One of the things I love about native Italians is that they say what they mean, and they don’t mince words. Take these cookies, for instance. They’re called Brutti ma Buoni, which means “ugly, but good”. Don’t you love it? These unassuming, delicate little puffs of meringue studded with nuts and in this case, chocolate, are kind of ugly. But at the same time, they are crunchy, chewy and downright delicious.
These cookies were on the menu at my last cooking class and as my students were “oohing” and “aahing” over them, it hit me that I had never shared them with all of you before. And, what a crying shame it is, because not only were they one of my childhood favorites, but they are also super easy to make.
The first thing you need to do is whip up some egg whites and sugar. Then, gently mix in a little flour, vanilla and a splash of almond or hazelnut liqueur, and fold in the nuts and chocolate.
After you bake them, you’re rewarded with delightful little cookies that shatter upon contact with your teeth, and then just melt away in your mouth.
Traditional Brutti ma Buoni are made primarily with almonds, although a variety of different kinds of nuts are often used. The more nuts you add, the more bumpy and brutti your cookies will be. In this version, I chose to use finely chopped almonds and dark chocolate bars with chopped almonds in them. Feel free to experiment! You could even add orange or lemon zest to your meringue for a citrus burst.
Brutti ma Buoni were always a staple on the cookie trays that my grandmother and aunts would distribute at holiday time. A pleasant contrast from some of the other leaden heavier offerings, I remember sneaking around, plucking them off of the trays when no one was looking.
If you’ve never tried these little gems before, you’re in for a treat! But, don’t take my word for it. Go make some for yourself. Just don’t blame me if you eat the whole batch before anyone else gets home!
Brutti ma Buoni Cookies
1 cup sugar
4 egg whites at room temperature
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon almond or hazelnut liqueur (If you don’t want to use the liqueur, you can use a little almond extract instead.)
1/2 cup slivered almonds, finely chopped
3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.
Place egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and continue to beat for 2 minutes more. Add the flour, vanilla and liqueur. Mix for another minute and stop the machine. Gently fold in the almonds and chocolate bits, taking care not to deflate the egg whites.
Spoon generous tablespoons of the mixture onto the baking sheets, about 1-inch apart. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until firm to the touch. If you prefer chewier cookies, under bake them slightly. Remove the cookies from the oven, transfer them to a wire rack, and let cool for a 1/2 hour.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.