It is time (Lion King anyone?).
After an almond based amuse and a meaty appetizer it is time to reveal my contribution to this month's SHF/IMBB Cookie swap event. With Sicily in my mind, I thought for a long time about baking some traditional sweet out of the region's classics and I would have had enough to choose from. Instead I opted for a little creativity; having some Sicilian ingredients at hand, I felt like playing around a bit. The result is shown above.
If you've red this blog from the beginning, those cookies might remind you of something else I had written about almost exactly two years ago (gosh, my photos were really ugly back then!). These cookies are indeed inspired by those Baci di dama I baked back then –and a few times more between then and now– yet with a twist that makes them more "Sicilian". Maybe not so much in acquiring an authentic Sicilain taste, rather inspired by the flavors and aromas of the island's pastries. I'm calling these Baci di picciotta for the time being, as a sort of pun: baci di dama means, lady's kisses, and "picciotta" is Sicilian dialect for girl. If you have a better suggestion I'm all ears.
Among the food gifts we had brought back from our recent Sicilian trip, I had two items expressly for making sweets: almond flour made with mandorle pizzute d'Avola (the Avola almond I mentioned on Friday) and a cram of pistacchi di Bronte. Before you start asking: Bronte is a place in Sicily and has nothing to do with the famous sisters. Unfortunately I might add, because it would have added another dimension to these cookies. On the other hand, Bronte (the town) does produce what are considered as the best pistachios in Italy: bright green and with a very aromatic taste, ideal for pastry uses. The pistachio cream taste exactly like... pistachio Nutella, if there ever was such a thing: heaven for pistachio lovers. With two top ingredients like these I had to do my very best in using them at their best.
Once I had decided to use baci di dama as a base I had a few changes to make. Compared to the classic baci di dama, made with either hazelnut of mixed hazelnut-almond dough, these cookies use only almond, which gives them a less nutty, but more delicate taste. Also, instead of the classic vanill and lemon peel aromas, I used vanilla and cinnamon a rather common Sicilian pastry combo. The last detail to pin down was the stuffing. I tried one cookie with only pistachio cream as a filling, but it became way too sweet. I tired adding cioccolato modicano and pistachio cream, but that did not melt too well, the chocolate remained too grainy. In the end I went for dark 70% cocoa chocolate and the pistachio cream, sandwiching them to give a double filling layer, like this:
Somehow, instead of tasting like a road crash, it all does seem to work nicely together, the pistachio and chocolate nicely balancing each other and the mellow, buttery cookie more interesting thanks to the light cinnamon note. Come around and you will get a taste ;-).
Finally here's the recipe itself:
Baci di picciotta
for the dough:
150 g almond flour
150 g butter, at room temperature
130 g confectioner's sugar
150 g cake flour
a pinch of: salt, vanilla sugar, cinnamon
about 2-3 Tsp pistachio cream
75-100 g dark chocolate
Cream the batter and sugar together till nice and fluffy. Stir in the almond flour and then the flour, salt, cinnamon and vanilla sugar. Knead as little as possible, till you just get a homogeneous dough together. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate at least two-three hours, better over night.
Once the dough is cold, cut off teaspoon sized chunks off it and roll these into little balls the size of a large cherry. Place them on a baking tray lined with baking parchment as you go, leaving at least two cm between each ball, since they'll spread out during baking. Meanwhile pre-heat your oven at 180°C(350°F). Bake for 10-12 minutes, or till they start browning, rotating the baking sheet back to front (and eventually top to bottom too, if you're baking two sheets at a time) after 6 minutes. Let cool.
Once the cookies are cold match them pairwise for size of the flat size. Melt the dark chocolate over a water bath till it reaches ca. 37°C. Working quickly place a small dollop (about 1/3 of a tsp) on one cookies flat side, and make a ring of molten chocolate on the other, leaving the center free. Sandwich delicately the two cookies together and balance so that the two halves don't slide off each other. The important thing is to have the chocolate seal the pistachio cream, so try to have no cream liking out between the two cookies. Wait till the chocolate has hardened and enjoy!