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.
Italian Baci di Dama Cookies
- Preheat oven to 350˚F/175˚C then toast hazelnuts on a baking sheet until they are fragrant and golden, about 5-8 minutes. Turn the oven off for now.
- Place hazelnuts into a kitchen towel and gather up ends then shake and rub the hazelnuts around in the towel to remove their skins.
- Place the hazelnuts into the bowl of a food processor and discard the skins.
- Add the sugar to the food processor and pulse until the nuts and sugar reach a sandy texture, about 30-60 seconds.
- Add the flour, cornstarch and salt and pulse to combine.
- Add the butter in small cubes and the vanilla extract then process everything together to form the cookie dough.
- Wrap the dough in parchment paper and chill for 30 minutes.
- Form the dough into roughly 60 small balls, about 1 level teaspoon of dough per ball.
- Freeze them on a baking tray for 30 minutes. Once they are frozen they can be transferred to a freezer bag and stored in the freezer until ready to bake if you are making the dough ahead of time.
- Arrange the dough balls spaced out to fit 30 per baking sheet.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, switching the trays halfway through, until the cookies are domed and golden.
- Let the cookies cool on the pans for a few minutes then transfer them to cooling racks and allow them to cool to room temperature before proceeding.
- Chop the chocolate into small pieces.
- In a heat-safe bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water or in a double-boiler, melt about ¾ of the chocolate then remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the remaining chocolate until it melts.
- Let the chocolate cool for about 10-15 minutes so it starts to set up. It is easier to sandwich the chocolate when it is just starting to set up, otherwise, it is too runny.
- Match up similarly sized pairs of cookies. Working quickly because the melted chocolate will set up fast, sandwich a small spoonful of melted chocolate between the pairs of cookies.
- Let the chocolate set completely then transfer the cookies to a lidded storage container. Enjoy within 1 week.