Allow me to express my love by showering you with Lady Kisses.
These sexy and small Italian wonders are called Baci di Dama, which translates to “Lady Kisses.” Apparently you can find the cookies all over Italy. I have no recollection of eating them while I was studying abroad in Florence during my junior year of college. Then again, I don’t recall much of anything from my time abroad. It was a blur of train travel, pasta, cigarettes and cheap wine. Completely void of Lady Kisses…and mostly void of logic.
Ohh, to go back in time and have 4 months to explore Europe as my more experienced, thoughtful and appreciative self. If only! There are so many things I would do (and perhaps un-do). Top of my lists…
- Visit the Boboli Gardens in Florence. (I never went. I may have lied and told people that I went because I seriously had zero excuse. I mean, I lived in Florence. It was almost more difficult not to go.)
- Eat Baci di Dama. At least 3 a day. Pair with Italian espresso or digestif. No less than 3. Every, single day.
- Blowing my budget on that custom made, knee length leather jacket in mustard yellow.
- Getting my bag stolen at a bar in Amsterdam, thereby permanently losing my camera with skydiving photos. And temporarily losing my sanity.
I could go on, but I’m stopping now.
It’s not likely that I’ll get another 4 months to explore Europe in the near future. Fortunately, I don’t have to go back to Italy to eat Baci di Dama. David Lebovitz so kindly posted the recipe on his blog a few months ago. I am so happy I took the time to bake them. They are divine. Crisp and buttery hazelnut domes sandwiched with a smidgen of dark chocolate. I’ve never considered myself a big hazelnut fan but I love these Ladies. Bonus points because they’re composed of hazelnuts and rice flour, making them gluten-free naturally.
I wanted to bake something sweet to take to a little wine and cheese party last week. My friends Liz and Laura are wizards of gourmet apps. Liz provided a stellar selection of artisanal cheeses and a fresh baguette, then Laura rounded out the haute hors d’oeuvres with stuffed olives, salami, artichokes, roasted veggies and hummus. Laura, I must mention, is one of Happelsauce’s biggest fans. She reads, she cooks, she believes!
The Ladies loved her, of course. She’s a very lovable gal. And she loved them right back.
I will tell you, these Ladies are not low-maintenance. The cookies require work. The hazelnuts need to be toasted, peeled and pulverized. The dough needs to be rolled, chilled, cut, and rolled again. The chocolate needs to be melted. But! Please don’t let a little kitchen labor stop you. Remember, you will be rewarded with dozens upon dozens of Lady Kisses. So worth it.
Baci di Dama
Makes about 45 cookies
Recipe from David Lebovitz
Toast the hazelnuts in a 325 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re a deep golden brown color and the skins are peeling away. Remove from the oven and as soon as they’re cool enough to handle (after a couple of minutes), rub the hazelnuts in a tea towel (or if they’re not too hot, with your hands), until as much of the loose skins come off as possible. (I couldn’t get all of the skins off, but found that when I used my fingers to peel instead of the towel, I had better luck.) Let them cool completely.
1 1/4 cups hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
1 cup rice flour (you can use all-purpose flour)
3 1/2 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
1. Put the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them until very fine; they should be the consistency of coarse polenta. (Be sure not to over process. No nut butter!)
2. Transfer the ground nuts to a bowl and add the rice flour (if using all-purpose flour, sift it in). Cut the butter into pieces then add the butter, sugar, and salt to the dry ingredients. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together until the butter is dispersed and completely incorporated. The dough should be very smooth and hold together. If not, knead it until it does.
NOTE: I couldn’t get the dough to hold together, so I added a small drizzle of water to bring it into shape. If this happens to you, just know that you only need the smallest amount of water to coax the dough into a ball.
3. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll each piece into a log 3/4-inch round. Try to get them as smooth as possible, with no cracks. If the dough is too long to work with as you roll them out, you can cut the dough at the midway point and work with it in batches. Chill the dough logs until firm on a small baking sheet or dinner plate lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper. I put them in the freezer for 15 minutes and that did the trick. Alternately, if you’ve got time, you can refrigerate them for 2-3 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
5. Working with one length of dough at a time, keeping the others in the refrigerator or freezer, cut off equal-sized pieces using a knife. The fastest way to do it is to cut one to the right size – about 2/3-inch long, then hold that one alongside the logs and use it as a template to cut the others. Once you’ve cut a length of dough, roll the pieces into little balls (they should be about the size of a marble) and place them on the baking sheet, slightly spaced apart.
6. Continue cutting the dough and rolling it into little balls. Bake the cookies for 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets in the oven midway, until the tops are lightly golden brown. Let the cookies cool completely.
7. In a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate until smooth. Put a chocolate chip-sized dollop of chocolate on the bottom of one cookie and take another cookie, and sandwich the two halves together. (I used a spoon, but David recommends making a little parchment paper cone and piping the chocolate. Either way, I found this part fun and slightly meditative.) Another excellent David tip: Assembly goes faster when you line the cookies up, side-by-side, bottom side up, and pipe/spoon chocolate on one side of a number of them at a time, then sandwich them together, then doing another batch until they’re all filled.) Once filled, set the Baci di Dama sideways on a wire cooling rack until the chocolate is firm.
Storage: The Ladies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.