Friday, October 18, 2013

Brown Butter Baci di Dama

Although no one can argue with the wonders of chocolate chip, oatmeal or peanut butter cookies, I’m always looking for new inspiration for the cookie jar.  I’m starting to gather some ideas for the upcoming holiday season and that always includes scads of cookies.

In addition to quintessential American cookies, I love exploring lots of other wonderful global cookie traditions.  Baci di Dama is Italian for “lady kisses.”  They are typically two small hazelnut cookies sandwiched with a kiss of chocolate.  They come from the region of Piemonte where hazelnuts are gloriously plentiful.  Originating in the late 19th century, Baci di Dama have been added to the official registry of Prodotti Agroalimentari Tradizionali, a list of traditional regional food products.  Yes, they are that good!

I use a mix of hazelnuts and almonds in my recipe. I also brown the butter to enhance the essential nuttiness.  And since Italian cookies are traditionally not very sweet, I keep the sugar on the light side in order to emphasize all the other fabulous flavors.  There’s also a nice pinch of salt to awaken your taste buds.

These two-bite morsels deliver a great explosion of rich nut flavor and pure chocolate bliss.  They are crisp on the outside with a great chewy texture on the inside.  This is definitely my kind of cookie.  Delizioso!

Bench notes:
- For a good illustration of how to brown butter, see the guidance at Simply Recipes. Use a stainless steel pan so you can watch the butter carefully as it can take just a moment to burn. Once you begin to detect a nutty aroma, it’s just about ready. I lift the pan off the heat and swirl for more control if I think it’s browning too fast or nearly done. It will continue to brown once you take it off the heat. Pour immediately into a heatproof bowl to stop the cooking.
- Toast the hazelnuts in single layer in a 350ºF oven for about 10 - 15 minutes, until they’re a golden brown color and the skins are cracked.  Let them cool for a couple of minutes and then remove as much of the loose skins as possible.  Cool completely.
- Toast the almond slices in a single layer in a 350ºF oven for about 6 – 8 minutes.  Watch them closely as they will burn very quickly.  I use sliced almonds rather than whole ones because they grind with the flour to a finer crumb.
- I like a slightly salty cookie so I use a heaping 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
- A truffle scoop is the perfect tool to portion these cookies.  Press down and pack the scoop with dough to prevent cracks. 
- The water in a bain marie for melting chocolate should be barely simmering.  When chocolate gets too hot, it will seize and become grainy.
- Store finished cookies in an airtight container.

Brown Butter Baci di Dama
Makes about 22 sandwich cookies

4 oz (8 tablespoons) butter
1 cup (5 oz) flour
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) sugar                                                                        
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz) hazelnuts, toasted        
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz) sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons (1 oz) water

2 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate

Cut the butter into small pieces and melt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Swirl the butter carefully as the foam subsides and the butter begins to brown.  The flecks on the bottom of pan will turn golden. The browning only takes about 3 – 4 minutes or so. Lift the pan off the heat periodically to check on the browning and to avoid burning. Pour immediately into a heatproof dish to stop the cooking.  Set aside to cool.

Place the flour, sugar, toasted hazelnuts and almonds and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until the nuts are finely ground. Add the cool browned butter, vanilla and water and pulse just until the mixture comes together into a crumbly dough. Pour into a bowl and compress the dough, if necessary. 

Portion the dough into 1” balls, packing tightly to eliminate cracks.  A truffle scoop works perfectly for this task.  Place on a baking sheet, wrap and chill until firm or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325ºF.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. 

Bake the cookies until light golden brown, about 14 minutes.  Rotate the baking sheets halfway during the baking process to ensure even browning.  Place the baking sheets on a wire rack to cool completely.

Finely chop the chocolate and place in a dry heatproof bowl set over a pan with an inch or two of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Stir the chocolate until smooth.  Remove from the heat.

Put a very small dollop of chocolate on the bottom of half the cookies.  Sandwich with the remaining halves.  Place them on their sides on the baking sheet until the chocolate has firmed up.


Kate said...

I love the shape and size of these cookies. They look like truffles (kinda mini-sliderish, too) and a two bite cookie leaves just enough logic, in my head, to have as many as I want!
I mean, it's not a ginormous, frisbee sized cookie so I can have several... not just two, thank you. ;)
It's a good reasoning because the nuts, nutty browned butter and salt are calling to me.
The schmear of chocolate will gild the lily for me on these beauties.
Great recipe. Thanks!

pastry studio said...

Kate, you know you're absolutely right about the size of the cookies. They're so small, it's impossible to keep count! Highly recommended for nibblers!

Victoria said...

These look absolutely wonderful! Imagine nibbling on one of these while drinking a thimble of Frangelico.

pastry studio said...

Oh, dear, I think I can absolutely imagine that! And I think these might go with a whole range of different delicious beverages.

Cheers, Victoria!

davef said...

These are very good. I didn't have a truffle scoop so I used a coffee scoop (considerably larger) and dipped single cookies in ganache and then toasted almonds.

pastry studio said...

Hi, davef. That sounds like a great and very delicious way to customize these cookies. Thanks very much for sharing your idea!