The literal translation for the name of these cookies is "Ugly but Good". Honestly though, I can't see a single ugly thing about them. In fact, to me, they might just be one of the most beautiful things in the world. You see these cookies right here are so good, they made me cry.
Over a decade ago, I lived in a small town in Italy where I fell in love with these almond beauties. They became my obsession. I bought them so often that the pastry chef (who was not the most welcoming of characters) and I developed a nonverbal shorthand to signal when they were in stock. She would see me through the window as I walked down the street and give me a subtle nod "yes" or "no". If "yes" I would B-line my way inside and buy one. If "no" I would walk by like a spy that had just been waived off for fear of being discovered. This was our daily ritual.
When I returned home, I would daydream about them and every once in a while convince myself to try and figure out the recipe. I came pretty close once when we made hundreds of them as party favors for my wedding, but even those tasty morsels didn't quite hold up to the original.
After that, I thought it must be like bagels in New York. It was the water, or the air, or something that I couldn't bottle and bring back to the States, that made them so brilliant. . .
. . . that is until I made these. . .
. . . and with one bite, I was transported through time back to my twenty year old self, full of dreams and hopes and the magical potential of a nod "yes" as I walked past that pastry shop window.
Brutti Ma Buoni
- 1 cup raw slivered almonds
- 1 cup grated almond paste (see instructions for grating below)
- 2 egg whites at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup chopped candied orange (I highly suggest making your own from this recipe)
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- confectioners sugar for dusting
While these cookies have a meringue base, they are not hard at all, but rather, soft and chewy with a slightly crisp outer layer and a hint of total and complete bliss.
Place your almond paste in the freezer until completely frozen.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Toast the almonds on a lined baking sheet for 5-10 minutes until fragrant and just golden brown. Watch them carefully as they can become overly toasted very quickly.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300.
Set the toasted almonds aside to cool completely. Once they are cool, chop them in a food processor until they resemble a coarse grind. You don't want almond meal, but you also don't want large chunks, so pulse the processor a few times if you still see big pieces.
Using the grating plate on your processor, grate the frozen almond paste and return it to the freezer quickly. If you are doing all of the chopping and grating by hand, the paste can get a bit mushy before you're done. If this happens just put it back in the freezer for a bit. The objective is to transform the paste into a form that can be equally distributed throughout the dough.
Mix the coarse almond meal, the grated almond paste and the candied orange together in a bowl.
Beat the egg whites, sugar and salt until stiff peaks form. Add the vanilla to the egg whites and beat until fully incorporated.
Gently fold the dry mixture into the egg whites, making sure not to over mix so that you keep as much air in the batter as possible.
Spoon small mounds onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 300 for 25-30 min or until they are just golden brown.
Allow to sit on the pan for a bit before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Enjoy... and try not to cry too much :)
*Last time in Recipes: 10 Summer Recipes