BRUTTI MA BUONI (UGLY BUT GOOD) ITALIAN HAZELNUT COOKIES

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These cookies are outrageously delicious and BTW – GF! With no added oil, fat, butter, etc. to make us feel guilty. (Of course the nuts themselves contain fat, but it’s mostly good fat, so it doesn’t count. Well at least in my mind it doesn’t count.) Plus ladies and gentlemen, these easy to prepare cookies contain only 5 ingredients! Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin is widely quoted as saying “The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.” I am absolutely convinced he must have had this cookie in mind when he coined this very well known phrase. Because these cookies are unlike any other cookie I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. They possess a wonderfully crisp exterior with an internal texture that is both soft and chewy. They are slightly reminiscent of macaroons, but that’s as close to a comparison of them to any other cookie as I can come.

While I was researching these cookies I visited several sites. Each recipe was quite different from the others. Some had you using granulated sugar, some had you warm egg whites and granulated sugar before beating the heck out of the mixture, most contained flour, and some even contained chocolate. But what captured my fancy was this recipe from Oreste Molinari. His family bakery in Frascati, Lazio, Italy has been selling these cookies using this recipe since the 1800s. So I figured; if the recipe is good enough for the Molinaris, and they are still in business after all this time, it surely must be good enough for me!

So please do not hesitate to build yourself a batch of these little packages of heaven at your earliest convenience. And to those of you who are gluten intolerant, you owe me. (Your debt will be forgiven if you send me your favorite GF recipe(s) so that I can share it/them with others.)

And to Monsieur Brillat-Savarin (wherever you may presently reside), please accept my thanks for some wonderful quotes related to all things culinary. And because it’s my blog and I have nothing more to say about these cookies, I am going to share a couple of my favorite Brillat-Savarin quotes with you.

“A man who was fond of wine was offered some grapes at dessert after dinner. ‘Much obliged’, said he, pushing the plate aside, ‘I am not accustomed to taking my wine in pills’.”

“Whoever receives friends and does not participate in the preparation of their meal does not deserve to have friends.”

“Cooking is one of the oldest arts and one that has rendered us the most important service in civic life.”

And my favorite quote attributed to Brillat-Savarin, which I feel is as true today as it was in his day (1755-1826). “The pleasure of the table belongs to all ages, to all conditions, to all countries, and to all areas; it mingles with all other pleasures, and remains at last to console us for their departure.”

Bon Appétit

  • 8 oz. roasted unsalted hazelnuts* – roughly 1¾ cups (best way to know for sure is to weigh the nuts)
  • 1½ c. powdered sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 lg. room temperature egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

*I often use part dry roasted unsalted shelled almonds in these cookies because they are cheaper, more readily available, and considered by some to be slightly more nutritious than hazelnuts (aka filberts). And bottom line, using almonds does not affect the wonderful hazel nutty flavor of the cookies.

Preheat your oven to 400°. Spread the hazelnuts on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes or until the nuts are fragrant and the skins blister. (When I use almonds I toast them right along with the hazelnuts.) Transfer the nuts to a kitchen towel, swaddle them tightly, and let cool to room temperature. Then rub them together while still in the towel to remove the skins. (Don’t worry if all the skin doesn’t peel off. Just get as much off as possible. The rest – well its good roughage! And don’t worry about the light brown skin on the almonds either. Just provides a bit more texture to the cookies.)

In a food processor, pulse the hazelnuts with the confectioners’ sugar and salt until finely chopped. Add the egg white and the vanilla and pulse just until the dough is thoroughly combined.

Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a very small ice cream scoop, (one that will contain about a tablespoon of water) drop the blops (a Chez Carr technical kitchen term) of dough onto the parchment paper lined cookie sheet about 1-inch apart. If you don’t have a small ice cream scoop, (and shame on you if you don’t have a couple of these in your kitchen) spoon tablespoon-size mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, again about 1 inch apart.

Bake the cookies in the center of your oven for about 11-13 minutes or until lightly browned all over. Watch carefully, because the bottom of the cookies can get too brown if baked too long. But the longer you bake them, the crispier on the outside they become. Which BTW, is what you want. So at least for the first batch you prepare, pay extra special attention to your oven temperature and the length of time it takes to bake these little darlings to perfection. Then of course – WRITE DOWN YOUR FINDINGS so that next time (and believe me, there will be a next time), you won’t have to tax your brain as much!

Brutti ma Buoni are best the first day, but will last for about 4 days if kept in an airtight container.

 

 

Please let me know if you like this recipe. Thanks