Baci di dama are two tiny domed Italian cookies made from flour, butter, and ground toasted almonds or hazelnuts held together with a delicious filling of dark melted chocolate in the center. This recipe for Italian cookies comes from the Piedmontese cuisine in Northern Italy where hazelnuts and almonds have been a big part of desserts for centuries.
These sandwich cookies are named baci di dama which means “lady’s kisses” in English. Supposedly the name comes from the fact that the two cookies filled with melted chocolate look like delicate kissing lips.
What do you need to make this recipe?
Equipment for Baci di Dama cookies:
several baking sheets for baking the cookies as well as putting them in the freezer
parchment paper for several steps of the recipe
pastry bag for putting the filling in the cookies
cooling rack for letting the cookies cool completely
food processor for grinding the almonds or hazelnuts into meal as well as mixing all the dough together
From start to finish, rest time included, this well-tested recipe takes about 2 1/2 hours to make, but keep in mind that there are two one-hour periods where the baci di dama cookie dough has to rest or the cookies themselves need to be frozen to help them maintain their shape before baking them.
Ingredients for Baci di Dama Italian cookies
All-purpose flour (2 cups / 250 grams) – all-purpose wheat flour needs to be used for the cookies to stay together when you bake cookies. We do not recommend substituting the all-purpose flour with rice flour or even almond flour or hazelnut flour, although you can substitute the whole almonds or hazelnuts with flour or meal.
Unsalted butter (11 tbsp / 150 grams) – use cold unsalted butter straight from the fridge, not softened butter. Chop it into small chunks and add directly into the food processor.
Egg (1) – a nice-sized whole egg will help the cookie dough to stay together when baked.
Whole almonds or hazelnuts (1 cup / 150 grams) – these hazelnut cookies or almond cookies call for whole almonds or hazelnuts that are toasted and ground in the food processor. Although you won’t get the same roasted flavor, you can substitute the ground hazelnuts or almonds with almond flour or meal or hazelnut flour or meal. Meal is just a slightly rougher cut than the flour and both are made from whole nuts that are processed.
Confectioner’s sugar (1.25 cups / 150 grams) – also called powdered sugar, the smooth texture of the confectioner’s sugar is important so the cookies do not come out granular or crumbly.
Salt (1 pinch) – just a pinch of fine salt is needed.
Dark chocolate (0.83 cups / 150 grams) – you can use a bar of pure chocolate or the same amount of good dark chocolate chips for these Italian cookies. If you use baker’s chocolate, then you will need to add granulated sugar to make it sweet (about a tablespoon) and then melt the unsweetened chocolate and granulated sugar together in the double boiler, stirring until completely smooth.
How to make Baci di dama step by step
Prep the almonds or hazelnuts: Toast the whole almonds or hazelnuts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in a preheated oven at 350° F / 180° C for about 10 minutes or until golden or very lightly browned and then remove and let cool (photo 1). You can turn off the oven as you won’t bake the cookies for awhile.
Mix cookie dough in the food processor: Place the cooled almonds or hazelnuts with the powdered sugar and salt in a food processor (photo 3) and pulse until finely ground, you should obtain a fine consistency of ground almonds or ground hazelnuts. Let it cool for a few minutes, leaving it in the food processor. Now add the flour and cold cubed butter straight from the fridge (photo 4).
Mix on high for a minute (photo 5) and then add the egg (photo 6) and mix again for a short period.
he dough should be soft and a little sticky (photo 7). Form a large ball with the dough, move it to a plastic container with a cover or plastic wrap (photo 8), and put it in the freezer for at least one hour, or until it is very hard.
Shape the cookies: Remove the dough from the freezer. Break off small chunks of dough to form 0.5 in / 1-cm little dough balls by rolling them in your hands to make the dough balls as round as possible (photo 9). Use all the remaining dough to make the balls, and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper at a distance of ~1 in / 3 cm from each other (photo 10). When they are all done, transfer the sheet to the freezer for at least one hour.
Bake the baci di dama cookies: Preheat the oven to 300° F / 150° C. Take the cookies straight from the freezer and put them into the oven and bake at 300° F / 150° C for the first 5 minutes. Then turn down to 250° F /120° C and bake for another 5 minutes. Finally, turn down to 210° F / 100° C and bake for 5-7 minutes. The cookies should be light golden brown but not too dark. Remove from the oven and carefully use a thin, flat spatula to remove from the baking trays and onto a flat cooling rack lined with parchment paper (photo 11). Remove the dome-shaped cookies one by one being very careful not to deform or deflate them, then leave them to cool.
Melt the dark chocolate and fill the baci di dama cookies: While the baked cookies cool, melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler (photo 12) stirring occasionally, until completely melted, and then let cool slightly. When the cookies are completely cool, put the warm (but not hot!) chocolate into a pastry bag with a large tip (photo 13). Squeeze a large dollop onto the flat part of one cookie (photo 14), then lightly press the flat part of another cookie on top, creating a kiss (photo 15).
Place the filled cookie sandwich onto a clean baking sheet lined with baking paper and let the chocolate set completely so that they don’t get dirty with chocolate from the other cookies (photo 16).
Serve once the cookies cool completely!
Here are other Italian delicious cookies recipes to try:
Expert tips and tricks for Italian hazelnut cookies
Pulse when grinding nuts. Be careful to only pulse the nuts in the food processor for short periods of time when making the baci di dama dough, you do not want the almonds or hazelnuts to warm up too much and release their oils.
Bake the Italian hazelnut cookies straight from the freezer. If you want your cookies to be perfectly domed, you need to form the baci di dama cookie dough into balls that are very round and put them in the freezer for at least one hour and then directly into the hot oven to bake so that they don’t deflate or deform.
Add the butter cold. You should use unsalted butter and add it cold from the fridge directly with the rest of the ingredients to be mixed, this ensures the cookie dough is the right consistency.
Substitute whole almond or hazelnut with flour. Instead of using whole almonds or whole hazelnuts, you can also use ready-made almond flour or hazelnut flour. However, the almond or hazelnut cookies will not have the same roasted hazelnut or almond flavor that they typically do when made from whole hazelnuts or almonds that have been toasted in the oven, which is the unique feature of this cookie.
Add vanilla extract. You can add a dash of vanilla extract when you add the sugar to make the baci di dama cookies more fragrant with a note of vanilla.
Use Nutella hazelnut cream as filling. You can substitute the melted dark chocolate with Nutella hazelnut cream spread, but be aware that because of the ingredients it tends to stay soft and will likely be more messy than the melted chocolate which will become hard and not stain or rub off on the other cookies when stored. We recommend you make Italian hazelnut cookies instead of almond cookies if you plan to use Nutella as the filling.
How should I store baci di dama cookies?
Of course you are going to want to eat some of these delicious cookies right away, but any remaining cookies can be stored for up to one month in an airtight container or cookie tin.
Which is more traditional in the baci di dama Italian recipe, almonds or hazelnuts?
The jury is out on whether the original recipe used hazelnuts or almonds, but luckily they are both delicious and the baci di dama recipe works well with either! All the difference is in the flavor, which is slightly sweeter and more mild with almonds while the hazelnut cookies have a nuttier, deeper flavor. And luckily, the Italian heritage is full of both almond cookies and hazelnut cookies, so enjoy whichever you prefer!