High Country Baking: Baci di Dama
At least 100 years, that’s 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 crisp hazelnut rounds that embrace a soft chocolate filling … a lovely play between contrasting tastes and textures.
The oldest recipes use a filling of melted chocolate and ground hazelnuts (see filling one below) while the more recent ones replace it with a commercial chocolate-hazelnut spread (filling two below) or a plain chocolate-and-butter filling (filling three below). They’re all good; the choice is yours.
If you don’t have hazelnut flour, make it by processing skinned hazelnuts in a food processor with 2 tablespoons of the flour called for in the recipe until they’re very finely ground, stopping before they form a paste.
Baci di Dama
Make on 2 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper
Yields 3 dozen cookies
Recipe works at any elevation
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons hazelnut flour
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 8 tablespoons (one stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
- 1 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 cup hazelnut flour
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons chocolate-hazelnut spread (like Nutella)
- 3 ounces semisweet 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 center position. Add the hazelnut flour, all-purpose flour and cornstarch to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine well. Add the butter and process until it disappears and the mixture is mealy. Add the sugar and vanilla, (if using) and pulse until small clumps form (this takes a few minutes; if necessary, stop and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and stir contents). Dump the mixture out on a sheet of waxed paper and gently knead until it comes together. If crumbly, add a little cool water.
Form the cookies
Break off pieces of dough and roll them into balls just over 3/4 of an inch in diameter (the size of a chocolate malted milk ball) and place them on the prepared cookie sheets. When one sheet is full, lightly cover the dough balls and place the sheet in the freezer until the balls are quite firm (this will help prevent spreading when the cookies bake). Continue, filling and chilling the second cookie sheet.
Bake the cookies
One sheet at a time, until the balls are set and the bottoms have colored lightly, about 20 minutes depending how cold they are when placed in the oven. Remove to a rack to cool completely. Pair the cookies by size.
Make the filling
For filling one: Place the 2 chocolates and the milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at half power until the chocolates melt. Stir to combine, add the sugar and hazelnut flour, and stir until blended. Add more milk or more flour, if needed, to reach a consistency that spreads easily.
For filling two: If the chocolate-hazelnut spread is cold, warm it (at a low temperature in a microwave) to a temperature that spreads easily and stir it well.
For filling three: Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave at low power until almost melted, Remove, cut the butter into tiny pieces, add them, and stir vigorously until smooth and blended.
Fill the cookies
Scrape the filling into a small resealable plastic bag, close the bag, and push the filling into a corner. Cut off the tip of the corner, creating 1/4-inch opening, and gently squeeze the bag, piping about 1/2 teaspoon of filling in the middle of the bottom of one of the paired cookies. Place the top cookie, bottom side down, on the filling and press gently to distribute it evenly. Continue until all cookies are filled. Serve or store the cookies in an airtight container for up to a week.
This recipe is a variation of one published by Helen Fletcher in Pastries Like a Pro.
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at email@example.com.
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