Originally, I set out to find a recipe for Amaretti di Saronno Cookies because I LOVE them, but they are so expensive to buy. However, I needed to find a sweet treat for the Concert in the Park Challenge Cherries coming up.
I considered creating some sort of Cherry Macarons, but then stumbled upon these Baci di Dama "Lady's Kisses" Babbo-Style on the Babbo Ristorante web site. I read through the ingredients and welcomed the opportunity to incorporate some of my Maraschino cherry liqueur in the chocolate ganache filling.
As you may also know, I'm a big fan of Mario Batali. Our gingerbread structure entry for the Epilepsy Foundation 2008 Gingerbread in the City competition, Brownstones & Batali, featured Mario's Italian Wine Merchants and Babbo, even though I have never stepped foot in the door of either establishment.
The dough is simple to make by combining: toasted and then ground blanched almonds; flour; Dutch-processed, unsweetened cocoa powder; kosher salt; unsalted butter; confectioners’ sugar; vanilla extract; and dark rum.
The dough is chilled, rolled into small logs, cut into small pieces, and rolled into small balls. The balls are rolled in granulated sugar and placed on prepared baking sheets.
After the cookies have cooled, the Baci are assembled by pairing up the cookies according to size. Using a pastry bag, a small amount of ganache is piped onto the flat side, then the bottom of another cookie is placed on the ganache to form a sandwich. The ganache is composed of high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, heavy cream, unsalted butter, and grappa, cognac or your favorite liqueur.
Adding the liqueur is optional. For me, it's a go.
You can find the complete recipe on the Babbo Ristorante web site, under the Dolci Archives. The cookie portion is not too sweet and has a very light airy texture. As you take a bite, the chocolate almond cookie kind of melts in your mouth and is immediately followed by the rich chocolate ganache.
I absolutely agree with Babbo Pastry Chef Gina DePalma - these cookies "are a perfect way to give anyone a tender kiss of nuts and chocolate. Wrapped in a pretty box with colored tissue, I can’t imagine a more welcome gift."