I love spending time in the library looking at books on baking. It’s a bit of an obsession really…at any given time I can have a dozen baking books on my shelf with hundreds of post-it notes hanging out of them tagging my next great baking challenge. It was in one of these books that I recently discovered these cute little Italian sandwich cookies and just had to make them. The cookies truly melt in your mouth and have the perfect combination of salty and sweet flavor. The ganache filling provides a little extra sweetness along with the perfect amount of texture…truly delicious. One bite of these tiny morsels and I can almost invision myself sitting in an Italian piazza soaking up the sun, sipping a latte and enjoying these special cookies. I hope that you enjoy these cookies as much as I do!
For the cookies:
½ cup whole blanched almonds
1 Tbsp granulated sugar, plus more for rolling
1 ½ cups plus 1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp dark rum
For the ganache filling:
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tsp dark rum or your favorite liqueur (optional)
To make the cookies:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (Farenheit). Spread the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them until they are light golden brown and fragrant, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove the almonds from the oven and turn off the oven until you are ready to form the cookies. Allow the almonds to cool completely, then grind them in a food processor with the 1 Tbsp of sugar until they are finely chopped.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and confectioner’s sugar on medium speed until creamy and light, about 2 minutes, then beat in the vanilla extract and rum and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients, followed by the ground almonds. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill for about 1 hour, until it is firm enough to handle.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or butter or line them with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into 3 pieces. Work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the others wrapped and refrigerated. Roll 1 portion of dough into a small log about ¾ inch in diameter. Cut each log into ½ inch lengths and roll each piece into a ball, then roll the balls in granulated sugar to coat them completely. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spaced ½ inch apart. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough.
Bake the cookies, rotating the sheets 180 degrees to ensure even browning, until they are puffed and cracking on top, 12 to 15 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheets for 1 or 2 minutes, then use a spatula to remove them gently to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache filling: Place the chopped chocolate and butter in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it comes to a boil and pour it over the chocolate and butter. Allow the mixture to sit for a few moments, then whisk until smooth and glossy. Whisk in the rum, if you like. Allow the ganache to cool, whisking it occasionally, until it is firm enough to pipe.
To assemble the kisses: Pair up the cookies according to size. Turn one cookie upside down and, using a pastry bag fitted with a plain or star tip, pipe a small amount of ganache onto the flat side, then place the bottom of the second cookie on the ganache to form a sandwich; the two round tops of the cookies should be facing outward. Repeat until all the cookies have been used. Allow the ganache to firm up, at room temperature or in the refrigerator if necessary, then transfer the kisses to a serving plate.
The cookies can be stored, layered between sheets of parchment paper, in an airtight container kept in a cool place for up to 3 days.
Recipe from Dolce Italiano, Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen, by Gina DePalma