Deliciously Italian authentic hazelnut Baci Di Dama Cookies (Lady’s Kisses), but made gluten free. Optional Dairy Free/Vegan recipe.
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Gluten Free Baci Di Dama Cookies – an adapted recipe
There is one word to describe these Gluten Free Baci Di Dama Cookies… ‘Divine’! Actually, there’s probably several alternatives since I have it on good authority from my daughter, that they are ‘one of the best cookies she’s tasted’. If you love hazelnuts, they might be ‘up there’ for you too… They are pretty damn good.
Although traditionally made with wheat flour, there are a number of gluten-free copy recipes on the internet. As always, some seem closer to traditional Baci Di Dama than others. But there’s a recipe that I stumbled across on the David Lebovitz site, which is definitely in the category of ‘keeps as close to the original as possible’. Authenticity is important at Gluten Free Alchemist, especially when it comes to recipes from my Italian roots.
The ‘Lebovitz’ recipe actually originates with La Cucina di Teresa. And although not completely replicated here, it’s the recipe from which I have adapted my own version of this delicious treat.
What exactly are Baci Di Dama Cookies?
Baci di Dama, which in Italian means “Lady’s Kisses’ are little hazelnut biscuits, sandwiched together with dark chocolate. Allegedly called ‘lady’s kisses’ either because the two cookies appear to be kissing or because the shape of the cookies resembles a lady’s lips, they are absolutely delicious.
Their texture is crisp yet soft and reminiscent of Viennese biscuits… A good snap as you bite, which melts in the mouth to reveal tiny crunchy pieces of roasted hazelnut and a wash of dark chocolate. Dangerously moreish.
The History of Baci Di Dama Biscuits
Baci Di Dama Cookies are a popular Italian sweet treat. Their origins are set within the Piedmont region of Italy where the best Italian hazelnuts are grown… Specifically being traced back to a small town called Tortona.
Legend has it that Lady’s Kisses were first created back in the 1850’s by one of the pastry chefs linked to the Italian royal family, who wanted to impress King Vittorio Emanuele Ⅱ with a new dessert. But as always with recipe history, there is endless dispute and claims over who made these nutty biscuits first.
There are even several accounts in Baci Di Dama food history that the original recipe was, in fact, made with almonds. And that only later were these substituted to make the traditional hazelnut speciality found today.
Either way (and perhaps a nod to its likely royal legacy), the recipe for Baci Di Dama Cookies was eventually patented in 1919 by a later royal chef. And they have since become an iconic Italian treat.
Why did I change the gluten free recipe from La Cucina di Teresa?
You may be wondering why I chose not to completely use the original Baci Di Dama Cookies recipe found at La Cucina di Teresa? Well, the main reason is this…
Although the recipe was put out as being a gluten free recipe, on closer examination, it actually appears to be a standard wheat flour recipe with a straight substitution of wheat flour for rice flour. And anyone who values the texture of their bakes and understands gluten free flours will know that using rice flour as a straight sub has a tendency to produce a gritty, dry bake. And if there’s one thing I really hate… It’s a gritty bake.
Actually… rice-grittiness and associated dry texture are the main reasons I struggle with store-bought gluten free bakes. The rice content irritates my throat and makes me cough (not good in public right now). But as rice flour is so cheap, it seems to be gluten free manufacturers flour of choice. Cheap it may be… but at Gluten Free Alchemist, we put texture and flavour first.
Substitutions and changes to the original Baci Di Dama Cookies recipe
To get away from the dry, gritty texture, the recipe offered here makes a couple of simple changes to the original Baci Di Dama Biscuits I found.
Rice flour substitution
First… There is a substitution of part of the standard rice flour for glutinous rice flour. If you have never used glutinous rice flour, it is entirely different to standard rice flour and comes from a very different grain. Also known as ‘Mochiko’, glutinous rice flour has a smoother, sticky and quite ‘glutinous’ texture. And this makes it great for use in some gluten free bakes.
On its own, it would have been too ‘chewy’ for making these cookies. But substituting a portion into the mix alongside the standard rice flour ‘tempered’ the grittiness nicely, offering a smoother texture and good binding which still worked well with the ground hazelnuts for a crisp result.
Most commonly used in Asian cuisine, glutinous (or sticky) rice flour (Mochiko) is usually sourced through Asian supermarkets and delis. There are a couple of certified gluten free brands available, but they are definitely more expensive. And to be honest, I’ve been using basic Asian supermarket Mochiko for years with no problems.
If you can’t source Mochiko, tapioca starch would be a good alternative.
Those familiar with gluten free flours will also know that they can be serious moisture suckers. And to be honest, based on my own working of the recipe from the Leibovitz site, I expect that the original recipe would have been exceptionally crumbly.
To counter a result that would disintegrate, my Baci Di Dama Cookies recipe adds a little extra butter, as the dough was otherwise reluctant to come together.
Other than the above, the recipe for Baci Di Dama cookies shared here is as true to the original as possible. Unless the extra dark chocolate counts? Just a little extra! But chocolate’s important right? Especially when being used to sandwich the most delectable Italian Hazelnut Cookies…
Can I make Italian Hazelnut Biscuits Dairy Free and Vegan?
Yes. As there are no eggs in Baci Di Dama Cookies, they can be made both dairy free and vegan. Simply substitute the butter for a good dairy free block butter alternative such as Stork or Flora baking block. And make sure the dark chocolate used for sandwiching is dietary-safe.
Are Baci Di Dama Biscuits easy to make?
I think so! All that’s needed is some basic cookie-baking skills and a bit of time to allow the dough to chill before rolling into balls. (Don’t cut corners on that bit.)
Although… I did become a tad obsessive over making my Baci Di Dama perfectly uniform. And that required a little extra patience to roll even-sized balls. So… Confession time. I actually weighed each dough ball. OCD yes. But absolutely worth it for perfectly matched, evenly-baked kisses.
Ultimately how big you make them is up to you…
Ready to make gluten free Baci Di Dama Cookies?
And here it is… My adapted recipe for Baci Di Dama Cookies. Delicious melty hazelnut kisses sandwiched with rich dark chocolate for a homemade Italian treat. Hopefully the recipe instructions are clear and you love them as much as us.
And thank you for being part of the Gluten Free Alchemist community and for visiting the website.
Other Iconic Gluten Free biscuits you might like
Baci Di Dama Cookies (Italian Hazelnut Cookies)
- sharp knife
- glass/heatproof bowl
- microwave or hob and saucepan
- 140 g roasted hazelnuts de-skinned and ground (in a grinder/blender)
- 80 g glutinous rice flour Also known as 'Mochiko' or sticky rice flour. DO NOT substitute with ordinary rice flour. If unable to obtain Mochiko, use tapioca starch as a substitute.
- 60 g fine white rice flour
- 120 g unsalted butter or good dairy free alternative softened
- 100 g caster sugar
- pinch fine sea salt
- 80 g dark chocolate good quality (dairy free as required)
- Mix the ground hazelnuts and flours together in a large bowl.
- Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour with the sugar and salt.
- Use hands or a firm spoon to mix the ingredients together and knead until you have a smooth dough.
- Divide the dough into small pieces (I weighed mine at about 8g each) and bring together into rough ball shapes. The dough will be too soft to get perfect balls at this stage, but you want about 30 equal-sized, compact ‘lumps’.
- Place the lumps of dough on a lined baking tray and either chill in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours or in the freezer for about 15 minutes to harden.
- Pre-heat the oven to 170 C/325 F/Gas 3.
- When fully chilled, take each lump of dough and gently roll into an even ball in your hands.
- Place on a lined baking sheet with a small space between each. If the dough becomes too soft to roll, place back in the fridge/freezer to re-harden.
- Re-chill the dough-balls for about 30 minutes before baking.
- Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, swapping the baking trays round part way through to ensure an even bake. They are done when the tops are just golden brown (be careful not to over-bake).
- Remove from the oven and cool completely on the baking trays.
- When completely cold, melt the chocolate until smooth either in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water or in the microwave (medium setting – 30 second bursts – stirring between each).
- Carefully spoon a small, even blob of chocolate onto the centre of the flat side of one biscuit and sandwich together with a second biscuit.
- Continue this process until all the biscuits are sandwiched.
- Stand each biscuit sandwich upright on a wire rack to allow the chocolate to set.
© 2019-2022 Kate Dowse All Rights Reserved – Do not copy or re-publish this recipe or any part of this recipe on any other blog, on social media or in a publication without the express permission of Gluten Free Alchemist