I find few things as luxurious and festive as hazelnuts. Pricey, compared to other nuts, hazelnuts simply beg to be a Christmas splurge. So here they enter in for Day 9 of our Twelve Days of Cookies.
Baci di Dama translates to “lady’s kisses.” I haven’t looked too far into the history behind the name, but it seems fitting as these are delicate — crumbling and melting away in your mouth — but leave a lingering, satisfying taste of hazelnut and chocolate — a perfect marriage.
Baci di dama (Italian hazelnut cookies)
1 1/4 cup hazelnuts (140 grams)
1 cup all-purpose or rice flour (140 grams)
3 1/2 oz room-temperature butter (100 grams)
1/2 cup sugar (100 grams)
Pinch of salt
2 oz dark chocolate
Preheat oven to 325.
If your hazelnuts are not skinned and toasted (I scored big time at Costco this year — a 26oz bag with all the work done for me!), then place them onto a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 min, or until a deep golden color and the skins are beginning to peel away. Remove from oven and let cool. As soon as cool enough to handle, gently rub the hazelnuts between your hands or in a tea towel to remove as much of the skin as possible. You won’t be able to remove it all. Do your best. (The Costco bag, however, was amazingly sans skins. The downside: these cookies weren’t as adorably speckled as they are when you skin the hazelnuts yourself.)
Put hazelnuts in food processor and pulse until finely ground, like the consistency of cornmeal.
Transfer to a medium bowl and add flour. Cut butter into pieces and add, along with the sugar and salt. Use your hands to combine everything together until fully incorporated and the dough is smooth. If necessary, knead a few times. Keep working it until it holds together.
Divide into 4 pieces and roll into 3/4inch thick logs. Get them as smooth as possible, with no cracks. Place on parchment lined surface and place in fridge for 2-3 hours (Any longer, and you should wrap the logs tightly with plastic wrap. 15-20 minutes in the freezer also works.)
Once chilled, cut a marble sized piece from one log. You are aiming for about 5 grams in weight. (But, next time, I think I will go smaller — closer to 3-4.) When you get the weight right, save yourself a whole lot of time and use it as a template to cut similar sized pieces from the dough logs rather than weighing each piece. The pieces simply have to be very similar in size to each other — not exact.
Once done cutting, roll each piece into a tight ball. Evenly space and place on a baking sheet, then bake for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Let cool completely on pans. (Don’t try moving them when warm as they will crumble. They need to cool to firm up and retain their shape.)
Once fully cooled, melt chocolate in a double boiler or in 30 sec spurts in the microwave, mixing well every 30 seconds. Take a cookie and spoon a small dollop of chocolate onto its flat bottom side. Take another cookie, sandwich it to the first, then gently lay on a baking sheet or rack to set. Continue with remaining chocolate and cookies.
Let sit until chocolate has fully set, then transfer to an airtight container where they will keep at room temperature for up to a week. (These freeze fine too.) Enjoy!
From David Lebovitz’s recipe.