There are many cookies called kisses, including Ginger Kisses, Custard Kisses, Ladies Kisses (Baci di Dama), and untold variations such as these delectable sounding Espresso Chocolate Kisses. The one commonality is that each recipe involves two cookie halves sandwiched together with some sort of cream or frosting. I suppose it is this moist joining of halves that conjures the idea of a kiss, which could suggest, if you were so inclined, that the tantalising “Melting Moment” is simply the brazen cousin to the Kiss.
While this is one (beguiling) line of thinking, not all kisses are passionate. My childhood memories of eating Nana’s Kisses are as innocent as a lamb. Even now, when reflecting on her Kisses, what actually comes to my mind is the idea of kissing Nana’s cheek with its powdery patina and lattice of lines. It is partly to do with the Kisses’ air of yesteryear, the way they look most at home sitting on a floral plate, next to a china teacup and saucer. To me, eating Kisses is a sweetly sentimental act, not unlike the sensation of chaste lips, pressed tenderly, to soft, yielding, grandmother-skin.
Most of the recipes for Kisses that I’ve found online are nothing like my Nana’s Kisses. These Kisses are usually too firm and crunchy whereas Nana’s Kisses are as light as a husk weighted down only by the smear of sticky red jam (similar to this recipe). It is the addition of cornflour that makes the batter so light while the proportionally high quantity of raising agent fills the cookie with air. In fact Kisses are so light that it’s not uncommon for them to partially collapse when you bite into them, expelling a puff of powdered sugar into the air.
As children we must have pressed Nana to explain why they were called Kisses, but I can’t remember her exact response. I think it was linked to this tendency towards collapse, which, if you think laterally, bears some resemblance to the feeling of light-headed surrender during a kiss. I highly doubt that Nana would have explained it like this to us children, yet I clearly recall a family story about a dream in which an upstanding male member of our community visited our home. When asked if he would like a Kiss with his coffee, he reacted with embarrassment and outrage, causing an awkward situation requiring awkward explanation. While clearly ludicrous, the dream was only the logical extreme of what we joked about when offering the biscuits to each other. For visitors unversed in our family culture, the polite query, “would you like a Kiss?”, never failed to produce a momentary confusion, despite the twinkle in Nana’s eye.
This post started in my consciousness as a kind of tribute to my lovely Nana, who turns 88 today, but I can’t seem to get beyond the Kiss/kiss. Well that’s ok. One recipe alone is insufficient for embodying Nana’s personal and culinary legacy for our family, so let’s just call this a start. Kisses are as good a start as any because kisses are simply a joy, are they not, and a grandmother’s kiss is one of the sweetest of all. I should know – I grew up next door to Nana so I got plenty, both of the standard sort of kiss and of Nana’s specialty, the “Butterfly Kiss”, which involved fluttering her eyelashes against our cheeks (grandchildren love Butterfly Kisses!). A loving kiss communicates all that words can’t. Never be too busy for a kiss, in fact, give a kiss today. Happy birthday dear Nana, I’m sending you a birthday kiss right now; did you catch it?
115g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup red jam (raspberry, or my favourite, plum)
1 Tbsp icing sugar (to serve)
Preheat the oven to 205°C / 400°F.
In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy and pale. Beat the eggs in one at a time until well combined.
Whisk together the dry ingredients together in another bowl until free of lumps. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and gently mix until fully combined.
Place teaspoonfuls of mixture onto a baking tray. The cookies will spread and double in size while baking, so ensure they are well spaced on the tray. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until dry to the touch and just beginning to colour on the edges. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
Once the cookies are firm and cool, sandwich them together with red jam, allowing each half to find a partner of approximately equal size and shape. Dust with icing sugar to serve. Kisses are best eaten fresh but will keep in a sealed container for 2-3 days. They will keep longer if stored without the jam filling.
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That’s a lot of cornflour, Chez.
Exactly Mary – that’s the secret to the lightness of these little cakes.
Thought that might be it. I’ve copied and pasted it into my recipe section to use the next time I make biscuits. I like the idea of light as air kisses.
I had something just like this yesterday, a friend brought them back with her from Greece! They were so delicious, I thought it might have been apricot jam in the middle, but now I think it it was plum! I’m definitely going to try these 🙂
I’ve actually used all sorts of jam in these, including plum, raspberry, apricot and ginger jam. They all work, but plum is my favourite. It’s also what I remember Nana using most of the time. She used to make plum jam each year from the plums in her orchard, so she always had plenty of plum jam on hand.
Such a lovely post – both the words and photos are beautiful! Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for your kind comment Stephanie 🙂
Just perfect – so buttery & lovely.
Oh yum! These look seriously tasty *_*
I’ve nominated you for a liebster award 🙂 http://embracingeating.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/libester-award/
Hi Cece, they are indeed delightful little morsels! Thank you for the nomination, so sweet of you 🙂
I love this recipe for afternoon tea with Young Ladies and Young Lords – a very nice variation on regular cookies.
They would be perfect for a formal afternoon tea! Do you serve them at your events?
What a lovely post to honour your Nana. How lucky you are to have grown up close to her and to have created all those treasured memories together.
Thanks Sam, I was lucky indeed to have both of my grandparents right next door for my entire childhood. I probably took it for granted more times than I care to think about though! It’s really only as an adult that I appreciate what a privilege it was.
What a lovely gift for your Nana. I’m sure she’ll be so proud. I have a group of older ladies I sometimes cook for, they are going to love these.
Thank you Michelle, I’d love to be there to read it to her myself but I know that Mum will do a faithful job of reporting back. I hope your ladies like them!
Haven’t had those since I was a kid, 50 odd years ago…. nice memory.
I’m glad I could bring it back for you AV!
These look delightful!
They are! It’s been a while since I’ve made them and I had forgotten how wonderful they are – so sugary and feminine, simply delightful.
Ah Chez You did it!! Well done! What a perfectly lovely tribute to your Nana on her birthday. I have printed it out to take down and share with her tomorrow when we visit. I’ll let you know her response! She will be thrilled to bits! Lots of love from your Mum XXXXXXXXXXX
Thanks Mum 🙂 I had a bit of time yesterday to finish writing and the morning today to bake so yes, despite all, I was able to post it on her actual birthday! I hope she likes it xxx