I don't know about you, but I have been in a very low key mode this year during this holiday season. There is still so much to catch up on after a satisfyingly busy season and a more than quiet Christmas period, that I find it easy to not go too over board on making holiday foods. However saying that, I do like to make a few specialties and try some new ideas and recipes or it just wouldn't feel like the holidays. So if you are looking for a special addition to your holiday cookie plater, look no further. Baci di Dama, which translates as Lady kisses, are an ancient traditional favorite biscotti in these parts. They are not necessarily a specially cookie made just for the holidays, as there isn't really that sort of tradition here, but are enjoyed year round. They cookies are delicately flavored with one of Piedmont's most prized nuts, the ever so enticing hazelnut, made in to small balls, baked to crumbly perfection and when cooled sandwiched together with melted dark chocolate. You can't really go wrong there in my humble opinion. I think you will find these little "kisses" will become a star in your holiday cookie repertoire. The sparse ingredients, in which hazelnut plays the staring role, belie their delicious nature. Whenever I go to Colorado, I find hazelnut or filberts as the cultivated version are called in the states, are one of the most elusive ingredients to find in the wild west. If you are blessed to have access to them, do try these, as they look lovely mixed in any cookie platter or as a star in their own right. I know every time I have opened the cookie tin when someone has stopped by for coffee or if my mother in law is over, the little sigh of recognition and anticipation is more than worth the effort.
This recipe which came from a friend of Fabrizio's, is in grams, which I find so much more accurate than the much faster scoop method of cups and spoons, but I have attempted to put it into ounces when I can and close enough cup or tablespoon format. It will probably need a little adjusting to your technique, but worth it.
Baci di Dama - Lady Kisses
Ingredients:180 g ((1 cup / 6.3 oz)) sugar (I will use 160 g or 3/4 cup next time as I felt these were too sweet)
150 g (1 1/4 cup /5.3 ox) all purpose or plain flour 80 g (5.5 Tb or 2.8oz) butter, room temperature 100 g (3.5 oz) hazelnuts or filberts, lightly toasted, just barely any color
100 g(3.5-4 oz) dark chocolate, melted
Lightly toast your whole or pieces of hazelnuts in a medium hot oven or on top of the stove in a pan, shaking frequently so toast evenly. Set aside till cool.
In a food processor ( I used my attachment for my immersion blender), add the sugar and the nuts and blend till evenly ground to a fine sandy texture.
Beat your room temperature butter by hand or with a mixer till smooth and light (yes, I did it by hand, with a flat whisk).
Mix the sugar and nut mixture into the butter and when thoroughly blended, add the flour.
Blend well to incorporate the flour, but don''t over handle.
Shape your dough into small nickel sized /1 inch balls and place on baking sheets. Give the a slight press downward to help them stay in place and not roll around when moving the tray, I set my trays in the cold for a little while to make sure the dough was firmed up before baking.
**The cookies in the photo were just a little too large, so next time this should yield a few more cookies. I got 25 sandwiched cookies this time but can see it increasing next time.
Bake the cookies in a 320*F / 160*C oven till just beginning to get color. Be careful not to over bake them. The recipe called for 15-20 minutes in a conventional oven. I have a convection oven and that was way too long, as it dried them out and made them hard. Certainly not inedible, but better when they crumble.
Once the cookies have cooled you can pipe or spread an abundant amount of melted chocolate on flattened cookie half and place another flatten half together with it. Once the chocolate has cooled, it will firm up and hold the cookies together. I know some people like to use Nutella or milk chocolate , but it doesn't always firm up as nicely as dark chocolate.
Enjoy them with a little cup of espresso and think of us in the Alps of Piemonte.