I love these cookies and I hate them. They are teeny tiny. That means that making them and filling them is extremely time consuming. On the other hand, they are absolutely delightful. If you’re in the mood for doing some repetitive work that yields great results, go for it. If not, I think you could roll the dough out to 1/4”, cut them, bake them and drizzled them with chocolate. The texture of the cookie is akin to a delicate, crisp shortbread.
The name in Italian means “lady’s kiss” because some think that when you look at them sideways they look like pursed lips. Well, I guess if you squint………. The traditional ratio of ingredients is one part flour to one part ground almonds or hazelnuts to one part butter to one part sugar. There is a pinch of salt but no egg and no other flavorings. The cookies are sandwiched together with chocolate and it’s a simple but lovely pairing of nuts and chocolate with nothing else to distract you. I’ve seen recipes add coffee or vanilla to the dough. I think a little lemon rind might be nice. I love chocolate and lemon and lemon goes well with almonds and hazelnuts.
I have reduced the sugar and the butter in my recipe as I find the traditional recipe too sweet and with a little less butter it keeps its shape better. I honestly would not add back any sugar. If you want to add back the butter to 140 grams I would chill them before attempting to shape them. I would also bake the frozen cookies on frozen cookie sheets lined with a silicone mat or they’ll spread into flat discs. Thanks to Domenica Marchetti (domenicacooks.com) and Steve Dunn (Cooks Illustrated 10/1/2019) for guiding the way to my version of the recipe.
I’m only giving metric measurements for the flour, hazelnuts and butter because that is the most accurate measurement. For example, 115 grams is a bit more than 1/2 cup and 140 grams of flour is perhaps 1 cup and 2 tablespoons depending on whether or not you scoop and level or fluff up the flour and spoon it into the cup. Do you understand where I’m going with this? While weighing your ingredients in grams is better for all recipes, for this particular one it’s really critical in order to get the right shape.
140 grams roasted, peeled hazelnuts (You can also use roasted hazelnut flour but I prefer the texture of the slightly rougher grind when you do it yourself).
140 grams bleached Gold Medal AP flour (You can use unbleached but the texture won’t be as delicate)
100 grams (1/2 cup) superfine sugar (yes, superfine gives you a more delicate texture than regular sugar)
115 grams (I used President. Please use a European cultured butter. It is more flavorful and has a lower water content than most American butters).
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
100 grams (3.5 oz) bittersweet (65 to 70%) chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Lindt 70%)
Some time ago I had a marvelous, individual serving of a chocolate bread pudding, at a catered event. Too much time elapsed before I decided to make said bread pudding and I couldn’t find the caterer. I don’t know that they would have parted with the recipe in any event. That’s ok, I like a challenge. It was a bread pudding unlike any I’d had before. It was light and moist with no discernible cubes of bread. It had the texture somewhat like a flourless chocolate cake.
So why not start with recipe for a flourless chocolate cake? Well, for one, I wanted to take the catering server at his word and assume he knew he was serving a bread pudding and not a flourless chocolate cake and two, it was studded with dried fruit and I figured a flourless chocolate cake wouldn’t support those fruits. So, I hit the internet and found recipes from Cooks Illustrated, Dorie Greenspan and others. I tried them all and none really made the dessert I was looking for. Once again, on my own looking for the bread pudding in my memory.
There were multiple choices I had to make: what kind of bread to use, fresh or day old or toasted; the ratio of chocolate and/or cocoa powder, whole eggs or yolks only, cream and/or milk, leavened or not, and whether or not to bake them in a large pan and cut them to size or bake them individually. After I made a promising batter, I cooked some in a high sided pan oblong pan, some in ring molds and some in muffin cups. I cut out individual cakes from the batch in the high sided pan but didn’t like the exposed edge. Muffin cups with tulip shaped liners worked but I was looking for a more formal shape. Ring molds seemed to be the way to go. You get a bit of leakage coming out of the bottom but not too bad if your tray is completely flat. The silpat seems to help stop the leakage as does a cold sheet pan. Alternatively, you can buy some cylindrical liners to go inside the ring molds.
My father mottos in life were, “If it isn’t chocolate it isn’t dessert” (Ira Blitzsten) and “Whenever I feel the urge to exercise, I lay down and wait until it passes” (Robert Hutchins).
Chocolate cookies are problematic. Too much chocolate or cocoa and they are soft. Not enough and they lack a deep chocolate flavor. I have tried many a chocolate sandwich cookie recipe and I always circle back to this one. Somehow these cookies have the sandy texture of a sable and a deep chocolate flavor. Eaten alone they are lovely. Sandwiched with raspberry jam they are sublime. The jam does soften them but you won’t mind and they are just big enough so you can pop the whole thing in your mouth.
I would also try orange marmalade, apricot jam or a little coffee ganache (white chocolate ganache flavored with coffee), but for me raspberry jam brings special memories of my dad who passed away in 2008.
This is a soft dough and you can use a pastry bag to pipe it but I find it a bit faster and more uniform to use a cookie press. When filling the press you can either drop in bits of dough until you fill it up or use some Saran Wrap to make a little log a bit narrower than the tub and the same length. Then you can just slip the roll into the tube and you don’t have to worry about air pockets. The cookie press is easier for kids and they can help you press out the cookies. Make sure the cookie sheets are cold. They grip the cookie as it comes out of the press so it doesn’t lift off the pan when you pull the press up.
My family loves Earl Grey tea and begged me to try and tackle an ice cream cake with that flavor. Earl Grey tea is a black tea flavored with Bergamot, a citrus fruit. I love the combination of Earl Grey and chocolate. It also works well with other citrus fruits and with nuts, particularly walnuts. So I thought a moist walnut and chocolate cake would be a nice base for the cakes. If you don’t want to make a cake and prefer something crunchy, you can make a chocolate cookie crust. Or, you can do none of the above and just scoop some in a dish and eat it plain or drizzled with sauce
Finding a chocolate cake recipe proved tricky. I didn’t want something too rich, like a brownie. I thought about using my favorite chocolate butter cake recipe but butter cakes don’t like to be cold. They get hard and dry with refrigeration and I wanted to be able to assemble the ice cream on top of the cake and freeze the whole thing. So I started trying chiffon cakes which use oil instead of butter. Oil doesn’t freeze so I figured the cake wouldn’t freeze hard. One recipe by Rose Levy Barenbaum in “The Cake Bible” caught my eye. Apparently when her mother gave her the recipe she told her the texture was perfect even right out of the freezer. So I gave it a shot but it didn’t have a deep enough chocolate flavor and the texture was too fluffy so I tried again, adding another 25 grams of cocoa powder and that seemed to do the trick. It had a deeper chocolate flavor and the texture improved as well.
This recipe makes about a pint of ice cream. The number of cakes you get depends on the size of your molds. I use molds that hold about 4 oz so I get 8 cakes.
Earl Gray Ice Cream
Chocolate walnut chiffon cake
1/2 cup Caramelized walnuts ( see my post on Caramelized nuts)
1/4 cup chopped candied orange peel (see my post on candied fruit)