I don't have any particular back story to these little Italian cookies; I've never had them before, never made them for some special occasion or sampled them at a special cafe. They just happened to come my way on David Lebovitz's blog one day, and made me really want to try one. It goes unsaid sometimes, because we're so busy personalizing our recipes, but one of the best parts of food blogging is, of course, inspiring others to experiment new food and recipes. So thank you, David Lebovitz, for the recipe.
Baci di Dama translate to "lady's kisses" in Italian, and are simple cookies requiring just a few ingredients that turn into a buttery and delicious sandwich cookie. I had originally meant to post them in time to include them in my top romantic desserts round-up, but of course miscounted the number of weeks to Valentine's Day and didn't plan ahead.
It's a low-tech recipe, requiring just a bowl and your hands (and a food processor, if your nuts aren't pre-ground). The most time-consuming part of this recipe is rolling the little balls of dough, but it's kind of soothing work, and fun to watch them spread and puff up a bit in the oven.
So give them a try, make them for someone special, or just make a big plateful for yourself. Either sounds wonderful.
1 ¼ cup almonds, blanched and ground (or hazelnuts with the skins removed)
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cornstarch
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cubed and very cold
½ teaspoon almond extract (optional)
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
In a food processor, grind the almonds or hazelnuts until very fine.
In a large bowl, mix together the ground almonds, flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt.
Add the butter and with your hands, rub the butter into the flour until it together in a dough, then work in the almond extract. At first it might seem too crumbly, but as you work in the butter, the oil from the almonds will help form the dough.
Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ¾-inch thick log. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Don’t skip this step; chilling the dough makes it firm enough to roll, and allows the gluten in the dough relax in order to make a soft and flaky cookie.
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Unwrap one of the logs and cut it into centimeter-thick disks. Roll the disks into spheres, and place onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Repeat with the other 3 logs.
Bake the cookies for 10 -12 minutes, or until they are just barely golden around the edges. Let cool completely.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave on medium power. Turn half of the cookies upside down, and spoon a small drop of chocolate on them. Top with the remaining cookies.