Baci di dama, lady’s kisses. Heavenly lips with a chocolate smile. These are classic Italian cookies from Piemonte, one of the gastronomic meccas of Italy. The region is rich in all sorts of delicacies such as hazelnuts, chocolate, truffles and some of the best wines known to mankind. My best friend Diana – also an innkeeper – lives in Piemonte. When I make these cookies I think of her and I wish we could meet more often, bake cookies and drink some of that splendid wine.
Real Baci di dama allegedly come from Tortona, a little town South east of Torino, and are made with almonds. It is also reported that the kisses originate in the Savoia king’s kitchens and are made with hazelnuts.
I’m not fond of our former royals, but I love hazelnuts. In addition, I love this recipe. It’s quick, easy and fills the kitchen with a rich aroma of nuts and butter that never fails to cheer me up.
- 100 gr. ( 3.5 oz) hazelnuts
- 110 gr. ( 1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 150 gr. (1 cup) pastry flour
- 1 egg white
- powdered sugar to coat
- 60 gr (3 oz ) 70% dark chocolate
Place all dry ingredients and the butter in a food processor bowl. Using the blade at high speed, blend until most of the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 2 minutes. Stir in the egg white and vanilla and blend until the mixture forms a dough, one more minute. It is important not to overheat the butter in the dough, so do not overwork.
With lightly floured hands roll the dough into 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick cylinders. Cut each cylinder into 2 cm (2/3 inch) pieces and roll them into balls. Carefully arrange the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 180° C/ 350° F. Bake the cookies in middle of the oven for 30 minutes until slightly golden. Meanwhile place two tabsp powdered sugar in a paper bag. Pull the baking sheet from the oven and wait a few minutes until the cookies are cool enough to handle. Place 1/3 of the cookies in the paper bag and shake lightly to coat them with sugar. Place the coated cookies on a wire rack and repeat the sugar coating with all other cookies, one third at the time. Add more powdered sugar to the bag if necessary.
If you stop here, you have made delightful hazelnut cookies with hardly any time and effort.
Now, if you are in need of sophistication, melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a small pan over low heat. Let it cool off to obtain a thick spreadable cream. To assemble the baci di dama, sandwich two cookies of similar size with a thin layer of melted chocolate in between. Serve to high acclaim.
Makes 46 kisses.