Why This Recipe Works
Hailing from Italy's Piedmont region, baci di dama have a darling name (they translate to “lady's kisses”) and an even more darling appearance. The sandwiches consist of two diminutive hazelnut cookies surrounding a rich chocolate filling. Baci di dama are a textural marvel, at once crisp and meltingly tender. The hazelnut cookies get their texture from rice flour, which gives baked goods crispness—and since it doesn't contain the protein gluten like wheat flour does, doughs made with it don't run the risk of becoming tough if overworked. But we don't usually have rice flour on hand, so to replicate the crisp texture with staples, we used a combination of all-purpose flour and cornstarch. We also found that cutting cold butter into the dry ingredients rather than creaming the butter and sugar resulted in a crispier cookie (and a dough that was easier to handle). We used chocolate chips for the filling rather than bar chocolate; chocolate chips contain emulsifiers so once they're melted, they have a thicker consistency—making them an ideal filling for holding the tiny, bulbous cookies together.
Makes 40 sandwich cookies
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
½ cup (2½ ounces) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (1¾ ounces) sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (3 ounces) bittersweet chocolate chips
1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Process hazelnuts, flour, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor until finely ground, about 30 seconds. Add butter and vanilla and process until dough comes together, about 30 seconds.
3. Transfer dough to counter and divide into 4 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, press and roll into 10-inch-long by 1-inch-wide rope. Using bench scraper or sharp knife, cut rope into 20 lengths, then roll lengths into balls with your hands and space them 1 inch apart on prepared sheets. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake until edges are lightly browned, 16 to 18 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool completely on sheets.
4. Microwave chocolate chips in small bowl at 50 percent power, stirring occasionally, until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Spread ¼ teaspoon chocolate over bottom of half of cookies, then top with remaining cookies, pressing lightly to adhere. Let chocolate set, about 15 minutes, before serving.