Do you have your boarding card? Have you packed your suitcase? Perfect. So let’s fly to Liguria, a coastal region of north-western Italy which is probably known for pesto, Genoa and the aquarium. Very few do know that these region is also well known – at least in my country – for these sweet little ‘kisses’, as the name goes, which come from Alassio, a city on the western coast of the region. Lore states that they were invented in the ’20s by Rinaldo Balzola, the then patissier of the House of Savoy, who modified the traditional recipe for Baci di Dama. The biscuits then became very popular, so much that by the end of the ’50s, every single bakery in the region had their own version. What with the authentic recipe being a jealously guarded secret, the different interpretations all differ because of the quantities and the ingredients used.
These Baci are oval-shaped and composed by two biscuit halves, which are then sandwiched together with a whipped ganache. The biscuits are made with hazelnuts (possibly from Piedmont), sugar, cocoa, egg whites, flour, butter, vanilla and aromas. The ganache is ‘whipped’ because the quantities of cream and chocolate are 1.5:1, which allows to whip the ganache and make it into a mousse-like consistency. The recipe below is one of the many adaptations available and I found it in an Italian recipe book about biscuits. I modified the recipe slightly and adapted the cooking times. Traditionally these biscuits are left to dry out overnight or for at least 12 hours. If you want to skip this step, like I did, follow the recipe below. Otherwise, increase the temperature to 200C and bake for only 12 minutes.
- 150g ground almonds
- 100g ground hazelnuts
- 375g icing sugar, sifted
- 40g unsalted butter, softened
- 30g honey
- 35g cocoa powder, sifted
- 90g egg whites, at room temperature
- 100g dark chocolate (70% cocoa content)
- 150ml double cream
- Line two baking trays with parchment and set aside. Equip a piping bag with a star nozzle and also set aside.
- In the bowl of a freestanding mixer (or in a normal bowl), combine the ground nuts, icing sugar and cocoa powder. Add the egg whites and use the paddle attachment to mix the ingredients together. Once you have a homogeneous mixture, add the butter and the honey and keep on mixing until thoroughly combined.
- Transfer the mixture to a piping bag. It will be firm, so no panic there. Squeeze out little mounds or rose-shaped mounds on the baking parchment, then transfer to the fridge to set for at least 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 180C.
- Once thoroughly chilled, transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Check the biscuits: if you see any dark wet bits, return to the oven for a further 5 minutes at 150C.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. In the meantime, start with the ganache.
- Finely chop the dark chocolate either by hand or in a food processor. In a saucepan, bring the double cream to the boil, then remove from the heat and pour onto the chocolate. Use a whisk to mix the cream in and allow the chocolate to melt completely. Set aside and cool slightly but keep on mixing to avoid the mixture separating.
- When you are ready to assemble, either use a freestanding mixer of electric whisk (I did it by hand) to whisk the ganache. You’ll need a good 10 minutes and the result should be a light and mousse-like chocolate ganache. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle.
- Use the ganache to sandwich two biscuit halves together by squeezing some on one biscuit and topping this with another half. Repeat until you have used all of the biscuits, then transfer to the fridge to firm them up.