I’m always looking for ways to use left-over egg whites and this is definitely one of my favourite ways. Brutti ma Buoni (English: Ugly but Good) is an Italian hazelnut biscuit with a crisp exterior and a heavenly chewy centre: perfect with an espresso after a morning bike ride.
The classic recipe uses finely ground nuts mixed into the meringue batter. I prefer some of them just roughly chopped so, when you bite into one, there are lovely chunks of hazelnuts. If you can resist, I find they’re better the following day, when their sweetness has softened and the hazelnut flavour is even more pronounced. They’re easy to make but don’t use very fresh egg whites. I’ve found the trick is to leave the egg whites to age in the fridge for a couple of days or for a month in the freezer.
1. Preheat oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 (350°F/320°F fan).
2. Grease a baking sheet with butter and dust with plain flour or line with greaseproof (parchment) paper.
3. Stiffly whisk the egg whites in a grease-free bowl and slowly add the sugar. They’re done when you can invert the bowl over your head and the mixture stays in the bowl!
4. Gradually and carefully fold in all the other ingredients.
5. Pour the mixture into a bain marie (or a basin over a saucepan of hot water, ensuring the water doesn’t touch the basin) and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 20 minutes – believe me, they are worth the effort! When it’s ready the mixture should have darkened and formed a ball.
6. Remove the pan from the heat and place heaped teaspoons of the mixture on the prepared baking sheet, spaced well apart.
7. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15-20 minutes. Try to resist opening the oven door!
8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet and enjoy with a cup of coffee or as an after-dinner treat. I often package them up and give them as small gifts.