Cookie recipe: Italian Hazelnut Kisses

This Piemontese specialty celebrates the Italian region's great hazelnut production.
Italian Hazelnut Kisses (Baci di Dama)
Italian Hazelnut Kisses (Baci di Dama)

20 small sandwich cookies

This Piemontese specialty celebrates the Italian region’s great hazelnut production. The cookie dough is egg-free, and the filling is a chocolate gianduja. Typically, it’d be fine to make the filling in advance. But because this filling sets up so quickly, it’s best to make it while the cookies are cooling.

MAKE AHEAD: The cookies can be baked up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. The sandwich cookies can be stored in the same fashion (after a quick chill) for about 3 days. If you make your own hazelnut paste, you might have some left over; it can be tightly wrapped and refrigerated for a few weeks.

Adapted from “Baklava to Tarte Tatin: A World Tour in 110 Dessert Recipes,” by Bernard Laurance (Flammarion, 2015).

Ingredients

For the cookies

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons (3 1/4 ounces) finely ground almonds (skinless; may substitute almond meal)

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons (3 ounces) ground skinned hazelnuts (see NOTES)

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

For the filling

31/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

7 ounces homemade or store-bought hazelnut paste (see NOTES)

Steps

For the cookies: Preheat the oven to 300 degrees (or preferably 285 degrees in a convection oven). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the butter, ground almonds and hazelnuts and the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or handheld electric mixer. Beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until creamy. Stop to scrape down the bowl.

Add the flour all at once; beat on low speed just until incorporated, being careful not to overwork the dough. Measure out 40 equal portions (preferably using a kitchen scale), rolling each one into a perfect ball. Arrange them on the baking sheets, spacing them 1/2 inch apart. Bake (middle rack) one sheet at a time for about 30 minutes or until the tops are slightly cracked but the cookies are not too browned. Let them cool on the sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the filling: Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; heat in the microwave on LOW in 20-second increments, stirring each time, until just melted. Add the hazelnut paste, mixing until well blended.

Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round tip. Pipe a small amount of filling on the flat sides of half of the cookies, then top with the remaining cookies (flat sides to filling). Refrigerate the filled cookies for about 20 minutes, so they set up, before serving or storing.

Notes: To skin hazelnuts, spread them on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the skins look cracked. While the nuts are still quite hot, transfer them to a dish towel; fold or close over the towel and rub vigorously to dislodge the skins. (This will make a mess.)

To make the hazelnut paste, combine 10 ounces of toasted, skinned hazelnuts, preferably while they are still warm, with 1 tablespoon canola oil and 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor; puree to form a paste that holds together. (You can substitute 1 large egg white for the oil.)

Nutrition | Per cookie: 250 calories, 4 g protein, 22 g carbohydrates, 18 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 0 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 14 g sugar

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