Something Different
Week of: May 7, 2012
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Mother's Day, Italian-Style

By Dana Jacobi
for the American Institute for Cancer Research

On Mother's Day, give your mother an Italian kiss. Italians, who love kisses and sweets, make a lovely cookie called Baci de Dama, or Lady's Kisses. Your mother does not have to be Italian to enjoy these crunchy cookies as a sweet surprise.

Baci are a feather-light, two-bite meringue cookie with nutty flavor. Their ingredients are simple, just hazelnuts, egg whites, less sugar than you might expect, and a dash of cinnamon. Although popular in Europe, hazelnuts are less commonly used here. Their unexpected appearance makes Baci special, a nice message to give mom.

Planning ahead is key for making these cookies. As with other meringues, to have them come out properly crisp you must bake them on a dry day. They keep well so if the forecast around Mother's Day looks rainy or if the humidity will be high, make them up to 4 days ahead, then store them in an airtight box. After baking, Baci also need to rest in the oven for up to 4 hours to come out thoroughly dry in the center.

If dinner is at your house on Mother's Day, Baci di Dama served alongside fresh berries make a simply elegant dessert. If sharing time with mom means Skype, Baci nested in wax paper ship well. They are also gluten-free, in case that matters.

Baci di Dama

Baci di Dama or Hazelnut Meringue Kisses

  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread nuts in 1 layer in shallow pan. Roast for 5 minutes, stir, and roast nuts 5 minutes longer. Immediately wrap nuts in dishtowel and rub together vigorously to remove as much skin as possible. Spread skinned nuts out and cool to room temperature.

Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment and set aside.

Chop one-third cup of nuts very fine. Doing this by hand takes a few minutes but gives a nicer result than using a food processor. Place nuts in bowl. Coarsely chop remaining nuts and add to finely chopped ones. Set nuts aside.

In an immaculately clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites with electric mixer on medium-high until frothy. Add salt and beat on high until whites form soft peaks. While beating, add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Continue beating until whites are thick and glossy, like marshmallow fluff. Fold in cinnamon and all nuts.

Drop meringue by tablespoon onto lined baking sheets, spacing kisses 1 inch apart. Use back of spoon to shape and smooth them, leaving some points and crags.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, if possible placing both pans side by side in center of oven. When meringues are crisp almost all the way through, turn off oven and let kisses sit with oven door ajar, for up to 4 hours. Transfer kisses to wire racks to cool completely.

These kisses keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days, though damp weather may soften them to be chewier.

Makes 15 servings. Per serving: 2 cookies

Per serving: 76 calories, 5 g fat (<1 g sat fat), 6 g carbohydrates,
2 g protein, 1 g fiber, 26 mg sodium.

Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

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