When I decided, some time ago, to write a recipe for these Italian baci di dama, or “lady’s kisses”, I didn’t imagine quite how unfashionable the suggestion of giving people kisses might become. But, of course, these are not real kisses: they are light, delicate and crumbly hazelnut biscuits sandwiching a buttery, chocolate ganache. And, right now, they are exactly what is needed: therapy to make and a sweet salve to share with those you live with.
Toasted hazelnut baci
The rolling and sandwiching of these biscuits takes some time (which isn’t a bad thing), so put on your favourite audiobook or podcast and get comfortable.
Prep 5 min
Cook 1 hr 30 min
150g hazelnuts, blanched
130g plain flour
¼ tsp salt
80g golden caster sugar
75ml sunflower oil
50g 70% dark chocolate (suitable for vegans)
1 tbsp hazelnut butter
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Spread out the hazelnuts on a baking tray and roast for 12-15 minutes, until deep golden (if you can only find ones with their skins on, keep them in the oven for a little longer, then rub off the skins with a tea towel while the nuts are still hot), then remove and leave to cool.
Once the nuts are cool, tip them into a food processor and line the same baking tray with greaseproof paper. Grind the nuts to very fine crumbs – a little texture is fine, but don’t let them get to the greasy stage – then tip into a large bowl with the flour, cornflour, salt, sugar and oil. With clean hands, mix everything to combine and bring it all together into a ball (with a little kneading, if need be).
Pull off small, marble-sized pieces of dough (about 8g each) and gently roll them into balls – they may be a bit crumbly, but should roll together with very little pressure. Put on the lined tray about 5cm apart – you may need a second tray, or to cook them in batches – then bake in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes, until firm to the touch. Remove and leave to cool on the trays.
Once cool, turn half the biscuits upside down. Break the chocolate into small bits and melt in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or melt it in short bursts in the microwave). Once the chocolate is evenly melted, stir, set aside for 10 minutes, then stir in the hazelnut butter. With a teaspoon, put button-sized blobs of the chocolate mix on the upside-down biscuits, then gently sit the other halves on top. (If your chocolate filling hardens while you’re doing this, gently re-melt it for a few seconds, and continue.) Eat straight away with a coffee, or store in an airtight container, where they’ll keep for a good few days, if given the chance.