Wednesday Food: Baci Means Kisses!

The Big V-Day is just around the corner and I've got another idea for not only the lovers but those who are not celebrating with someone (and are darn proud of it!), this year.  A common phrase at my job is "Valentine's Day is a right, not a privilege".  Cookies and sweets are for everyone whether you make them for a partner, friend or a nice treat for yourself!  As the famous RuPaul says "If you can't love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?!?!"  And what better love to give yourself than a kiss?

This recipe comes from a restaurant I worked at called Harvest, in Cambridge.  They are called Baci, and as the title says, that means kisses in Italian.  They are like a coconut macaroon, except with hazelnuts.  A nice crust on the outside and a moist, chewy and chocolatey hazelnut on the inside, (think Ferrero Rocher, Toffifee or Ritter Sport).  They were part of our mignardise plate, which is a very common element to a formal dessert menu.  It is a collection of small treats ranging from cookies and chocolates to caramels and candies.  All the important C words!!

Now, this recipe can be finicky, but the wonderful thing about cooking is that you can easily fix just about anything.  As the recipe goes on, I'll give you the tips to fix any mistakes or help along the way!  I also halved it from its original, so if you want to double this recipe, feel free to do so. 

Baci - (makes about 30 cookies)
1 1/2c. hazelnuts, toasted
1c. sugar
1 T. butter, melted
1/4c. cocoa
1 1/2t. honey
1t. vanilla extract
2-3 egg whites
semisweet chocolate chips, optional

1) First order of business: take your hazelnuts, toast them at about 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes.  When they have the skins on like this...


...then your looking for the skins to start cracking away from the nut, like this.....


2) Once the hazelnuts have cooled, you need to get the skins off.  Its just as easy as rubbing them between your palms.


After that, pop them in a food processor & grind them to a coarse meal, like this...


You don't want to grind them for too long because the oils get released & turn the hazelnuts almost into a butter.  After they are ground, put them in the bowl with the sugar and blend.


3) Melt the butter and mix with the cocoa, honey and vanilla.  I did this in a small coffee cup, you can do it in a small bowl, if you like.  It will be a thick and pasty kind of consistency.  Blend it with the nuts and sugar by rubbing it in with your fingers and palms.  The mixture will still be very dry.


4) Lastly add the egg whites.  Most likely 2 whites are going to be enough to make the mixture come together but if you happen to add too much there is a trick to tighten the dough up.  Just pop it in the fridge for awhile.  You could even leave it in there overnight and make them the next day if you want.


5) There are a couple of ways to make these cookies into tiny bits of deliciousness.  I'm used to using a pastry tip and piping them out.  If you are someone who happens to have a collection of pastry tips, you will want to use larger tips like an 805 (Ateco) or what I used was an 8B (Wilton)star tip.


And if your not too savvy with a piping bag you can drop them by small spoonfuls.  They will taste just as good, no matter how you do it!  Here they are, all ready to go. 

 

Bake for just about 8 minutes at 350 degrees.  Wait till they cool off before removing them from the parchment paper.  They will come off better and in one piece!

What we always did when making these cookies was dip the bottoms in some chocolate.  It gives the cookies an extra zing of chocolate and a little bit of decadence!  I just melted down some chocolate chips in the microwave.  Its a very tricky thing to do and you must be patient with it.  Never let the chocolate go longer than 5-7 seconds at a time.  If you let it go too long and burn the edges, then its destroyed and you have to start over.  Sometimes just let the chocolate set for a few seconds and let it melt before you heat it any further.  Stir often to distribute the heat evenly and it will look lovely, like this!

 


 After you dip the bottoms in chocolate, you can put them in the freezer to get the chocolate to harden quickly.  And after that.....let the kisses begin!!



They are such a light and sweet little cookie, it makes them so hard to resist!  So this year for Valentine's Day, give KISSES!

Remember when it gets too hot in the kitchen, get back in there and make sweaty, hot love!  (whether with yourself or with another!)

-BabyStella
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