22 April 2016

Brutti Ma Buoni - My Trials and Tribulations

In November when I was in Rome L and I had the most magnificent cookies called brutti ma buoni - literally ugly but good. I have tried several times now to recreate them and are consistently turning out far more brutti than buoni. I shall persevere!!

Both attempts had good and bad points. The first recipe I found was, I now believe, miswritten. No way one egg white was enough so I did some guesstimating and randomly threw in a few more egg whites. I also went the whole nine yards with roasting whole hazelnuts then putting them through a food processor with confectioner's sugar.

I'm sure it was an ingredient  proportional issue but these baked flatter than a pancake. Brutti ma buoni should be puffy and round, kind of like a coconut macaroon. Sans the coconut.They were both brutti and buoni but brutti in a completely different way than they should have been. But wow did they taste good.

For my second batch I used a completely different recipe. I also skipped a step and used prepulverized hazelnuts that I found at Carrefour. Even the method with these cookies was much different and involved hand whisking the egg whites and sugar in a double boiler-which I think made a big difference in how the cookie turned out.

I knew as soon as I scooped these onto the cookie sheet that I had a better chance this time of making them look right. The meringue was fluffier and the raw dough stayed put instead of migrating into the surrounding cookies.

This recipe also called for a significantly less amount of hazelnuts so that explains why they may have looked slightly better (well, better = the way they're supposed to) but did not have the big hazelnut flavor that the first batch did. I also think I let them bake like two minutes longer than they needed. My new oven and I are still learning how to get along.

So the first batch wins for taste but the second sort of wins for looks. I think my next attempt will be with the below recipe which is the one I used for the second batch but with some tweaks.  When made correctly these cookies are amazing and totally worth all this trial and error to get right!

Brutti ma buoni


  • 200 grams whole hazelnuts
  • 1 cup (200 grams) sugar
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 Tbs (30 grams) flour
  1.  Preheat oven to 350 F/177 C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the hazelnuts on the baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes (or until fragrant) and skins begin to flake. Remove and place on a clean dish towel. Roll up the towel and let them steam for about 10 minutes then rub the (still in the towel) briskly to remove the skins. Let them cool completely then coarsely chop (or run through a food processor).
  2. In a heatproof bowl placed over a shallow pan of simmering water combine the sugar and egg whites whisking constantly until opaque in color.
  3. Remove from heat and beat with a hand mixer until thick and glossy. Beat in the vanilla then fold in the flour and chopped nuts.
  4. Place heaping tablespoonsful on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 12-ish minutes then check and bake more or not.
These are best the day of but will keep for a day or two in an airtight container. 

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