Sometimes I get fixated, especially when it comes to food. A few years ago I entered the lady’s kisses tunnel; I used to eat plenty of them when I was a student, working part-time in a seriously elegant restaurant in my city. The chef (who had studied in Lenôtre in Paris…), at coffee time, used to prepare, on beautiful silver cake stands, the so-called Friandises, minute pastries capable of overshadowing even the deer’s antlers of St. Hubertus. There were the “bruti ma buoni” (literally, “ugly but good”), the cantucci and, of course, the little Baci di dama or Piedmont Lady’s kisses. So much minute perfection.
I never managed to replicate exactly those very same kisses, and to this day I still hope that sooner or later I’ll be able to learn some of their secrets. However, in the meantime I practiced incessantly and I finally found peace in this recipe.
I almost forget: the technical hack that will avoid your cookies to wreck during the baking will not produce much effect unless you use excellent hazelnuts and a dream butter, to say it like Briatore.
for perfect Baci di dama or Piedmont Lady’s Kisses
1. Instead of the hazelnut flour you can use whole hazelnuts. Freeze them and then pulse blend them together with the sugar, to avoid overheating them and having them release their oil.
2. The secret to avoid the lady’s kisses to lose their shape and flatten while in the oven is to bake the cookies when they’re really cold, setting the oven at a moderate temperature. I bake them when they are almost frozen.
3. Prepare the dough when you have some time and then freeze the little balls in a large, low container, separating the layers with parchment paper. When you need them, remove from the freezer and bake.
Baking tray lined with parchment paper
Kithen machine with creaming beater or flat beater
2 casseroles (one smaller than the other for the bain marie)
Piping bag (optional)
For approximately 60 Baci di dama or Piedmont Lady’s kisses
For the cookies
200 g softened butter (remove from the fridge the night before)
200 g hazelnut flour or ground hazelnuts (I used the ones with the peel)
200 g all-purpose flour or type 00
150 g superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
For the filling
100 g dark chocolate
200 g unsweetened hazelnut paste
In a bowl mix together the hazelnut flour, the all-purpose flour and the salt, and set aside.
Place the softened butter in a bowl and mix it with the creaming beater or the flat beater until soft and creamy; add the vanilla extract.
Add the flours to the butter and continue to mix at moderate speed until you get big chunks of dough. Place them on parchment paper, press them with your hands and set aside in the fridge covered with cling film.
Leave to set for at least two hours. Remove the dough from the fridge and, using a teaspoon, prepare small dough portions of about 6 g each if you like small cookies, otherwise you can make them of about 9 g.
With your hands, compact the bits of dough and shape them into small balls. Leave to set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 170° C, place the balls onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Leave onto the parchment paper to cool.
Melt the dark chocolate in a bain marie, then gradually incorporate the hazelnut paste. When the filling has cooled down to room temperature and is quite thick, spread some of the cream onto a cookie using a teaspoon or a piping bag, then stick the cookie together with another one.