Baci di Dama Cookies

Baci di dama

Neither one of us is quite sure how we connected, but so be it. But somehow I kind of remembered Terresa Murphy from San Francisco. However she’s been living in Paris since the mid-80s, so my memory is either better than I thought, or my mind is playing tricks on me. (Which is a whole nother road that I’d prefer not walk down right now.)

Baci di dama

Terresa leads market tours and teaches cooking classes in Paris which focus on vegetarian cuisine and sourcing fresh, local, organic ingredients, and reaches out to people via her website, La Cucina di Terresa. She takes folks to the markets and highlights the farmers and stands at the market, manned by the producteurs themselves and offers tastings of French natural wines. In fact, I often run into her at the market because we have similar taste in produce and we’re both always on the lookout for things like stewing greens and other unusual vegetables that are not so easily found.

Some time back I had her Baci di Dama cookies, which I’ve been dying to get the recipe for because they’re so good. And I’ve wanted to share them with you, because – as they say, sharing is caring.

baking chez david

Another bonus is that they are gluten-free, which means even more of you can share in the enjoyment of them. Can we all have a San Francisco-style group hug now?

hazelnuts for baci di damaBaci di dama
hazelnuts for Baci di damaBaci di dama

So she came by a few weekends ago, here in Paris, with a nice bottle of Gamay from the Loire and we set ourselves out to make a batch of these Italian-inspired cookies together.

Baci di dama

Because we’re both San Franciscans, and cooks (who understand the importance of having a bottle of wine handy, no matter where or what you’re cooking…or baking), we’re sort of kindred spirits and it was a lot of fun to have her come over and show me how to make these nutty, buttery cookies with a little bit of crunch. And a smidgen of dark chocolate, just enough to tease you, so you reach for another one right after you finish off the first…and the second…and the third…and the…

Baci di damaBaci di dama
gamayrolling baci di dama cookies

Each little cookie is a double-kiss of hazelnut tenderness. They’re so good that I woke up the next morning, determined to wait until at least mid-day before popping the lid on the container. But unable to control myself, I had a few while I was preparing my morning café au lait. And a few more after breakfast as well.

Baci di damaBaci di dama

The dough is a little different to roll out than you may be used to, so it’s best to keep it cold as much as possible while working with it. It can be a bit sticky because it’s so rich in hazelnuts, which is why they taste so good, but it does come together nicely with just a bit of kneading and coaxing.

Baci di damaBaci di dama
Baci di damaBaci di dama

For those who are persnickety about making sure each cookie is perfect, you can certainly spend the time to roll each bit of dough in a nice little ball, which will spread out ever-so-slightly when baked. Then they firm up into crispy mini-domes, ready to fill.

Baci di dama

Rice flour is used in these cookies, which I get at my local natural foods store and one can find it in Asian markets as well. However the recipe will work with regular white flour if that’s what you have on hand. However rice flour gives the cookies a delightful crispness and I think when you taste these, you’ll find yourself stocking rice flour in your pantry, as I’m going to start doing as well, now that I (finally) have this recipe in my files.

Baci di Dama
About 45 cookies


Recipe by Terresa Murphy of La Cucina di Terresa


Toast the hazelnuts in a 325ºF (160ºC) for 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re a deep golden brown color and the skins are peeling away. Remove from the oven and as soon as they’re cool enough to handle, rub the hazelnuts in a tea towel (or if they’re not too hot, with your hands), until as much of the loose skins come off as possible. Let them cool completely before grinding them up.

Terresa also says you can use almonds, which can be skinned by plunging them into boiling water for a minute, then draining them. And as soon as they’re cool enough to handle, pinching them to slide off the skins, then toasting them.

UPDATE: A couple of people noted in the comments that they had a bit of trouble coaxing the dough into a cohesive mass. It was recommended that if that happens, adding a small amount of water or a touch of butter (perhaps melted), is enough to bring it into shape. I haven’t tried them – or found them necessary – but if you do, I would add the smallest amount possible to bring the dough together. I posted some links to sites that have made them successfully after the recipe.


  • 1 1/4 cups (140g) hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
  • 1 cup (140g) rice flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 ounces (55g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1. Put the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them until very fine; they should be the consistency of coarse polenta. (See photo, in post.)

2. Transfer the ground nuts to a bowl and add the rice flour (if using all-purpose flour, sift it in). Cut the butter into pieces then add the butter, sugar, and salt to the dry ingredients. Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together until the butter is dispersed and completely incorporated. The dough should be very smooth and hold together. If not, knead it until it does.

3. Divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll each piece until it’s 3/4-inch (2cm) round. Try to get them as smooth as possible, with no cracks. If the dough is too long to work with as you roll them out, you can cut the dough at the midway point and work with it in batches.

Chill the dough logs until firm on a small baking sheet or dinner plate lined with plastic wrap or parchment paper.

(Terresa recommends refrigerating them for 2-3 hours, but we put them in the freezer and they were cold within 15 minutes.)

4. Preheat oven to 325ºF (160ºC) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

5. Working with one length of dough at a time, keeping the others in the refrigerator or freezer, cut off equal-sized pieces using a knife or pastry cutter. The ideal is 5 grams each, if working with a scale. The fastest way to do it is to cut one to the right weight, then hold that one alongside the logs and use it as a template to cut the others. Once you’ve cut a length of dough, roll the pieces into nice little balls and place them on the baking sheet, slightly spaced apart (as shown.)

If you don’t have a scale, simply roll the dough to the size of a marble, trying to keep them as similar in size as possible.

6. Continue cutting the dough and rolling it into little balls. Bake the cookies for 10 to 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheets in the oven midway during cooking, until the tops are lightly golden brown. Let the cookies cool completely.

7. In a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, melt the chocolate until smooth. Put a chocolate chip-sized dollop of chocolate on the bottom of one cookie and take another cookie, and sandwich the two halves together.

(Terresa uses a spoon but I make a little parchment paper cone and pipe the chocolate. I also find it goes faster if you line the cookies up, side-by-side, bottom side up, and pipe spoon chocolate on one side of a number of them at a time, then sandwich them together, then doing another batch, until they’re all filled.)

Once filled, set the Baci di Dama sideways on a wire cooling rack until the chocolate is firm.


Storage: The cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.


Visit Terresa at her site, La Cucina di Terresa, which focusing on vegetarian cooking classes and natural wine tastings in Paris, and follow her on Facebook.

Photos From Others Who Have Made This Recipe

Naan Therapy

Christine

A Dish a Day

Happelsauce

on my yellow plate



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200 comments

  • Maya
    December 11, 2012 12:59am

    Made these yesterday afternoon and they came out perfectly. Love the sandy and weirdly crunchy texture that the rice flour gives them. After grinding the nuts in the food processor, I followed the advice of an earlier commenter and just added the remaining ingredients to the processor in the order specified in the recipe and it worked beautifully.

    Take the plunge! They’re not that fussy.

  • Jocelyn
    December 11, 2012 4:27pm

    I made these cookies and they turned out “dama” good! Mine looked a little different though. I made the balls a little too big, so instead of sandwiching chocolate between two cookies, I drizzled the chocolate over each individual cookies. They didn’t look as cute, but they were sure tasty!

  • Courtney
    December 12, 2012 9:40am

    My husband loved them and ate them just like he was really enjoying a lady’s kiss! I used almonds and they taste great, but I should have ground my sugar to make caster sugar. I only had sugar in the raw and it added to the slightly grainy texture with the rice flour. I wonder what confectioners sugar would work like?
    I also didn’t even try to roll them. Just worked the dough until it would stick together and proceeded to make a zillion little balls with a tsp measure. I didn’t even need to refrigerate. They turned out looking just like the photos. I cheated and used the Nutella knock-off by Jif for the filling. http://www.jif.com/products/details?categoryid=428&productid=1226. Thank you!

  • December 12, 2012 4:39pm

    Unfortunately made the mistake to experiment (I hadn’t read the comments, now I regret it!) with this flour which is a mix of rice, potato, tapioca, maize & buckwheat flour. I’ve substituted this flour for normal white flour in many recipes with no problems, but it seemed to not have worked in this case.

    They ended up like flat parmesan crisps. Would be OK if they were edible (they still taste great) but you can’t even pick one up in your fingers without it going into a 100 crumly pieces :o(

    I would advise against any other kind of flour that is not mentioned in the recipe!

  • Stephanie
    December 13, 2012 2:44pm

    Why can’t everyone write recipes like you?!?! The way you write is informative, precise, and HILARIOUS! The process is as fun as the finished product is good :)

  • Amy
    December 15, 2012 12:19am

    Hi David. Thank you! I have been looking for a good baci Di dama recipe since first eating them last year and I have now found it! They worked perfectly. No extra butter or different flour needed. I used brown rice flour as they don’t seem to sell white – I have it in the cupboard anyway as I use it in other recipes – it is great added to shortbread and similar biscuits for a great texture (just substitute about 1/4 of all purpose for rice flour). These were perfect and I will be making them again and again (and probably soon as this batch isn’t going to last long! One just leads to another, and another…..).

  • Martin
    December 15, 2012 7:57pm

    Poor results from my batch. The dough was too crumbly before and after cooking, like moist sand. I got the baci made but they look awful and require some care to eat. I blame the rice flour. I would prefer to add some plain flour and maybe a bit of egg, if I ever did it again. Wish I had read the comments first.

    • Berry
      December 17, 2012 11:51pm

      If you change the flour and add egg, you are basically making a different kind of hazelnut biscuit. Very nice, no doubt, but not baci di dama!

      • December 18, 2012 12:14am
        David Lebovitz

        I found quite a few recipes (in Italian) that used rice flour. As an Italian friend once told me, there are a lot of Italians who can’t tolerate gluten so a number of recipes are made with other flours – including ice cream cones, pastas, and I’ve even seen gluten-free cornetti in Italy, and I think it’s great that folks get to enjoy these kinds of things, that might not ordinarily get to eat them. (I eat wheat, but I appreciate the rice flour in them; I think it gives the cookies a nice crunch.)

  • Debby
    December 16, 2012 10:08am

    I made these Thursday and served them to family last night. There were nine of us. The entire batch is gone, and though I thought there was one left for me to enjoy after cleanup, someone must have grabbed it on the way out. I will definitely make them again, and my daughter-in-law also intends to make them.

    I did experience the same difficulties with the dough that so many have reported. used Bob’s Red Mill brown rice flour. After kneading for a time, I added the remaining bit of butter from the stick and that seemed to work. I used the quick freeze method and had no trouble from that point on. The end result was well worth the little bit of anxiety.

  • Toni
    December 16, 2012 5:59pm

    I made these yesterday, weighing everything and sifting in AP flour instead of rice flour. I could not get the dough to hold together no matter how long I kneaded it. Unable to roll logs to cut, I had to use my fingers to form individual little marbles of not-too-consistent size. They came out of the oven looking the same as they went in – like marbles. They taste divine, so I’m going to dip each one into melted chocolate to try to salvage them. Next time I’ll add more butter as needed, until the dough feels right.

  • Toni
    December 16, 2012 8:18pm

    Undaunted, I will make these again in hopes of achieving the intended results. I am, however, proud of salvaging what I got from my first attempt.

    If life gives you marbles … dip them in chocolate:

    https://picasaweb.google.com/109614875263120279856/BaciDiDamaCookies?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCMX-q9HmsYzXEw&feat=directlink

  • December 17, 2012 1:56am

    I just made these last night and they are wicked awesome. I made a possibly substantial change to the recipe since I don’t have a food processor (i.e., no easy way to grind hazelnuts to crumbles). I used hazelnut flour from Bob’s Red Mill & glutinous rice flour. The flour I suspect is way drier than if one were to toast and smash hazelnuts oneself; I ended up with close to two cups of h. flour to hit 140g, and the hazelnut flour I had appeared to have the skins ground in too, so my dough had a very speckly look. Then one stick of butter (130g or something I think it was) was in no way enough to even make a handful stick together. So, I added 3/4 more of a stick (1 3/4 sticks total); this mashed together just fine; I could have probably gotten away with a little less but it’s only butter :) I also used salted butter because I like salt.

    I still had a tough time making the balls though (still kinda crumbly when manipulated); next time I make it, I might try to roll it out and cut small circlets (because my other issue was when I went to put the sheet into the oven, the balls rolled all over the place! GAH!!)

  • ulker
    December 17, 2012 2:06am

    looks awfully delicious..
    can i use ‘almond meal’ for that cookie , should i roast the almond meal ?

  • December 17, 2012 4:31am

    I made these yesterday with my mother. First issue was I don’t think our hazelnuts were ground consistently enough (a very persnickety food processor with a broken pulse button). So getting them a little finer would have helped. We had trouble getting it to form into a dough (probably because the nuts were not fine enough to release more of their oil) so we added about a half of an ounce of melted butter.

    After getting frustrated with rolling the little logs, I just rolled the balls directly – froze them for 20 minutes then baked.

    The only real issue was getting them to stay together while the chocolate set up. While it would ruin the whole visual appeal of them, I think I might just flatten the balls slightly next time so they don’t roll around too much when setting.

    (But part of me is also thinking of keeping them as spheres – perhaps a little larger – dipping the tops in chocolate and then some crushed hazelnuts. I know … a different cookie then, but perhaps a little less sweet with some really dark chocolate.)

  • December 17, 2012 7:15pm

    I first tried a Baci di Dama last week and was utterly happy to find the recipe in your blog (which I really enjoy!) David. I liked the cookie I had so much that I could not wait to make it myself at home.

    I made the recipe yesterday, used 1 stick of butter (110g), and the cookies turned out amazing. They were perfect, and look just like your picture!
    My only question and comment is that I found them to be sooooo sweet, way sweeter than the one I tried and way, way sweeter than what I would like them to be. Would it still work out if I decreased the sugar?? What would be your advice in this, could you please help me David?
    I will make more this week for sure as I want to give some to friends :-)
    The ones I made yesterday some were eaten by my son and his friends (they liked it a lot!), and some my son took to school in nice gift tins to give to his teachers!
    Thanks for the wonderful recipe, I am really happy to see these cookies featured in your blog!
    Ana

    • Michèle Dextras
      December 17, 2012 8:18pm

      Ana,
      Are you sure you put in only 1/2 cup of sugar? Mine were not at all sweet. I liked them but my husband who has a sweet tooth did not find them sweet enough.

      Michèle

  • Supriya chohan
    December 19, 2012 8:25am

    Made mine with almonds that I blanched but forgot to toast. Both batches turned out great overall, with crunch, chewiness and most importantly just have the right amount of sweetness. Just the bottoms for some reason were burnt slightly. Dont know how to explain that. Maybe something to do with my oven temp or the fact that blanched almonds had a bit of moisture when I ground them or that the unrefined brown sugar I used was a bit grainy. Anyways thanks David for this lovely GF recipe, it goes right into my file.

  • December 19, 2012 10:31pm

    Hi Michelle Dextras
    Yes, I used the 100 grams of sugar. I weighed all ingredients in my scale.
    I have a very low tolerance for sugar, so I would not be surprised if I was the only one finding these to be too sweet :-)
    My son and my husband liked the cookies a lot and did not complain on the sugar.
    I already have more hazelnuts ready and butter on the counter to make more cookies tonight!
    Ana

  • June
    December 20, 2012 4:56pm

    made these surprisingly successfully; what’s more with super lazy steps as these:

    1. bought ground hazelnut instead of whole (but I did toast the hazelnut flour first)
    2. the ground hazelnut comes in 250g pack, but I nearly doubled the butter (estimated amount)
    3. did not do Step 3 & 5, instead I used a roundish teaspoon to scoop out marble-size volumes from the dough, then rolled them into marbles (I did chilled the dough overnight)
    4. after I took out the freshly baked cookies, I waited only long enough to turn each over on the baking sheet itself so that the flatish bottom faced up. Then I placed a chocolate chip on each. The cookies are warm/hot, and will melt the chocolate. Then, when cooled, I glued each together. Piece of cake! No need to melt chocolate and get some wasted sticking to the pot.

    It worked so well that this is by far the most delicious and easiest cookies to make!

  • Jill
    December 21, 2012 3:25am

    I have blanched raw hazelnuts; do you think I can toast them and then proceed with the recipe? Or is it necessary to toast them with the skins on first?

    Thanks for the great recipes!

  • Stephanie
    December 21, 2012 1:46pm

    I made these for a second time today and again they turned out perfectly. They look exactly like yours and my family fights over them :)

  • Millie
    December 22, 2012 2:42am

    Rather than rolling the dough into a log, I used the technique where you make a line of dough on parchment paper, fold the paper over the top and squish the dough into a log shape using a straight edge. If that didn’t make sense, there’s a picture here http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/tips.html (scroll down to the slice and bake section) It worked great! I didn’t even have to pre-form the dough into a cohesive mass before hand.

  • December 22, 2012 6:09am

    I just made these cookies tonight… after baking (and longer than the recommended 10-14 mins.) they are crumbling and not holding together. It is as if they are missing an ingredient such as egg for binding. The cookie tastes very good by itself. In addition, I could not roll the logs during the dough stage…the dough kept crumbling then as well. I went straight to rolling balls and refrigerating them before baking. Any thoughts?

  • December 22, 2012 11:20am
    David Lebovitz

    There have been a number of comments about these cookies. Most people had excellent results, as did I when I made them in my kitchen (as shown in the post). A few readers have posted pictures of their final cookies and/or noted their results in the comments. Please read those as they can help answer your questions. I’ve also responded in the comments to various scenarios quite a few times so the answer can likely be found in one of my responses (highlighted in green).

    Since a number of people had the same results we had, if you are having issues:

    -Make sure you measure ingredients carefully.

    A few noted that their dough was dry, or asked about substituting other nuts or ingredients:

    – If your dough seems dry, as mentioned just above the recipe, try adding a bit of melted butter, just enough so the dough comes together. You could also try a bit of water. I did not have to do either since our dough came together just fine, but those would be solutions to try.

    – Teresa said that one could use almonds in place of hazelnuts. Other nuts have different flavors and oil content, and if you want to try one, you can. But she has only made them with those 2 nuts.

  • Debbie M
    December 22, 2012 5:15pm

    I made there cookies in the presence of my cousin who is a trained pastry chef. I followed the directions to a “T, but as soon as I tried to roll them into logs, they crumbled in my hands. No amount of kneading helped hold these together. So, I added another 100g of butter, skipped the log and rolled them into balls. My cousin very smartly told me to try baking a small batch, because she had a feeling the were now too buttery. I quickly put them into the fridge for 15 minutes and baked them for 15z as my cousin anticipated, they didn’t retain their shape at all. They became disks, instead of balls. We let them cool and tried one and they just tasted like pure butter. We’re the cookies in the pictures made with gluten-free flour, or with all-purpose flour?

    • December 22, 2012 5:58pm
      David Lebovitz

      100g (4 ounces/1 stick) is an excessive amount of butter to add so they will spread. Your pastry chef cousin, who was with you, perhaps should have advised you that adding that much butter to a recipe substantially change the result. I gave some guidelines in the recipe headnote. We made these with rice flour.

  • Ella
    December 24, 2012 12:57am

    I am on to my second batch. A couple of things that helped..

    Using UNsallted butter. It makes a difference.

    Also, in my first batch, I scooped the rice flour. In the second, I spooned it carefully into the measuring cup to keep it from getting packed. I went to a gluten free baking class once in which the instructor stressed the importance of weighing the flours. They can easily get packed into your measuring cup, which means you will have too much. She advised always using a kitchen scale, or spooning the flour into the cup.

  • jaybee51
    December 24, 2012 6:12am

    Ella – what ACTUAL difference does using unsalted butter make? Taste? Spread of biscuits?

    What was the difference between your two batches?

    I use salted butter and some of my batches resulted in domes and some spread into flatter biscuits. The same ingredients produce different results which is really puzzling.

  • Jane
    December 24, 2012 6:21am

    I just made these tonight and they are adorable and perfect, just like the photos. I used Bob’s Red Mill Stone Ground White Rice flour. I DID have trouble making them stick together at first – but I am stubborn and a die-hard baker.

    So..I read the comments and decided to add a ‘touch’ of water and then the dough came together nicely just like in the photos. I live in San Francisco and it has been raining cats & dogs, so I know that the humidity is not an issue. I am just wondering if the hazelnuts that you get in Paris are of a different variety and have a little more moisture than the ones we get here in the states. Seems like a lot of people had this problem, and I definitely worked the dough for a LONG time before deciding to add the water. Anyways, they came out great. I love your blog, I love Paris, and I love San Francisco, so I am a BIG fan of yours!

  • Kristin
    December 24, 2012 6:31pm

    Hi,

    I just made two batches.
    The first one was with gluten-free flour and I hadn’t chilled the dough long enough. Result: very buttery discs…

    The second batch was with all-purpose flour and I had chilled the logs thoroughly. Result: perfect half rounds with a delicious nutty flavor.

    I didn’t have any problems with getting a nice dough but I only use scales never cups since I don’t find them accurate enough.

    Thank you!

    P.S.: Since we mostly use walnuts and almonds I exchanged the toasted hazelnuts with toasted walnuts.

  • Iryna
    December 25, 2012 12:21am

    Hi David, excellent recipe. I used American butter, and the dough came together nicely (after some serious kneading). I did weigh the ingredients, and 140 gr of hazelnuts came to about a cup (not 1 1/4 c like the recipe states). So, maybe that’s why some folks had trouble. Also, the dough is very delicate, so use your finger tips. Thanks for a great recipe – looking forward to more. Happy holidays!

  • Joanne
    December 25, 2012 3:22am

    I started late with these cookies. I toasted them, and ground in the food processor, but did not read the comments until after I had tried to form the dough by hand. I had 500g of ground hazelnuts, so I used same amount of rice flour and sugar, with 380g of unsalted butter. I ended up moving it all into my big Kitchenaid mixer and let that mix for about 5 min while I cleaned the prep equipment. I then scooped and made logs on waxed paper, and since I’m short on time tonight. I vacuum sealed on gentle pressure, 3 logs to a bag, and into the fridge they went. I hope to bake these after Christmas. I am assuming that using the vacuum seal bags will help keep any off flavors out and not lose or gain extra moisture in the logs. Hopefully I got the ratios correct since I used about 5 1/2 sticks (American) of butter.

  • vk
    December 25, 2012 5:05am

    My daughter and I just made these. They are delicious and have a very interesting texture.
    Instead of toasting and rubbing the skin off, we blanched the hazel nuts (Add some baking soda to the boiling water just before adding the nuts) and then toasted the nuts.
    We will definitely make these again.