These delicate little biscuits, two tiny half circles sandwiched together with a filling of dark chocolate like a pair of pursed lips kissing, are originally from the town of Tortona, in the province of the Alessandria, in Piedmont, and legend would have it that they have a royal roots.
The story goes that on the evening of the 25th November 1852 in the royal kitchens of the House of Savoy, the royal pastry cooks found themselves in something of a quandary having to create a recipe for an urgent request from King Victor Emmanuel II for: “something sweet and new, but with an authentic flavour” that he wanted to offer as a gift to an unnamed beautiful lady.
Using ingredients already available in the kitchen, the result was a delicacy that soon became popular in all the royal households of Europe.
However, further research leads us to the historical pastry shop of the Vercesi brothers under the old porticos in Tortona. Here, in the late 19th century, Stefano Vercesi modified the original recipe, using almonds instead of hazelnuts and adding chocolate to the dough.
He called them Baci Dorati. You can still buy them in that very same shop, presented in a lovely art nouveau style tin.
Many other versions of this ancient recipe exist, re-created and adapted by famous pastry chefs all over the region and even as far away as Liguria, but the principle is always the same – small and delicate little biscuits made using the finest possible local ingredients.
The biscuits were presented at the International Trade Fair in Milan in 1906, where they were awarded the coveted gold medal and they have since received official government recognition (known as PAT) as a typical, traditional product that helps to preserve and maintain ancient recipes, methods and customs handed down from one generation to another.
Kept in a tightly sealed container, they will last for about 2 weeks and when bagged up and decorated with ribbons they make a lovely Christmas gift.
This recipe makes a large quantity, but the dough can be kept in the fridge and used as required and also freezes perfectly."
This recipe is by Valentina Harris. See more of Valentina's Italian Christmas recipes plus classic Italian dishes such as homemade pasta.
Ingredients for Lady's Kisses
How to make Lady's Kisses, Baci di Dama biscuits
- Using a food processor or your hands, mix together all the ingredients except the chocolate to form a smooth, even dough. Do not overwork the dough to avoid it becoming heavy and brittle.
- Wrap the dough in Clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300 F/ Gas mark 2/130° Fan
- On a lightly flour dusted surface, roll the dough gently into 4g balls (about the size of a hazelnut) and lay them carefully on a lined baking sheet to bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure they are well spaced apart. They will be light golden brown when they are done.
- Remove from the oven, slide them very carefully off the baking sheet with a palette knife on to a wire rack and cool completely.
- Melt the chocolate gently over hot water and use it to glue together the tiny balls of into pairs, dipping one side of each ball in the warm chocolate and then gently pressing them together.
- Leave to set and store in an airtight container until required.
Valentina Harris is a passionate Italian cook and award-winning author with more than 30 books to her name, including The Italian Regional Cookbook; Risotto! Risotto!; Classic Recipes of Tuscany; 500 Italian Recipes, and Valentina Harris’s Complete Italian Cookery Course. Educated in Italy, Valentina brought her qualifications for teaching and cooking from Rome to London in 1976. As a regular face at food festivals in the UK, Valentina stills finds time to share her expertise and love of Italian food by hosting courses, plus can be found regularly contributing to radio, TV, newspapers, and magazines.