|Nicciola Baci (Hazelnut Kisses) - ButterYum|
Get a load of these itty-bitty cookies - aren't they the cutest cookies ever? These little "hazelnut kisses" aren't just cute, they delectable too - they taste like crispy little bites of Nutella. I've been looking forward to making them ever since I first saw them on David Lebovitz's blog. The recipe was shared by Teressa Murphy from the blog LaCucinaDiTeressa who says it was created at the Zanotti Bakery in Tortona, Italy more than 100 years ago. Oh, and did I mention these cookies are gluten-free? That's because they're made with rice flour instead of regular flour. Rice flour is available in health food stores, or you can grind your own like I did (although Teressa says you can substitute regular flour, no problem).
As far as the recipe goes, I veered from the instructions a little. First, instead of mixing the ingredients by hand, I used my stand mixer fitted with a BeaterBlade attachment; and second, instead of peeling the hazelnuts in a towel after roasting them in the oven (a method which is very messy and doesn't eliminate all the skins), I used Alice Medrich's method of boiling them in a water and baking soda solution before roasting them (no mess and every bit of skin was easily removed).
It was easy to make my own rice flour - all I did was blitz uncooked white rice using the grinding blade in my nutri-bullet. A spice grinder or coffee grinder would work as well.
Rice flour ready to go. Okay, time to prepare the hazelnuts.
First, have a bowl of ice water ready next to your stove top.
You'll also need a kitchen timer and baking soda.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add 3 tablespoons of baking soda. It will bubble a little.
In go the hazelnuts. Be sure you have a large enough saucepan because the water is going to bubble up a lot now.
Okay - set your timer for 3 minutes.
Keep a wooden spoon handy to give the bubbles a stir every so often. Doing this will keep them from spilling over the side of your pan.
Don't be alarmed when you notice the color of the water drastically changing. You might see a few loose skins float to the surface too.
Okay - after 3 minutes plunge a few hazelnuts into the ice water.
They're done if the skins slide off easily.
Mine are done so everybody out of the pool.
Into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
Check out what's left behind - ick!
Thankfully that mess cleans up pretty easily.
Strain and rinse the hazelnuts.
A lot of the skins will come off all by themselves if you just shake the strainer under running water.
Place the skinned hazelnuts on a paper towel to dry.
Toast them in the oven or in a dry skillet to develop their flavor; allow them to cool completely before grinding.
To grind the nuts - pulse in a food processor until they look like this.
Then make the cookie dough by blending the rice flour, ground nuts, sugar, salt, and butter. It's a sandy messy dough so I prefer to do this in my stand mixer. David and Teressa do it by hand.
Use a scale to weigh out 5-gram nuggets of dough and roll them into marble-size balls (3/4-inch wide). THIS IS MUCH EASIER TO DO WHEN THE DOUGH IS VERY WELL CHILLED.
You can fit up to 40 dough balls on a sheet tray because they're so small.
Let the baked cookies cool on the sheet tray - then pair them up according to their size so you're not scrambling to find the right size top after you pipe the molten chocolate on the bottom halves.
Chop some very good quality chocolate and melt it. I melted mine slowly in the microwave, stirring every 10 seconds until the chocolate was silky smooth; then I poured it into a zip-top bag and snipped a very, very small hole in one corner.
These cookies are round which means they tilt rather than sit flat - especially after you sandwich them together. Not a problem once the chocolate has had a chance to set, but before that happens the chocolate flows in the direction of the tilt. I wanted my finished cookies to be a bit neater looking so I nestled the bottom halves, nice and level, in a bed of sugar; then piped the chocolate and added the top halves. The chocolate will set in about 15 minutes or so. Brush any excess sugar off the bottom of the cookies and serve.
I hope I've inspired you to give these adorable cookies a try.
recipe adapted from David Lebovits via Teressa Murphy
makes 35 tiny sandwich cookies
1 1/4 cups (140g) hazelnuts, skinned, toasted, and ground**
1 cup (140g) rice flour** (or all purpose flour)
3 1/2 ounces (100g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
2 ounces (55g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
To make the dough:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a BeateBlade attachment, combine the ground nuts, rice flour, butter, salt, and sugar until it forms into a dough; chill for about an hour. Roll marble-size balls of dough about 3/4-inch wide (5 grams for those of us who have "Baking OCD") and place on a parchment or silicone lined sheet pan; return to refrigerator and keep chilled until you're ready to bake.
To bake the cookies:
Preheat oven to 325F. Bake for 8-12 minutes; allow cookies to cool completely on sheet pan.
To assemble the cookies:
Gently melt the chocolate in a microwave or in a double boiler. Place a chocolate chip size dollop of chocolate between two cookie halves; set aside until chocolate sets. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.
**To make rice flour:
Pulse uncooked white rice in a spice mill or coffee grinder until very finely ground.
**To blanch and peel hazelnuts:
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a 4-quart sauce pan (you need a large pan because the water and baking soda will bubble up a lot). Add baking soda to boiling water; add hazelnuts and boil for 3 full minutes (don't be alarmed when the water turns black; this is to be expected). In the meantime, have ready a bowl of iced water. After 3 minutes, remove hazelnuts from boiling water and plunge them into the iced water to stop the cooking process. Slip hazelnuts out of their skins and allow to dry. Toast hazelnuts in a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes. Cool completely and pulse in a food processor until finely ground (should resemble dry cornmeal or polenta).