Gina DePalma’s Baci di Cioccolato

I have a soft spot for Italian cookies. They are not delicate, intricate confections like the French macarons or madeleines. Italian cookies are made of sturdy stuff, like biscotti that will break your teeth if you dare to eat them without first dunking in coffee to soften, but somehow, when faced with Italian cookies, my usual resolve – to daintily eat sweets but a few pieces at a time – melt away faster than the Arctic glaciers. I simply cannot resist them.

So when my friend Gina DePalma, the fabulous pastry chef of Babbo in Manhattan, sent me her Italian dessert book Dolce Italiano, the first chapter I poured through was for the cookies. I didn’t get very far, mind you. I stopped at the very first one, these adorable Chocolate Kisses, Baci di Cioccolato, made from ground almond and sandwiched in between a layer, a kiss, of chocolate ganache.

I remember the Baci cookies well. Each region in Italy seems to have a recipe to call their own. The one I’m most used to is from a little bakery in Sanremo, not far from the central market. The Baci di Sanremo were like somewhat less refined chocolate macarons. The texture was heftier, the almonds not as finely ground, but boy were they good. I could eat them, and have eaten them, by the bagful.

GIna’s Baci are different still, more like sablés or chocolate shortbread in texture, rather than airy, meringue-ish macarons, but true to form, they are just as irresistible. The recipe is so easy to follow, I’m already day-dreaming all kinds of fun adaptations – maybe I’ll start with one using hazelnuts instead of almonds, and then fill them with Nutella instead of ganache. Ooh, ok, now you’re going to have to finish this post by yourself. I’m running back to the kitchen to play. Ha. Just kidding.

Chocolate Kisses, Baci di Cioccolato

For the cookies
  • 1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, plus about 1/4 cup | 50g sugar for rolling the cookies
  • 1 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon | 190g All-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup | 35g Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I use Valrhona)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup | 225g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup | 125g powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon rum

Preheat the oven to 325F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until they are light golden brown and fragrant. I only had almonds with skin on so I used them, no big deal. I rubbed out some of the skin after they came out of the oven to get rid of some of the skin. Let the almonds cool down completely before grinding them in the food processor with the tablespoon of sugar until they are finely ground. Turn the oven off.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together, then set aside.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and light. Then, add the vanilla and rum, scrape down the side of the bowl and beat a bit more until well-combined. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed , then the ground almonds.

Beat well to distribute the flour and ground almond evenly throughout the dough. You might need to finish by stirring with a rubber spatula to make sure everything is incorporated. Scrape the dough into two bowls, cover with plastic and refrigerate for an hour, until it is firm enough to handle.

Turn the oven back on to 325F when you are ready to work with the dough. Remove one bowl of dough from the fridge, leaving the other one to chill while you work on the first batch. Put the 1/4 cup of sugar for rolling in a small bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner. Using a 1 teaspoon measuring spoon, scoop out a generous teaspoon at a time and roll each into a ball, roughly 3/4 inch in diameter. Roll each ball in sugar and line them up on a baking sheet. When you finish the first batch of dough, bake it on the middle rack in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. While the first batch is baking you can continue to work on the second batch of dough. Turn the baking sheet half way through the baking time to ensure even baking. In her book Gina says this recipe makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies, but she was a little more precise about how she measures each one. My simpler (ok, lazier) method yields almost 3 dozens, which is just fine with me if you want to know.

The cookies are done when they are puffed and cracking slightly on top. Remove them from the oven. Let stand to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then use a spatula to transfer them to a rack to cool completely. While the cookies are cooling down you could go work on the ganache.

For the ganache filling
  • 8oz | 225g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon | 15g butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons rum, grappa, cognac, or your favorite liquor (optional)

Place the chocolate and butter in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a small pot over low heat, then pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and butter. Let stand a couple minutes, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in the rum, if using. Allow the ganache to cool, whisking occasionally, until it is firm enough to pipe. Transfer the ganache into a pastry bag to pipe. (Note: if you don’t have a pastry bag, don’t sweat it, just spoon a small amount onto the cookies. It’ll be a bit messier but it’ll work just fine.)

To finish to Baci, pair up the cookies based on size, pick the prettier ones to be on top. Pipe a generous amount onto each of the bottom cookies, then place the top one on top, of course, and press down a little to spread out the chocolate just to the rim. I was a little bit conservative and ended up with leftover ganache – hot chocolate tomorrow, yay – so next time I might not couple up the cookies as I fill, in case I have leftover ganache to add to them.

My cookies turn out a little flatter than Gina’s picture in the book. That’s probably because I didn’t take my own advice and work the dough in two batches. Plus I baked both cookie sheets at once, so they turned out a bit flat. Still delicious though. I can assure you that.

So, now that I got my kisses, I’m on to the next Italian cookie obsession. These Amaretti Morbidissimi – or, These Amaretti Will Make Me Morbidly Fat – from the same place I found those Baci di Sanremo. Okay, okay, I know the name actually means soft Amaretti. I still prefer the first translation – more fun that way, and probably more true. I want, want, want to learn how to make these. Have you got an Italian grandmother? Does she have a secret recipe for these? Would you share? I’ll do anything. Ok, almost anything. Pretty please…

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  • http://www.asankhana.blogspot.com Stillnotyet100

    feel like trying this now,..;-)

  • jayaymeye
  • http://girlinanapron.blogspot.com/ Rachel (Girl In An Apron)

    Delizioso! Thanks for the great recipe and stunning photos!

  • Chele

    They look amazing!!

  • Mark

    Just tried making these with no success—the cookies didn’t spread at all after 15 minutes at 325°, just stayed in balls. Glad I only made a 1/4-batch to test them.

    Did you press down on them at all or let the dough warm up more?

  • Mark

    I uploaded a photo so you could see. Still not sure what the problem was: not pressed down, not enough fat, fat too cold…? They were in fridge for about 70 minutes.

    And, yep, the photo is AFTER baking. Oh, well! ;-)

    http://twitpic.com/3bnih6

  • http://chezpim.com Pim

    Hi Mark,

    If you 1/4 the recipe perhaps you got one of the ingredients wrong? 1/4 cup of butter is definitely enough fat in 1/4 recipe. In fact my cookies spread a little too much, so I’ll work in smaller batches and keep them colder next time.

    Try again? It really does work, I assure you.

    cheers,
    Pim

  • http://chezpim.com Pim

    Thanks Jay! I’ll try these.

  • Mark

    Thanks; and, yep, I did do a 1/4 of everything, using scale for ingredients listed by weight.

    I even printed it out to make sure, but, who knows…I’ve screwed up one or two recipes in my time! :-)

    Will try again—they look great.

    1 oz/2TB almonds
    3/4 tsp/3g granulated sugar
    48g All-purpose flour
    9g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
    1/16 teaspoon baking powder
    1/8 teaspoon sea salt
    56g unsalted butter, softened
    31g powdered sugar
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    3/4 teaspoon rum

  • Jan

    I love Dolce Italiano! Big fan of Gina D.

  • http://www.squidoo.com/chef-basket-kitchen-gadget Chef Basket

    These Chocolate Kisses look wonderful! Thanks for the recipe.

  • http://twitter.com/PastryCraft Laurie Pfalzer

    These are great substitutes for the more refined macaron. They’re much easier to make and you do a fabulous job at the picture sequence. How could anyone get it wrong?! Inspires me to try some for the holidays. People love anything that’s “filled.” Thanks Pim!

  • http://twitter.com/PastryCraft Laurie Pfalzer

    These are great substitutes for the more refined macaron. They’re much easier to make and you do a fabulous job at the picture sequence. Inspires me to try some for the holidays. People love anything that’s “filled.” Also love the “Amaretti Morbidissimi!” Deriving the “morbid,” I thought it meant “dead.” But then looked it up and saw that it actually means very gentle or very smooth! Thanks Pim!

  • AdriBarr

    Bravissima!

  • Ambracassese

    Fabulous! Can you tell me how long you think they might last? Reason: I’d like to make them for gifts I am going to give on xmas eve. So how soon is too soon to make them and how long before they have to eat them?

  • http://chezpim.com Pim

    After they are filled, they are good for a few days. If you’re planning to keep them longer, I would make just the cookies and store them in airtight container, then make the ganache and fill them later, closer to the time you’ll serve them.

  • Oui, Chef

    I’ve never been a huge fan of Italian cookies…they’ve just never seemed that interesting to me. These however, look fabulous. Definitely making my holiday to-do list. Thanks – S

  • Sibyliatko

    Hey there. This is for Mark: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2006/12/why-do-cookies-spread/ actually it is generally about preventing cookies from spreading but maybe it will help you realize something.

  • LH

    My didn’t flatten at all either, so at the last minute in the oven, I “forked” them (did I just make that up?) and pressed them down with nice ridges. They tasted wonderful but threaten to be a bit on the crumbly side. That could definitely be because of my lack of mixing skills?

    I’m going on to try to fill some with the ganache though!

  • spookytooth

    These are glorious. I haven’t even made the ganache yet…

  • http://renklipastane.blogspot.com/ Nazlı

    These are fabulous. Thanks for reciipee

  • Dana

    this looks soo delicious!!thanks for the recipe..i hope you would have more like this..
    Happy holidays!!!

  • Onetribegourmet

    gorgeous cookies! I’m motivated to bake these tomorrow! Thank you for the recipe! :)

  • Kristen

    I’m at a loss, I can’t find any dutch processed cocoa anywhere!! :( The closest thing I’ve found locally is Hershey’s Special Dark, (and yes I know it doesn’t even remotely touch Valrhona) But even this is a mix between natural and dutch processed. Would this work, any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!!!

  • cravefordessert

    hi you can find dutch processed chocolate at shermay cooking school in holland village, if you are in singapore.

  • Annemareep

    What a lovely recipe! Can’t wait to try it out. Great blog xxx
    http://scrumptiousamp.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.cvs-rx-dir.com Winstrol

    Great recipe, I’ll be visiting this blog often.

  • http://livininthekitchen.wordpress.com/ Jess

    Uh! These look delicious!
    Jess : )
    http://www.livininthekitchen.wordpress.com

  • Richard

    What’s the texture of these supposed to be like? I followed the recipe but the result once they’d cooler was soft and crumbly.

  • http://ngervase.edublogs.org/2011/05/06/baci-di-cioccolato-anyone/ Baci di Cioccolato Anyone? | Family Cuisine
  • http://twitter.com/TrisseInc Trisse, Inc.

    These look really interesting, though I don’t have the pastry bag. I think I will try it with just a spoon

  • http://www.yoshiblade.com YoshiBlade

    These chocolate kisses sound wonderful.  Thanks for the recipe.

  • anonymous

    Check out the new Food Network show Extreme Chef airing Sunday June 30th at 10 pm. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Extreme-Chef/195324160502642

  • http://www.dotauniversalmaphack.com/ Dota Maphack

    Sure some delicious looking cookies here, glad to note none of them have so much sugar, as one would expect of most cookies on shop shelves in the US!

  • http://www.dotauniversalmaphack.com/ Dota Maphack

    Sure some delicious looking cookies here, glad to note none of them have so much sugar, as one would expect of most cookies on shop shelves in the US!

  • Dnacht

    This is from a google search!

    Amaretti Morbidissimi
    350 g sugar
    300 g almond without skin
    3 egg white
    1 tablespoon plain flour
    1 teaspoon potato starch
    lemon, salt
    bitter almond essence,
    powdered sugar.
    butter and flour for the oven tray (I always use backing paper).

    Ground really finely the almonds with a food processor, mind to add some sugar from the 350 gr you have in the recipe. This can be useful to absorb the almond oil that comes out.
    In a pan (the recipe tells that you need a copper pan, but I don’t have it ) beat the egg withe with a pinch of salt and some drops of lemon until you reach a dense, white foam.
    When you have this dense foam add the grounded almonds, sugar, plain flour and the potatoes starch (plain flour and potato starch should be without lumps, so you need a thin colander to break any lumps they have before adding ti the rest of the dough). Add now some bitter almond essence (in another recipe you need to use the real bitter almond, which is bit dangerous for children, but I don’t know the critical point of this amount, normally the essence is not natural, so we don’t have this problem, but, please, check it before. I know, I know, I’m paranoid).

    Blend well all together and in a buttered and flour dusted oven tray (you can use backing paper if you prefer) place little amount of the dough with some powdered sugar on top. Set apart for 4 to 5 hours.
    Preheat the oven 100°C and when is warm cook the amaretti for 30 minutes, turning the tray every now and then so you can have a more homogeneous amount of heat.
    When they are done remove them and let them cool down on a wooden tray.
    You can store them in a metal box.

  • Idontwant

    Hey Pim,
    First of all, your blog is amazing!

    I”ve made the cookies today, which turned out to be amazing. I like the consistency of the cookies a lot, they are crunchy, yet very soft. Yum!!
    I had put  the ganache in the fridge for a while, because it wasn’t pipeable yet.
    And one can use a freezer big instead of a pastry, if you cut out one edge.

    Since I love thai food, I’m gonna try out some out of your recipes here.
    I’m lucky to have some many asian groceries around. I should use this opportunity.

    bye

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WBQSXIYULOGW7MDAQWZI2SYIBY Book Worm

    This is so yummy.. Loving it.. Also want to buy the Italian dessert book Dolce Italiano..

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_WBQSXIYULOGW7MDAQWZI2SYIBY Book Worm

    I bought the book.. http://amzn.to/qqHxON
    http://bit.ly/dniLSq

    Thanks.

  • Galwaygirl

    Have baked these twice now, a hit both times with everyone. Delicious!!

  • Rob Johnson

    Looks aweome!  Great food sensory!

  • triki302

    hola estas gallets se ven riquisimas. te felicito excelente blog

  • bacilover

    When I was living in Italy a few years ago a friend brought some Sam Remo kisses back with her after holidaying in the area. I have scoured the internet for recipes and have made some delicious biscuits but have yet to recreate the kisses to my satisfaction (they don’t have the chewy factor that the San Remo kisses have). Any ideas???

  • imarion

    It looks beautiful AND delicious…wow.

    BTScene Torrents