Brutti ma Buoni have enchanted me since I was a child. Lovely mounds of meringue surrounding broken pieces of properly toasted hazelnuts – could there be anything better than that?
Most recipes for Brutti ma Buoni follow a similar set of instructions by starting with a meringue with perhaps a bit of vanilla extract and or cinnamon and lastly the folding in of ground toasted hazelnuts. Although the hazelnut based cookie hails from Piemonte, specifically the region surrounding Alba, variations of this classic cookie from Tuscany use almonds.
And the hazelnuts, well I am quite spoilt as my visits to Piemonte introduced me to the Tonde Gentile as it is referred to, the ultimate in hazelnuts. Hazelnut trees are planted alongside the vines in the Lanhge and typify the scenic drives though the hills. An IGT designated product, the crisp and compact little nut is an absolute burst of hazelnut deliciousness. When a recipe originates from Italy and calls for hazelnuts you can be certain that the hazelnuts they are referring to are the Tonde Gentile.
The meringue is the essential framework for this Piedmontese dolce, so it must be absolute perfect. After experimenting with the proportion of egg whites and sugars, ultimately deciding on a combination of granulated and confectioners sugar, I finally arrived on the texture I was searching for.
The perfect base for Brutti ma Buoni without being sickeningly sweet. Meringue by its very nature is sweet, however a pinch of salt and the seeds of a vanilla pod created just the right balance.
Let’s not forget the main attraction – the hazelnuts. Now of course use hazelnuts that are available to you, as we do have excellent ones from both Oregon & Michigan. Rather than grind the hazelnuts, I prefer to hand chop them with a chefs knife which results in a more varied texture of the noble nocciola.
I knew I had achieved perfection when a dear friend from Florence, a highly regarded sommelier & restaurateur, found them utterly irresistible.
Brutti ma Buoni are quintessentially Piemontese but you can enjoy these sublime clouds from heaven laden with hazelnuts & speckled with vanilla seeds in the comfort of your home. Serve with a glass of your favorite Moscato or Passito while dreaming of the glorious Piemontese hills surrounding Alba.
- 4 eggs whites from large eggs at room temperature
- ¼ cup of granulated sugar
- 1¼ cup of confectioners sugar, sifted twice
- Pinch of sea salt
- The seeds from one vanilla pod
- ½ pound of toasted hazelnuts, skins removed and irregularly chopped by hand with a chef’s knife
- Preheat the oven to 300º, adjust the racks in the oven to the top and bottom third. Line two heavy duty baking sheets with either parchment paper or silicon baking liners.
- Rinse the work bowl of a standing mixer with warm water, dry well.
- Place the room temperature egg whites in the work bowl, using the whisk attachment begin to beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy. Add the pinch of salt and continue to beat on medium low for a few seconds.
- Add the seeds scraped from the vanilla pod and increase the speed to medium-high. Slowly begin to add the granulated sugar as the mixer continues to run.
- Follow with the twice sifted confectioners sugar until it has all been incorporated. The egg whites should now expand and become thick, white and foamy.
- Adjust the speed to high and beat for 8 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl twice. The meringue will be thick and quite glossy.
- Remove the work bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the coarsely chopped hazelnuts. The hazelnuts should be fully incorporated, but use a gentle hand when doing so.
- Using 2 dinner sized tablespoons form large Brutti ma Buoni and place on the lined baking sheets.
- Although they do not expand while baking, space them evenly 8 per baking sheet.
- Place the baking sheets into the oven for 40 to 50 minutes, rotating the pans once halfway through. The cookies are ready when they are golden and set.
- Remove the baking sheets to a cooling rack and have them rest for 10 minutes. Carefully transfer the Brutti ma Buoni from the baking sheets to racks and allow to completely cool.
- The cookies may be stored in airtight containers for 2 weeks, but I warn you they will not last.