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Brutti ma Buoni or ugly but good in Italian are basically hazelnut meringue cookies often eaten during the Holidays.
As they are very easy to make and to modify they come in many variants all around the Italian boot and you can further personalize our Piedmontese original recipe.
According to the Silver Spoon aka THE Italian Cuisine Bible, these cookies are originally from Borgomanero in the Novara province, in Piedmont. Novara today is the top Gorgonzola cheese producing center.
It is important to remember that as a general rule of thumb, whenever a recipe calls for hazelnuts, you can be 99% sure it is a Piedmontese recipe, because hazelnuts, and especially the "round and gentle" type, have historically been the symbol of the Langhe wine district, in Piedmont, which explains why you can find them in many recipes as opposed to almonds or other nuts.
Back in the days when this simple recipe was invented, chopped hazelnut meringues were an easy and delish way to use up the egg whites left over from other preparations. Therefore, they are virtually cholesterol free.
Beat the egg whites to soft peaks and slowly fold in, little by little, the vanilla seeds (or other spice) and a pinch of salt. Keep beating and add the sugar. Keep beating at medium speed for 5 more minutes till you'll get firm peaks.
Slowly fold in the chopped hazelnuts and delicately, mix them with a spatula being careful to be gentle and slow, moving from the bottom to the top, without deflating the meringue too much.
Scrape the batter into a saucepan and cook it at the lowest heat on your stove. Cook slowly the meringue and keep mixing with a rubber spatula.
Keep stirring for about 10 minutes when you'll get a compact texture.
With two spoons, pick up a tablespoon amount of the batter and place it on the parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
Remember to keep about 3cm - 1.5in. of distance between the cookies as they grow in the oven.
Bake them at 130C - 266F (fan off) for 45 minutes
As each oven is calibrated differently, keep an eye on them!!
Brutti ma buoni need to dry up without burning: when eaten they have to taste dry and not soft. However, keep in mind that they will harden up a bit once out of the oven.
Cool them down before serving them. You can keep them in a tin box for up to 8 days but usually they finish pretty quickly. Or you can freeze them.
Naturally, you can play around with this easy recipe, adding and mixing the nuts and the spices you prefer, like cinnamon, ginger and pistachios or almonds. You can even add some cocoa powder.
These substitutions created all the Italian regional variants you can find today all around Italy.
We bet that using a mix of cinnamon and ginger with a mix of hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts or pecans gives it a totally new and delish flavor:P
These hazelnut meringue cookies are perfect as a snack served with tea, hot chocolate and coffee or cappuccino. Naturally though they are amazingly scrumptious also paired with wine, especially a raisinated wine like Erbaluce Passito DOCG and with any bubbly dessert wine like Asti Spumante DOCG, Moscato D'Asti DOCG, even Brachetto D'Acqui DOCG and Malvasia DOC if you prefer bubbly aromatic red wines whose hues get you in the mood for celebrating at first sight.
However you'll personalize your brutti ma buoni recipe, the authentic flavor comes from the Piedmont hills so, remember to buy a pack and savor it with our wines when you come over ;)