Baci di Dama (Chocolate-Filled Hazelnut Cookies)

March 25, 2014

Every Tuesday, Italian expat Emiko Davies is taking us on a grand tour of Italy, showing us how to make classic, fiercely regional dishes at home. 

Today: Delicate hazelnut cookies from Piedmont, sandwiched together with a "kiss" of dark chocolate.

With a name like “ladies' kisses,” these elegant little hazelnut cookies from Piedmont in Italy's north are just what you'd expect -- sweet, soft, and delicate. Two halves of cookie are sandwiched together in a “kiss” of melted bittersweet chocolate to create the perfect, bite-sized morsel. They make quite the ladylike accompaniment to a cup of tea or coffee, too.

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There is really only one way to make baci di dama. It is a recipe of perfect proportions (just look at the measurements in metric weight) and the bare essentials that every Piemontese signora probably knows or has had passed down to her. But despite it being a simple recipe -- what Italians call “casalinga” (literally, “housewife”) -- these delightful biscotti require a certain amount of technique and skill in order to retain their delicate shape and texture.

There are plenty of tricks to getting this right: Work quickly; use very cold butter; and cook them in a very cool oven. If you follow this traditional method, not only will they hold their shape, but they will remain so wonderfully soft that they literally melt as soon as they hit your tongue. If you're familiar with working with short crust pastry, this won't be new -- you want that perfect dome to each cookie half, so delicate that they fall apart in your mouth. 

While the method is always the same, you'll find these most commonly made with almond meal like they do in Tortona. But depending on the area of Piedmont you're in, the recipe may be made with a mixture of almond and hazelnut meal or just ground hazelnuts, like they do in the area of Cuneo (this is, after all, where Nutella was born). 

Many modern recipes include eggs or milk or other unorthodox ingredients that help stabilize the cookies during cooking so that you don't need to be so careful. But you can tell the difference -- they're not as light or delicate.

Try these with a filling of homemade gianduia (hazelnut and chocolate) too -- whip a handful of hazelnuts into a creamy paste in a food processor, then add a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar and dark chocolate. 

Baci di Dama (Hazelnut and Chocolate Cookies)

Makes about 20 to 25 cookies

3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) hazelnuts, shelled
3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) very cold butter, cubed
3 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup or 100 grams) sugar
3 1/2 ounces (3/4 cup or 100 grams) flour
3 1/2 ounces (100 grams) good quality dark chocolate

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Emiko Davies

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Panfusine
  • LLStone
  • Julie Myers
    Julie Myers
  • yoursjulie
  • Emiko
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.


Panfusine March 25, 2014
These are divine.I'd made these after I saw the recipe on David Lebovitz's blog. Time for a second round.
Emiko March 26, 2014
Someone just pointed me to the recipe on his blog, but this one here is the most traditional version you can get! ;)
Renee B. March 30, 2014
I made David Lebovitz's for a cookie exchange in 2012. They were tasty, dry and not very sweet. I decided not to make them again gut did love the unusual size and shape. Your recipe uses more butter, sugar & chocolate. Yum! I may try yours. And, Trader Joe's sells pre-roasted hazel nuts that will shave time. Thanks for posting this.
LLStone March 25, 2014
These look very good! Last Christmas I had an Italian Christmas cookie called Buccellati. I hinted to the guest that I would love the recipe, but she said that it was a family recipe of her husband and he didn't share it. I'd love to see that recipe in an upcoming column!
Emiko March 26, 2014
Haha, typical! Well, I'd love to dig around and find a very traditional recipe for buccellati, they are wonderful. I'll put it in the schedule for the column! :)
Julie M. March 25, 2014
Will need to make these soon! I could eat my weight in gianduia.
Emiko March 26, 2014
I have to admit, I prefer the gianduia in these than simply chocolate. And now that I've found a way to make it at home, it's rather dangerous. :)
yoursjulie March 25, 2014
Love these! They may be called ladies' kisses, but there's nothing lady-like about the way I inhale them whenever they're around.
Emiko March 26, 2014