Hazelnut Meringue Biscuits, Brutti Ma Buoni
I first came across these biscuits around the corner from where I live. They were in the diabetes inducing three level four metre counter of the Italian pasticceria that is famous throughout Sydney for its ricotta cakes. I pointed at a brown knobbly looking biscuit and asked the girl behind the counter what it was called. With typical Italian courtesy and willingness to please she said “I dunno. I think it’s got hazelnuts in it”. I have since discovered that it is often called Brutti Ma Buoni because it looks like something that might be produced by a bilious owl but it tastes so good I’ve wanted to make it ever since I had my first five.
It’s the kind of biscuit that needs machinery to make, so as I’m still slightly surprised to be operating in a kitchen that actually has machinery it has taken me until now to get around to it. I found a recipe in the Guardian concatenated with the recipe for panettone I had a few weeks ago and it looked plausible. I needed to accumulate some egg whites.
I didn’t have anything much to do this morning except convert the choir accounts into a new format, so I thought I’d do that after lunch. The cupboard is bare yet again due to the Muffet corralling all the baked goods to share with her friends at school to celebrate her birthday. Knowing I wanted to have egg whites left over I made lemon cornmeal biscuits and had a crack at kourabiedes for the first time which left me with two egg whites. Enough for twelve biscuits. I really could make them half the size, but they do end up being very light.
I put the egg whites in the clean dry KitchenAid bowl, having learned my lesson about that more than once, you think it would stick. Put on the whisk attachment and got it whipping. The whites had to get to firm peaks and you really can’t get there without collapsing from boredom if you do it by hand. I know how foremothers had to, but I really can’t be bothered. It takes ages, even in the KitchenAid. Perhaps I should have had it on a faster setting.
Meanwhile I placed a half a teaspoon of cocoa powder, fifty grams of hazelnuts, a hundred grams of blanched almonds and a hundred grams of caster sugar in the Thermomix. The recipe suggests a coarse grind, so I resist the urge to zap it into oblivion.
Which is just right. I carefully fold in the nut mix plus fifty grams of hazelnuts I’ve meticulously cut in half – I think whole ones are a bit too robust for this light biscuit. I always feel a little sad hearing those tiny bubbles pop as the nuts get folded in, but there’s no help for it.
Plop tablespoonsful of the mix onto a baking paper line baking sheet, you should get about twelve out of this amount. I would have made more, but I don’t like having bits of egg left over, it upsets my sense of symmetry. I’d have had to have made a custard or something, and then I’d just have to eat it. Bake at 180 degrees for about ten minutes, or until they’re just starting to colour around the edges. You need to let them cool completely before getting stuck in. See what I mean about how they look?