These are divine. My daughter has declared them the best cookies she’s tasted….. Although I wouldn’t go quite that far, they are pretty damn good.
Baci di Dama – which in Italian apparently means “Lady’s Kisses’ are little Italian hazelnut biscuits, sandwiched together with dark chocolate. They originate from the Piedmont region where the best Italian hazelnuts are grown, and have been traced back to a small town called Tortona, where they appeared in the latter half of the 19th century.
One legend suggests they were made a by a chef who was trying to impress King Vittorio Emanuelle, by shaping them to remind him of a kiss between two lovers. I have no idea what the truth is, but Mr chef…….. you can come and impress me any time…… these little bites of hazelnutty deliciousness are just amazing.
Traditionally made with wheat flour, there are a number of gluten-free copies on the internet, some of which seem closer to the traditional recipe than others. The recipe that I stumbled across when looking for something completely unconnected was one from David Lebovitz, which is definitely in the category of ‘keeps as close to the original as possible’.
The recipe however suggests using rice flour, which in its usual form tends to produce a rather gritty bake. To get away from this, I substituted a portion of the usual rice flour for glutinous rice flour, which I first used here, and is easily sourced through Asian supermarkets and delis. Glutinous rice flour (which contains no gluten) has a much finer, slightly sticky quality, which I thought would make the bake a little smoother. As a consequence though, I have had to slightly amend the recipe as it progressed through the making, to add a little more butter, as the dough was reluctant to come together. I think the flour sucked up more moisture than expected, but an extra 20g of butter did the trick perfectly.
The texture of these Baci di Dama is crisp yet soft…….. reminiscent of Viennese biscuits…… a good snap as you bite, which then melts in the mouth, revealing crunchy tiny pieces of roasted hazelnut and a wash of dark chocolate. Dangerously moreish unfortunately!
They are really easy to make too….. You just need a bit of time to allow the dough to chill before you roll it into balls (otherwise the result will be a crumbly mess) and enough patience to make absolutely sure your balls are even in size. I confess, I actually weighed each of mine as I prepared the dough-mounds…… That may sound a bit OCD, but really…… it is worth it if you want perfectly matched, evenly-baked kisses.
The David Leibovitz recipe is very detailed in method and definitely worth a look, but try as I might, I couldn’t get my dough to roll into an even sausage shape that could be cut, so gave up and just rolled one ball at a time. I also made mine 3 grams larger…….. I have a big mouth!
As the recipe was found completely randomly (and I had no intention of making biscuits this week at all), I am entering my Baci di Dama into Belleau Kitchen’s Random Recipe challenge. For October, the lovely Dom went all cyber-space on us and suggested we test our computer literacy skills with a random internet recipe search.
Sadly, I actually can remember a time when ‘social networking’ meant heading to the pub or gate-crashing a party and having a real live chat with real live people. But when it comes to cooking, I can honestly say that my world has been truly enriched by the wealth of experience and food creativity that I have found on the internet. Well done Dom…… great challenge!
Well I can’t keep these to myself can I?
Baci di Dama Cookies (slightly adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe) – makes approximately 30 cookies
- 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 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 chilled, take each lump of dough and gently roll into an even ball in your hands. Place on a freshly 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 before baking in the oven for about 15 minutes, swapping the baking trays in the oven part way through, to ensure an even bake. Remove 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).
- Spoon a small blob of chocolate onto the centre of the flat side of a biscuit and sandwich together with a second biscuit.
- Continue this process until all the biscuits are used.
- Stand each biscuit sandwich upright on a wire rack to allow the chocolate to set.