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.