Italian baci di dama cookies are the perfect small bite to add to your holiday cookie tray. Baci di dama translates to lady’s kisses in English and they are truly a delightful kiss of buttery hazelnut shortbread and heavenly dark chocolate.
The recipe is quite simple and only has 6 ingredients (excluding salt). The first step is to toast raw hazelnuts. Here’s a trick to remove their skins: once they are toasted in the oven, rub them together in a kitchen towel and the skins will flake off.
The dough is made completely in a food processor. So simple! Start by pulsing the toasted hazelnuts with sugar until they break down into a sandy texture. Then add the rest of the ingredients and process them together to form the dough. There are no eggs in the dough and it can easily be made vegan just by using plant-based butter.
The dough needs to chill in the refrigerator or freezer to help keep a domed shape when baked. This means that the dough can be made well ahead of time and once the dough shaped into tiny balls it can be frozen for up to 6 months.
Pick a nice quality dark chocolate, one that you would eat by itself, for these. I used 70% dark chocolate. The melted chocolate needs to start setting up before you sandwich it between the cookies otherwise it will be too runny and get messy. Once the chocolate starts to set it will set pretty quickly so you need to work quickly filling the cookies. If the chocolate does get too hard to use then you can just remelt it but remember it will have to start to set again. It takes about 10-15 minutes for the melted chocolate to just start to set and then you have about 5 minutes to fill all of the cookies before it gets too hard to work with.
Baci di dama originated in the Piedmont region of Italy, specifically from pastry shops in the city of Tortona, and are often made and sold as holiday cookies. The Piedmont region is known for growing exceptional hazelnuts and for creating gianduja or chocolate hazelnut spread. In fact, some recipes for these cookies use gianduja as the filling. Feel free to use that if you wish.
The mix of buttery hazelnut cookies and rich dark chocolate encompasses my favorite flavors of holiday baking. These baci di dama cookies are sure to be a huge hit in your cookie assortments this year and will be one of the first to be eaten off the cookie tray, I’m sure.