Brutti Ma Buoni Biscuits

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hazelnut meringue cookies

Brutti ma buoni – ‘ugly but good’ hazelnut meringue biscuits

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Despite this age old idiom, evaluating things by their appearance is sadly second nature in so many circumstances in life. Appearance influences the big decisions – it is said that in an interview, you have just seven seconds to make a good impression – but also the little ones: the quality of an apple, the content of a book, how delicious a dessert is going to be.

I’ve talked before on this blog about the pitfalls of style over substance when it comes to food. Incredible wedding cakes covered with beautifully crafted decorations concealing bland or dry sponge; slicks of sauce on a plate so small as to make little contribution to flavour; an artfully placed sprig of mint that you have to push to one side without eating.

hazelnut meringue biscuits

A crisp outer shell shatters to reveal a slightly soft, chewy middle

Of course some of the most beautiful desserts are also the most delicious. We eat with our eyes and I’m not suggesting that cooks and chefs shouldn’t do everything in their power to make food look as enticing as possible. But sometimes it’s important to look beyond appearances, to crack open an oyster and enjoy it in all its glistening, undeniably ugly glory, to take a risk on a hairy lychee or scary looking tentacle of squid, because often the beauty is as much in the eating as in anything more superficial.

Translated from the italian, brutti ma buoni means ‘ugly but good’. If there were a Classifieds equivalent in the baked goods world, these biscuits would be the ones with ‘a great personality’. Uneven in appearance with lumps of chopped nut cracking through a broken, cratered surface, these little Italian meringue cookies aren’t going to win any beauty awards against their elegantly swirled meringue cousins, but they do taste really very good.

hazelnut meringue biscuits

Unassuming but utterly delicious – brutti ma buoni biscuits

On Thursday I’m off to Italy on holiday. For the first three days we’ll be by the sea in Le Marche, staying in a hotel, eating out (including a meal at one of my favourite restaurants in the world), drinking delicious wine and overindulging in every possible way. Then on Sunday we’re heading to Tuscany for a week at my parents’ house in the hills. With eight people to feed, an abundance of incredible local ingredients and a lot of long, lazy days on my hands, I’ve started to do a little bit of menu planning.

Because it’s a holiday home, the kitchen in Italy isn’t that well equipped. And not just to cake-pan-hoarding, cookbook-obsessed, incredibly expensive Kitchen Aid stand mixer-owning little loaf standards: we don’t even own a whisk. Having investigated the kinds of things you can make when lacking almost entirely in any kind of kitchen gadgetry, it’s become pretty clear that a whisk is an essential item in making a whole load of otherwise fuss-free desserts. I’ve therefore decided to tuck one into my suitcase in between the bikinis and books and beach towels, but otherwise the only other thing I’ll be bringing are handwritten recipes for all the things I’m planning to make.

hazelnut meringue biscuits

Crunchy meringue swirled with chopped hazelnuts & dusted with cocoa

There will be homemade gnocci and pesto made with basil from the biggest plant I’ve ever seen, tagliatelle al ragu, wild mushroom risotto, melting fagioli all’ucceletto, Chianina beef barely introduced to a BBQ and cut into thick, bloody slices, olive oil smashed potatoes and ribbons of courgette with chilli, fiore di zucca stuffed with creamy ricotta and corn-fed chicken marinaded in vinegar and sage. For pudding we’ll be eating the freshest fruit salad, an Italian-inspired Eton mess, the obligatory tiramisu with a good glug of vin santo, tiny truffle-like chocolate pots served in espresso cups and these, the ugly duckling of the dessert world.

The recipe below comes from Jacob Kennedy’s inspirational Bocca di Lupo cookbook. If you love Italian food and don’t own a copy, I urge you to go out and buy it now. Not only are the savoury dishes reliable and delicious, it contains some of the most incredible desserts, from amazing ice creams (visit London’s Gelupo and you’ll start to see what I mean) to regional baked goods like these brutti ma buoni.

hazelnut meringue biscuits

Sweet, crunchy & nutty – the ultimate easy dessert

Below are quantities for between 20 – 30 biscuits, depending on size. Like meringues, these little treats last a fairly long time in an airtight tin and can also be frozen. I’m planning to serve some alongside those chocolate pots, then crush the rest into a sort of Italian-inspired Eton mess made with fresh peaches, mascarpone and cream. I literally cannot wait.

Brutti ma Buoni (adapted from Bocca di Lupo: The Cookbook)

Ingredients:

4 large free range egg whites
175g caster sugar
175g icing sugar
260g hazelnuts, roasted, skinned & chopped
Cocoa powder, to serve

Method:

Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line two baking sheet with parchment.

Whip the egg whites to soft peaks, then gradually add both sugars to obtain a luscious, dense meringue.

Warm the meringue in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, turning carefully with a metal spoon until slightly less dense and the meringue becomes glossy. Remove from the heat and fold in the chopped nuts.

Dollop heaped tablespoons of mixture onto your prepared baking sheets, leaving 2cm gaps between each. Bake for approx. one hour, or until amber and crunchy. The longer you cook them, the crisper they will be so you want to try to catch these biscuits whilst the middle is still slightly soft.

Dust with cocoa whilst still hot then serve at room temperature.

37 RESPONSES TO Brutti Ma Buoni Biscuits

  1. glamorous glutton -

    What a fabulous foodie holiday you’ll have. I saw these biscuits on Masterchef Australia last week and have been looking for a recipe. The contestant sandwiched them with strawberry cream. They may be brutti but I definitely want to bake them. GG

  2. mykitchenstories -

    Thanks for the heads up on the Italian cook book Im going to take a look. Theses biscuits look wonderful. I hope you have a fun holiday with as much food as you can handle!
    http://www.mykitchenstories.com.au

  3. Personally I don’t think these look ugly at all. They look delicious!

  4. Love the name :D have an amazing trip! Cant wait to see what recipes you come back with ;)

  5. These “ugly” meringues must be delicious … I wish you a lovely holiday … I always bring my microplane in my luggage, so helpful ! (and maybe I should take my whisk too !)- can’t wait to go to Tuscany too …

  6. I love the look of these might, bookmark thse for christmas presents :)

  7. That menu! Oh my goodness, my mouth is watering and I wrote every single item down as inspiration for summer cooking. There is one vendor at the markets here in Zürich who specializes in Italian produce and I can’t wait to see what he has to offer in the upcoming weeks; hopefully some zucchini with flowers still attached. Have a wonderful trip and thank you for sharing this biscotti recipe.

    • The Single Gourmet & Traveller – thank you!

      Elly – thanks! Very excited about the Italian Eton Mess :-)

      Glamorous Glutton – ooh, that sounds nice!

      My Kitchen Stories – it’s a brilliant book, do give it a go.

      Vanesther – thanks!

      Nic – thank you, looking forward to sharing!

      Argone – thank you. It’s all about smuggling kitchen equipment abroad!

      Meg – I think they’d make lovely presents, and they keep really well.

      Angie – glad you like them!

      Talley – ahh, thank you. Zucchini flowers are one of my favourite things in the world.

  8. I admit, I’m still a bit nervous about meringues, but I will definitely take your advice on Gelupo!

  9. Wow, your holiday sounds fantastic. You really are going to be eating ridiculously well. I am so hoping to have a good time in France soon. Miss the markets most. These biscuits/meringues are simply not ugly. I bet they taste wonderful! x

  10. Ever since working in a bakery, I always get frustrated if my desserts aren’t looking gorgeous. ‘Ugly’ desserts are good for me. :) But, I don’t think this looks ugly at all!

  11. I think they’re gorgeous – but then I do love ugly-but-tasty food. Have a fabulous time on holiday!

  12. Italians have a way with rustic desserts, or food in general. Amazing meringue cookies with one of my favorite nuts! Enjoy Italy for me!

  13. Beauty is in the eye and mouth of the beholder ;) these actually look quite tasty, especially after your delectable description! have a great holiday lovely :) x

  14. tracey -

    thank you! have a wonderful trip.

    • Baking Beardy – oh, Gelupo is heaven!

      Laura – I love shopping abroad, so many exciting things to discover.

      Sarah – your desserts always look incredibly beautiful :-)

      Emma – thank you!

      Paula – will do :-)

      Elaina – thank you so much!

      Amy – they’d be delicious with coffee. You could probably also put a little ground coffee into them for extra flavour.

      Tracey – thank you :-)

  15. Isn’t the ugliest food always the tastiest? :) These do sound delicious in every way!

  16. Often foods that don’t photograph well have the most love put into them. See soups, stews, and in this case, meringues.

    Take your whisk. Let airport security worry about it. ;)

  17. I don’t think these are ugly cookies at all, I think they look wonderful! Have a super holiday, my first day back at work today has been pretty tough!

    • Eileen – I think it often is :-)

      Lucas – haha, I hadn’t even thought about security. Will definitely be going in my hold luggage :-)

      Savory Simple – thank you :-)

      Kathryn – I’m sure I’ll be the same in just over a week’s time, hate that back to work feeling :-)

  18. Have a great time in Italy! I adored my very short time there :D And these aren’t ugly at all, they look quite delicious to me! :P

  19. I think they look quite beautful! Your planned holiday sounds amazing and is one destination I have on top of my list! Are you sure you don’t have room in your suitcase!

  20. Love these cookies and yours look fabulous!

  21. Can I please be packed in your suitcase along with the whisk?

  22. Ive been wanting to make these little treats for as long as I have perused the blogging world, but I hadn’t seen them around for a bit until this post reminded me! I definitely want them in my life. ASAP. Gorgeous, and the graham crackers recipe too! Would also love to try them some day :)

  23. Pingback: A Trip to Tuscany | thelittleloaf

  24. I have a hard time calling these gems ugly. I love the simple but exquisite food of Tuscany. I would love to have the opportunity to go myself one day. Have a wonderful time!

  25. I love the look of these and as I’m a big fan of macaroons I think I’d love the taste of them too. Substituting the almonds for hazelnuts has got to make them even more delicious. Substance wins for me over style every time, but these have their own style.

    • Lorraine – thank you!

      Cake Boule – ah sorry, would have loved to squeeze you in :-)

      Andrea – thanks!

      Urvashi – haha, if I had room I would!

      Sasha – definitely give them a go, they are so easy!

      Sacha – you must, Tuscany is just wonderful :-)

      Sara – thank you.

      Choclette – there’s something about hazelnuts which just gets me every time. Love them.

  26. Pingback: Tiramisu with Vin Santo | thelittleloaf

  27. Pingback: Raspberry, Peach & Hazelnut Eton Mess | thelittleloaf

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