We’re in the middle of moving abroad and I’ll let you imagine all the craziness we’re dealing with. Our living situation for the next year won’t be exactly ideal — let’s say we’re going to go back to the long-distance relationship again. Alas, my husband and I have a lot of experience in this. The silver lining is that I get to go back to Italy for a while! I’ll get to see my family, my adorable nephew, my silly dog and cat, and eat lots of great and fresh Italian food…not necessarily cooked by me!
“Si, ciao mamma. Can you please greet me with a huge plate of prosciutto when I get home? I need to catch up for the time I was gone! I’ll have it with some cantaloupe. And a glass of prosecco. Grazie. Ciao.” The truth is, I don’t even need to ask for this. I know it will be there, waiting for me as soon as I step in the kitchen!
I’m looking forward to sharing more recipes and photos of all the places I love and miss so much.
So, while checking off some items from my long pre-departure to-do checklist and getting frustrated at my computer for not keeping up with the speed of my thoughts, I decided to take a break and find relief in the kitchen…baking cookies. It was the exact kind of meticulous work I needed to do to calm down my restless mind.
Baci di Dama are bite-size cookies that melt in your mouth. They look like two lips holding together a chocolate kiss, hence their cute name “Lady’s Kisses”. Their short crust is quite delicate and usually made of almonds or hazelnuts. The hazelnut version is from the city of Cuneo (where Nutella comes from), whereas the almond version is from the town of Tortona — both places are located in the Piedmont region, Northwest Italy.
The original recipe calls for the “tant-pour-tant” ingredient ratio, which means you need to use the same exact amount of each ingredient (butter, flour, sugar, hazelnut or almond). I used a recipe (from a lovely Italian food blog) that is slightly off that ratio but worked perfectly.
I have to be honest…Baci di Dama aren’t super easy to make…but stay with me! In order to achieve the delicate texture and cute dome shape they’re so famous for, you just have to follow a few basic rules:
– Ground the hazelnuts (or almonds) very finely
– Refrigerate the little dough balls for at least 30 minutes
– Bake at a low temperature (285°F/140°C or less, if you have a convection oven)
– Do not over-bake the cookies or they’ll lose their soft and delicate texture
– Do not touch them before they’ve completely cooled off!
- 100 g (3.5 oz) hazelnuts, chopped
- 90 g (3.2 oz) sugar
- 110 g (3.8 oz) all-purpose flour
- 20 g (0.7 oz) corn starch
- a small pinch of salt
- 100 g (3.5 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 70 g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- Toast the hazelnuts in the oven at 360°F/180°C until lightly colored. Remove from the oven and rub them gently with a dish towel to remove their skin. Let them cool off completely.
- Using a food processor, grind the toasted hazelnuts with the sugar until you obtain a sand-like consistency.
- Pour your ground mixture into a bowl and add the flour, corn starch, and salt to it. Add the softened butter and work quickly with your fingertips to form the dough. Once the dough is smooth and uniform, refrigerate it for 30 minutes.
- Line 2 small baking trays (they'll need to fit in the fridge!) with parchment paper. Roll the dough into ¾ inch (2 cm) logs and cut them into small pieces that weigh about 5 or 6 grams each (about the size of a nickel). Roll all pieces into small balls and placed them on the baking tray. Ensure they are spaced well as they will get a little bigger while baking.
- Refrigerate again for 30 minutes (this will ensure the cookies will keep their dome shape).
- Turn oven to 285°F/140°C. Bake one tray at the time for about 18-20 minutes. The cookie should be lightly colored on the bottom. Remove from the oven and place the baking tray on a cooling rack. DO NOT TOUCH cookies until they have cooled off otherwise they'll break. Once they've reached room temperature, taste-test one to ensure it's cooked through. If not, return to the oven for one or two more minutes.
- Melt the chocolate on a double boiler. Once it's almost entirely melted, remove from the heat and let it rest for 5 min. Mix with a spatula to ensure it's all melted and let it cool off a bit until it becomes thicker and forms ribbons. Pair each cookie with another one of the same shape/size. With a teaspoon, drop a bit of chocolate on one half. The chocolate should be cool enough to not fall from one cookie, if you turn it 90 degrees (look at the photos above). Assemble Baci di Dama by placing the other half cookie on top. Twist the top part to make the chocolate spread evenly. Your Baci di Dama are ready!