, until the balls are set and the bottoms are lightly browned, about 20 minutes depending on how cold it is when put in the oven. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Match cookies by size.

Do the filling

To complete one: Place the 2 chocolates and the milk in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on medium power until the chocolates melt. Stir to combine, add sugar and hazelnut flour, and stir until combined. Add more milk or more flour, if needed, to achieve an easily spreadable consistency.

To fill two: If the chocolate-hazelnut spread is cold, reheat it (low temperature in the microwave) to a temperature that spreads easily and stir well.

To fill three: Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on low power until almost melted. Remove, cut the butter into small pieces, add them and stir vigorously until smooth and combined.

Fill the cookies

Scrape the filling into a small resealable plastic bag, seal the bag and push the filling into one corner. Snip the end of the corner, creating a 1/4 inch opening, and gently squeeze the bag, spooning about 1/2 teaspoon of filling into the middle of the bottom of one of the paired cookies. Place the top cookie, bottom side down, over the filling and gently press down to distribute evenly. Continue until all cookies are filled. Serve or store cookies in an airtight container for up to a week.

This recipe is a variation of one posted by Helen Fletcher in Pastries Like a Pro.