Baci di Alassio are decadent chocolate hazelnut cookies sandwiched with velvety dark chocolate ganache. They're a local specialty of the Ligurian town of Alassio, Italy. The ground hazelnuts and cocoa powder in these flourless cookies provide a rustic texture that's chewy and soft, similar to that of French macarons.
This baci di Alassio recipe uses only 6 ingredients to create a deliciously rich chocolate hazelnut sandwich cookie. The main flavors are from toasted ground hazelnuts and rich cocoa powder. Combined, they form a thick batter that is piped into round stars and baked. After baking, they're sandwiched together with a silky smooth chocolate ganache.
These baci differ from their better known cousins, baci di dama. While baci di dama contain butter and flour (and no cocoa) and have a crispy, firm texture, these baci di Alassio are flourless and have a slight crunch with a nutty, chewy center.
The word baci means "kisses" in Italian. The name is rumored to have originated from the shape of the two cookies coming together like lips to form a kiss. These cookies, sometimes known as baci di riviera, were invented around 1910 by a famous pastry chef from Alassio, Rinaldo Balzola. He created them as a gastronomic souvenir for tourists visiting the Ligurian town from abroad.
The original recipe is a closely guarded secret, and each Italian bakery has their own rendition. This is my version, after 6 rounds of recipe tests to get just the right flavor, consistency and technique.
You can also explore the entire collection of cookie recipes here, including these rich chocolate coffee mascarpone sandwich cookies and these delicate alfajores de maicena, which are Argentine shortbread sandwich cookies with dulce de leche.
- Hazelnuts - My hazelnuts came toasted, but I've included instructions for roasting them in case yours are raw. You can also use finely ground hazelnut meal or hazelnut flour here. If substituting ground nuts, use the same amount by weight; do not measure by volume.
- Cocoa powder - I use Dutch process cocoa powder for a rich, dark chocolate flavor. You can use either natural or Dutch process cocoa in this recipe.
- Honey - Honey serves as a binder and adds additional moisture and flavor to the recipe.
- Egg whites - Egg whites should be at room temperature.
* See recipe card for full list of ingredients and quantities.
Learn how to make baci di Alassio! These photos provide visual cues. Find the detailed instructions in the recipe card.
To the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, add toasted (cooled) hazelnuts and sugar.
Blend hazelnuts and granulated sugar until the mixture is very finely ground. You want the nuts to be as fine as possible to help make the batter thick.
Place nut mixture in a large bowl and add cocoa and honey, stirring well to fully incorporate these ingredients. Set aside.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt to stiff peaks.
Gently fold egg whites into nut mixture just until mixed.
Place batter in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe 1 inch stars onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 9-10 minutes.
While cookies bake, heat heavy cream until almost simmering, and add finely chopped chocolate.
Gently whisk cream and chocolate until ganache is smooth and no lumps of chocolate remain.
Once baked cookies and ganache are both cool, place ganache in a piping bag with an open tip. Pipe a bit of ganache onto the base of a cookie and press together with another cookie to form a sandwich. Repeat for remaining baci cookies.
Hints: Grind your hazelnut and sugar mixture as finely as possible. This will help create the thickest batter for the piped cookies. A thicker batter means the cookies will spread less and have a taller, more defined star shape after baking.
Honey - If you don't have honey (or aren't able to eat it), you can substitute an equal amount of golden syrup or light corn syrup.
Cocoa powder - Since this recipe uses egg whites for leavening, you can use either Dutch process or natural cocoa powder interchangeably.
If you'd like to try a different twist on these Italian chocolate hazelnut sandwich cookies, consider this suggestion:
- Spiked ganache - Reduce the heavy cream by 1 Tablespoon. Add 1 Tablespoon of your preferred liquor to the cream and proceed with the recipe as written. You might try bourbon, a hazelnut liqueur such as Frangelico, or a coffee liqueur like Kahlua.
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Food processor - To make these cookies, I grind my hazelnuts with the sugar in a food processor so that they are very fine.
Baking pans - I bake my cookies on half sheet baking pans (18 x 13 inches).
Piping bags - To pipe the baci, I use a double layer of these 16 inch piping bags since the batter is very thick.
Piping tips - For the cookies, I tested both an Ateco 868 French star pastry tip, and a Wilton 4B open star tip. While both work, I find it easier to use the larger Ateco 868 tip to smoothly pipe the very thick batter.
For the chocolate ganache, I use a Wilton 1A round tip.
Store: Store cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Freeze: Freeze cookies in an airtight container or zipper sealed bag for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.
Make ahead: Pipe the cookies, gently cover with plastic wrap, and store in the refrigerator overnight prior to baking. Bring cookies to room temperature prior to baking.
Note: some recipes ask you to cure the cookies at room temperature overnight prior to baking. While I tried this with good results* in my recipe tests, I can't recommend the method for US bakers as the recipe contains raw egg whites, and our US eggs are processed differently from European eggs. If you know the origin and treatment of your eggs (ie, they're unwashed), leaving the unbaked piped cookies out at room temperature overnight is up to you!
* The flavor and texture of the cured version is the same as the uncured, immediately baked cookies. The only notable differences:
- The definition of the star shape is more crisp and pronounced on the cookies that have been left out overnight
- The cured cookies are slightly taller and spread a bit less
If your baci went flat after baking, it's likely that the batter was too thin. The two most common issues are:
Hazelnuts ground too coarsely: If the hazelnuts are not finely ground, they won't create enough structure with the liquid ingredients and the batter will be thin.
Too much egg white: Egg whites vary in size. In this recipe I use 2 large egg whites (US standard), which average about 66-68 grams total. For best accuracy with this recipe, weigh your egg whites (and all of your ingredients!) using a digital scale.
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Baci di AlassioPrint Recipe Pin Recipe
Baci di Alassio Cookies
- 250 grams (1¾ cup + 1 Tablespoon) hazelnuts, whole
- 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
- 25 grams (¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon) cocoa powder (I used Dutch process)
- 21 grams (1 Tablespoon) honey
- 2 large egg whites (approximately 66 grams) room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
- 113 grams (⅓ cup + 2 Tablespoons) heavy cream
- 113 grams (⅔ cup) dark chocolate, finely chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177° Celsius, Gas mark 4) with rack in center of oven.
- If your hazelnuts are not yet toasted, spread the nuts onto a rimmed sheet pan. Roast for 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Nuts will have a toasted smell and begin to turn golden brown. Keep an eye on this process - you don't want to burn expensive ingredients!! Pour toasted nuts onto a cold cookie sheet to speed the cooling process. Set aside to fully cool. Keep oven on.
- To the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, add the cooled hazelnuts (warm nuts will give you hazelnut butter) and granulated sugar. Process until the mixture is very finely ground. You want the nuts to be as fine as possible to help make the batter thick.250 grams (1¾ cup + 1 Tablespoon) hazelnuts, whole, 200 grams (1 cup) granulated sugar
- Pour nut mixture into a large bowl. Add cocoa powder and stir well with a spoon or spatula to incorporate fully. Nut mixture should be evenly dark brown. Use your fingers to break up any nut-sugar clumps. Thinly drizzle honey over the entire mixture to help spread it out evenly. Stir very well, pressing the mixture into the bottom and sides of the bowl to make sure there are no pockets of honey left. Set aside.25 grams (¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon) cocoa powder (I used Dutch process), 21 grams (1 Tablespoon) honey
- To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites. Beat on medium speed until foamy. Turn off the mixer and add the salt. Continue beating on medium until soft peaks form. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until stiff.2 large egg whites (approximately 66 grams), ¼ teaspoon kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal)
- Add egg whites to bowl with nut mixture. Using a spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture until no egg white streaks remain. Do this by scooping one side of the mixture from below and turning it upside-down onto the other side of the mixture. Rotate the bowl ¼ turn. Repeat just as needed.
- Scoop the batter into a piping bag* fitted with a large open star tip (my preference is an Ateco 868 French star tip. A smaller Wilton 4B tip is still possible, but more challenging as the opening is smaller for the stiff batter.* I use a double bag for this recipe as backup in case the first bag splits; the batter is very thick and you have to squeeze pretty firmly.
- Line a rimmed half sheet baking pan with parchment paper. Pipe 1 inch (2.5 centimeter) stars onto the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Keep the bag upright so that the tip of the star is centered in the middle of the cookie, and hold it above the pan as you squeeze the bag so that the batter has a bit of height as it comes out. If your piped cookies don't want to release from the piping bag, swirl the tip around a little to loosen them. Lightly dampen a finger to gently reshape any star points that are too tall or misshapen.
- Bake one tray of baci cookies at a time for 9-10 minutes. When done, cookies should be slightly dull, firm to a gentle touch on the outside, and still soft inside. You should be able to lift a cookie off the parchment paper without it sticking. The bottom should be caramelized and a bit shiny. Cool cookies on the pan.
- In a microwave safe container (or the top of a double boiler), heat the cream in 15 second increments until it steams and small bubbles form along the edge of the container. Do not boil. Remove from heat and add finely chopped chocolate. Ensure all chocolate is covered by the cream.113 grams (⅓ cup + 2 Tablespoons) heavy cream, 113 grams (⅔ cup) dark chocolate, finely chopped
- Let sit for 1 minute, and then gently and slowly whisk until all chocolate has melted and no lumps remain. Set aside to cool somewhat (don't wait 'til it's completely cool or it will be too firm to pipe.)
- Once thick enough to pipe, place into a piping bag lined with an open circle tip. I use a Wilton 1A tip, but you can also simply cut the end off the bag. Pipe a small amount of ganache onto the base of a cookie, and sandwich together with a similar sized cookie. Continue until all cookies have been filled and paired.
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