Cookies,  Desserts

Tiny Hazelnut-Chocolate Sandwich Cookies (Baci di Dama)

In our last post, we wallowed in the chocolately pleasure of Whoopie Pies, perhaps the world’s largest sandwich cookies. Now we indulge in the delicate chocolate-filled confection called baci di dama, probably the world’s teeniest-tiniest sandwich cookies. Diminutive bites of melt-away hazelnut shortbread and bittersweet chocolate, baci di dama embody the classic Italian love affair of nocciola with its soul mate, cioccolato (yeah, hazelnuts and chocolate, but it sounds so much sexier in Italian).

Baci di dama, also known as Italian Hazelnut Cookies, date back to the early 1800s in the Piedmont region of Italy, when chefs devised creative ways to promote the bounty of locally-gown hazelnuts. The name means “lady’s kisses,” maybe because the cookies resemble plump kissy-lips. While ours didn’t achieve quite the rounded dome of traditional baci di dama, our slightly flatter renditions look plenty adorable and taste divine.

Much of their cuteness comes from their button-like uniformity. But how can you make all those itty-bitty blobs of dough the same size? Steve Dunn in Cook’s Illustrated (“The World’s Cutest Cookie,” November/December 2019) revealed this clever, easy technique, along with the basis for our recipe. No need to weigh the dough or roll it into ropes. Just press the dough into a parchment-paper-lined 8-inch square pan and freeze it for a few minutes. Cut the firm dough into an 8×8 grid yielding 64 one-inch-square pieces. Roll into balls, bake, and you’ll have perfect little halves ready to spread with dabs of deep chocolate.

Wouldn’t you know that somebody has come up with chocolate baci di dama with white filling? They’d make perfect dollhouse Whoopie Pies. But we’ll stick with the traditional version, that kiss of hazelnuts and chocolate. (See also Hazelnut Biscotti Dipped in Chocolate for more on this match made in heaven.)

Tiny Hazelnut-Chocolate Sandwich Cookies

Baci di Dama

Makes 32 miniature sandwich cookies

  • ¾ cup toasted hazelnuts, partially skinned, available from Trader Joe’s*
  • ⅔ cup all purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons salted butter
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, sticking it to the sheets with a dab of vegetable oil. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper (no oil needed).
  2.  In a food processor, grind roasted hazelnuts with the flour and sugar until the nuts get very fine, about 20-25 seconds. (Make sure to grind hazelnuts finely or the dough may get too crumbly and not hold together.) Add butter and pulse until the mixture just comes together into a dough.
  3. Turn dough out onto a counter and knead briefly to make it smooth. Pat it onto the parchment paper in the 8-inch pan, pressing it into an even layer. If you have a slightly smaller pan, place that over the dough and press down to help make it level. Freeze 10 minutes. Release the firm dough on the parchment paper from the pan and turn it out onto the counter. Discard paper. Measure 8 rows by 8 rows and cut the dough into 64 1-inch squares.
  4. Roll each piece into a ball and place 32 balls onto each cookie sheet.
  5. Bake one sheet at a time on the center rack. Cookies are done when they look dry and smell done, about 20 minutes. Rotate sheet on rack after about 10 minutes.
  6. Cool cookies completely on a wire rack, about 30 minutes.
  7. Put chocolate chips in a bowl and microwave until most chips have melted. Remove bowl from oven and stir until chocolate is completely smooth. Let cool until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
  8. Invert half of the cookies on each sheet. Using a demitasse spoon or other small implement, apply dollops of chocolate onto inverted halves. Top with the other halves, and press to make sandwiches. Let set for at least 15 minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days, or freeze.

*To prepare your own hazelnuts, toast them on a rimmed baking sheet at 325° until fragrant, about 10-15 minutes. Shake the pan halfway through toasting. To remove some of the skins, place the warm hazelnuts in a dish towel and rub gently.

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