Baci di Dama are a classic Northern Italian biscuit, and one of my favourites. The classic combination of chocolate and hazelnuts is truly hard to beat and one of my favourite things of all time. Anyone familiar with this blog will be well aware of this, with so many posts devoted to this flavour combination. I am clearly not alone, judging by the popularity of all things Nutella and Baci chocolates. Certainly, hazelnut pralines are one of the most popular chocolates in my business too.
I originally shared this recipe in my baking column in what used to be the Epicure section of The Age newspaper (now known as Good Food).
The wonderful thing about these is just how little effort is required to create a stunning and delicious treat. They take very little time, and are so simple to make.
Use fresh hazelnuts and the best chocolate you can buy for these biscuits as it makes a real difference to the flavour. There are very few ingredients in this recipe so it is near impossible to mask the flavour of inferior ingredients.
You can use your favourite chocolate in this recipe. Traditionally, they are made using dark couverture but you can really use anything you like. I made these as a gift for my mother on the weekend. She is not a huge fan of chocolate at all but that all changes when you pair it with hazelnuts. As she is not overly fond of dark chocolate, I used one she loves – the Valrhona Azélia 35%. It is a beautiful milk couverture with a percentage of hazelnuts added. I added a few drops of sweet orange oil to complement the hazelnuts as well. So, you see, you can really let your imagination guide you.
I hope you enjoy this recipe!
Traditionally, baci di dama are sandwiched with dark chocolate. You can, of course, use milk or white chocolate or gianduja. For the ones in the post and photos, I used Valrhona Avelia, a 35% milk couverture with hazelnuts. I added a drop or two of sweet orange oil to complement the hazelnut and chocolate flavours. Just for something different.
These biscuits are quite soft and delicate when first removed from the oven. Handle carefully and leave on the trays to cool completely.
You can pipe or spread the chocolate on to the biscuits and it is not necessary to temper the chocolate in this case (although I do because old habits die hard!).
200 grams hazelnuts
200 grams caster sugar
200 grams plain flour
pinch sea salt
160 grams unsalted butter, chilled
1 vanilla bean
150 grams good quality dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 170C.
Line two large baking trays with baking paper.
Toast the hazelnuts in the oven for about 5-6 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and place on one half of a clean tea towel. Fold the tea towel over the nuts and rub the hazelnuts to remove the skins. Allow to cool.
Place the hazelnuts and half the sugar into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is like fine breadcrumbs.
Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds and add to the bowl (you can add the vanilla pod to a jar of sugar to create vanilla sugar for baking).
Add the remaining sugar, the flour, and sea salt, and pulse once or twice just to combine.
Cut the butter into six pieces and add to the mixture along with the vanilla extract.
Process until the mixture just comes together. With clean hands, form the dough into balls the size of a large cherry and place on the baking trays, leaving a little room between them for spreading.
Lower the oven temperature to 160C and put biscuits in oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
Melt the chocolate gently over a bowl of hot (not boiling) water or at 50 per cent power in a microwave for 1 minute. Stir gently until the chocolate is melted, remove from heat, and cool slightly.
Sandwich the biscuits with a little chocolate and allow to set on baking paper at room temperature.
Store in an airtight tin, for up to one week, at room temperature.