“International Chefs Day” falls on October 20th but Italian cuisine is the only cuisine in the world to have its own day, and it is internationally celebrated on January 17.
196 flavors takes you to Italy for a cuisine that has a prominent place in the global culinary heritage, that is no longer a secret.
The recipe that I am preparing today, baci di dama or lady’s kisses, could also have its place on July 6, International Kissing Day, or January 21, National Hug Day, but after all it is only a matter of calendar… Whether it is about cuisine or hugs, isn’t Italy known as the country of love anyway?
Culinary loss of authenticity is responsible for the establishment of IDIC (International Day of Italian Cuisine). IDIC is the voice of a network of Italian chefs (“Itchefs”), restaurant owners and professionals working in the Italian food industry outside Italy. This organization represents about 2,200 people working in 70 countries around the world.
196 flavors is in perfect alignment with the mission of this organization. It has been our mission since the beginning of the adventure to protect and share the heritage of authentic and traditional recipes of the 196 countries that cover the globe. We are only 3 French with diverse origins that certainly cover other regions and countries, but we do not pretend to be experts in 196 cuisines despite the extensive research we do before each post. That is why we decided to collaborate with these experts.
Last month, we introduced Delphine, from Del’s cooking twist, our new expert on Swedish cuisine. This month, we present Benny the Chef, our new expert in Italian cuisine. Like us, Chef Benny, a native of Rome, is a strong advocate of authentic Italian cuisine and especially Roman cuisine. You can learn more about Chef Benny by reading the exclusive interview he gave to 196 flavors. Italian recipes on 196 flavors will now all be supervised and validated by Chef Benny.
Italian cuisine has been honored in 2010 with the recognition by UNESCO of the Mediterranean diet in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
A study of the Accademia Italiana della cucina reports that two-thirds of known Italian dishes in the world are actually “fake” and presented with inappropriate names or ingredients. Imitation cheese or substitutes are the most common examples. The loss of this culinary heritage is damaging the prestige of some Italian institutions. Hence the World Day of Italian cuisine, showcasing original and authentic recipes.
The date of January 17 was not picked randomly. That day is a Catholic celebration. A day honoring Sant’Antonio Abate, who is the saint of animals, but also butchers and salami.
This is also the first day of Carnival in Italy. According to the traditions, this period is one of feasts and of course one that celebrates cuisine. Sant’Antonio is celebrated throughout Italy. In Puglia, southeast of the country, the largest celebration of Sant’Antonio Abate takes place in Novoli, with focara, a great celebration of music.
How about a kiss?
Baci di dama or “lady kisses” are small cookies from the Piedmont origin, specifically the city of Tortona where they were born about a century ago.
In Italy, they are the symbol of sensuality, because they are two small pieces of dough reminiscent of two lips kissing, united by chocolate. Ah these Italians! Delicate and sensual like their cookies!
The first legend about baci di dama says that they were born from the imagination of a pastry chef of the House of Savoy in the fall of 1852 at the request of Prince Vittorio Emanuele II, who, eager to taste something new had asked his chef to create a new cake. The latter who only found almonds, butter, chocolate and sugar, was quick to create these cookies.
A second legend says that those kisses came from the competition between two pastry chefs from Tortona (Zanotti and Vercesi) who wanted to create a new cake. They both patented two different versions: one with an almond-based dough and the other one based on hazelnuts. This is the hazelnut version that I chose to prepare today. For the “glue” of these lips, I picked gianduja, which is a sweet chocolate and hazelnut spread, also a Piedmontese institution!
“Patience” should be the subtitle of this recipe that I prepared with a lot of… Love! I may not be Italian but I can be very romantic! I say “patience” as I weighed every single lip to obtain a perfect result. I was helped by music and the company of my friend Estelle in my kitchen. An absolutely delicious result!
- 1½ cup hazelnuts
- 1½ cup icing sugar
- 1½ cup flour , sifted
- 1 cup unsalted butter (soft)
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup icing sugar
- ½ cup hazelnuts , roasted
- 3 oz. dark chocolate , chopped
- 3 oz. milk chocolate , chopped
- ¼ cup whole milk
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Soak the nuts in a large amount of hot water. Leave them in water for 1 hour.
- Drain and remove the thin brown skin.
Preheat oven to 350F/180C, and bake the nuts on the center rack.
- Roast a few minutes, stirring occasionally. They should not brown.
- Wait until they cool and grind to reduce to fine powder.
- In the food processor bowl, combine the sugar and butter, cut into cubes.
- Add the hazelnut powder and flour.
- Work the dough for a minute.
- Finally, stir in the egg yolk and knead the dough for a minute, until smooth and blended.
- Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Shape dough into balls of about ½ oz (15g) each.
- Let stand in refrigerator 30 minutes.
Preheat convection oven to 320F/160C.
- Place the dough balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving spacing between them.
- Bake on center rack for 10 minutes. Cookies must be light in color.
- Drop them gently on a cooling rack and cool completely.
- Finely chop the hazelnuts in a food processor.
- Add the icing sugar and mix until obtaining a soft dough.
- Add both chocolates and mix again until completely blended.
- Finally add the milk slowly while mixing.
- Bring water to a boil in a heavy saucepan.
- Transfer mixture in a metal bowl and place bowl in the saucepan.
- Add butter and heat in a water bath for 15 minutes, until the butter and chocolate have melted.
- Put the spread in the fridge to solidify slightly.
- Using a pastry bag, a syringe or a spoon, spread gianduja on the flat side of one cookie and top with another cookie. Let cool.
- The gianduja spread can be stored in an airtight glass jar in the fridge.
- Baci di dama can be stored in a sealed metal box at room temperature.