One of our favorite Italian cookies is undoubtedly the "Baci di dama." Literally translated as "lady's kisses," referring to their shape resembling puckered lips when giving a kiss.
Italians make them with either ground almonds or ground hazelnuts. The latter abundantly grows in Piemonte, the region in northern Italy where every sun-kissed patch of land yields grapes, and where there's shade: hazelnuts! It's no wonder that it's the birthplace of the world-famous Nutella.
But back to the kisses. In the Pigna pastry shop, near Il Sogno, you can buy delightful baci di dama. However, if you wish to enjoy them back home in the Netherlands, I hereby give you the recipe from Anna del Conte, from her fantastic book 'The Gastronomy of Italy,' which unfortunately has not been available for many years.
The choice of nut type depends on your preference, and mine is unmistakably hazelnut, but feel free to try them with almonds; the quantity remains the same. They are not challenging to make!
Baci di dama - 35-40 pieces
140 grams of high-quality hazelnuts, without skins
140 grams of fine granulated sugar
140 grams of butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
140 grams of flour, preferably Italian 00
butter for greasing the baking sheet
175 grams of dark chocolate (min. 70% cocoa)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts on an ungreased baking sheet and dry/roast them for about 5 minutes in the oven. Let them cool a bit, then transfer them to the food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and grind into a powder. Add butter, vanilla extract, and salt, and process again until the mixture is creamy. Transfer it to a bowl.
Sift the flour over the hazelnut mixture and knead it firmly with your hands. Divide the dough into cherry-sized pieces and roll them into small balls. Place them on a greased baking sheet, with about 2 cm spacing between them. Bake them in the oven for 15 minutes until cooked and golden brown. Let them cool on the baking sheet and then transfer them to a rack.
Melt the chocolate using a double boiler. Coat the flat side of the cookie with chocolate and press another cookie inverted onto it. Repeat with all the remaining cookies and enjoy!