Italian Hazelnut Cookies (Baci di Dama)

Italian Hazelnut CookiesChristmas On The Couch
It is officially December…which means cookie season is here! I love cookie season. Planning the selection. The cookie-palooza day of baking and the packaging. The best part, of course, is the delivery. The look on people’s faces never gets old.

This year is going to look a little different.

While on vacation this past July, I injured my knee—which required surgery. So, I am on the couch for the foreseeable future. That means cookie-making is not in the cards. At least not for me. But, I refuse to go without.

So, I am enlisting the help of my resident sous chef. And, between the two of us, we should be able to make things happen. First up will be our traditional Swedish Gingers Cookies which we will be devouring while I micromanage the decorating of the tree. After that, we will have to see…as this year’s cookie lineup has yet to be determined.

The list will no doubt include traditional favorites like Classic Scottish Shortbread,  Chocolaty Caramel Thumbprints, and Red and White Pinwheel Cookies. We’ve been looking at books and websites for some new additions. But, one thing I know for certain is that last year’s star of the show will be back.

These little Italian Hazelnut Cookies require a bit more labor and attention than the average cookie. But, they are soooo worth it. They are a hazelnut lover’s dream! I swap chocolate ganache for Nutella to make the sandwiches. This both adds hazelnut flavor and makes things a bit easier. And, this year I am all about easier!

Italian Hazelnut Cookies Recipe (Baci di Dama)
Adapted from Americas Test Kitchen
Yields 32 small cookies

These tiny Italian hazelnut-chocolate sandwich cookies are made from a very rich, fragile dough that easily crumbles when you bite into them.

For the cookies
3/4 cup hazelnuts
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
6 tablespoons chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

For the filling
1 jar Nutella spread

Toast the hazelnuts
Toast the hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet in a 325 ºF oven until fragrant (about 13 to 15 minutes). Shake the sheet halfway through toasting to distribute the heat.

Skin the hazelnuts
To skin the hazelnuts, gather them while still warm in a dish towel and rub to remove some of the skins.

Preheat the oven
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325º F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment.

Make the dough
Process skinned hazelnuts, flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until hazelnuts are very finely ground (about 20 to 25 seconds). Add the butter and pulse the food processor until the dough just comes together (about 20 to 25 more pulses).

Prep the dough
A square-cornered metal baking pan works best for shaping the dough. If you are using a baking dish with rounded corners, square the corners of the dough before portioning.

Transfer dough to the counter and knead it briefly to form a smooth ball. Place the dough in the prepared pan, and press into an even layer that covers the bottom of the pan. Freeze the dough for 10 minutes to set. Run a knife or bench scraper between the dough and the edge of the pan to loosen it. Turn out the dough onto the counter and discard the parchment.

Shape the cookies
Cut the dough into 64 squares (8 rows x 8 rows). Roll the dough squares into balls and evenly space the 32 dough balls on each prepared sheet. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies look dry and are fragrant (about 20 minutes). The cookies will settle but not spread. Be certain to rotate the sheet halfway through baking. Transfer the sheet to a wire rack and allow the cookies to cool completely (about 30 minutes).

Make the sandwiches
Invert half of the cookies on each sheet. Using 1/4-teaspoon measure, spoon the Nutella onto the flat surfaces of all inverted cookies. Top with remaining cookies, pressing lightly to adhere. Allow the Nutella set for at least 15 minutes before serving.

The Italian Hazelnut Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.


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