I think I’ve always felt that meringues are sort of a black-and-white thing: either you love them, or you don’t– there’s not much gray area in the middle. (Disclaimer: It’s perfectly likely that I’m completely, entirely wrong about this.) When I saw this recipe for Brutti Ma Buoni (‘Ugly But Good’ in Italian) from Baked Occasions on the Baked Sunday Mornings schedule, I was fairly indifferent. I was not especially excited to make or eat them, but hey, they promised to be quick and easy, and at least there are some chocolate chips in there! (And of course I’m always enthusiastic about Italian recipes.) But then I bit into one, and I thought, “Do I even know what a f*&%ing meringue is?!” I’ve always thought they were hard, dry, and chalky after being baked for 2 hours at a low temperature. But these! These are crackly on the outside and perfectly chewy on the inside, brimming with bits of chocolate and pistachio in every morsel… They have forever changed my opinion of meringues, and now I know that we can be friends.
Now, as delicious as these cookies are, the name is definitely warranted– they are possibly the ugliest things I’ve ever baked. I tried to think of ways to make these less brutti, such as garnishing with cocoa powder or disco dust, but it didn’t seem right, so I let them be. Next time I might try piping the meringue batter with a pastry bag instead of scooping. I settled for a pretty glass plate and sparkly placemat. I’ll tell you what else is brutti: my hands from shelling pistachios! 😉
You’ll first sift together the small amount of flour, cocoa powder, and cinnamon in a bowl. Next, whisk the egg whites and sugar in a stand mixer bowl and put it over a water bath, whisking constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is warmed. Put the bowl on the stand mixer and whip until stiff peaks just begin to form– you want the peak tips to still flop over a bit. Beat in the vanilla, then switch to the paddle and beat in the dry ingredients.
Fold in the pistachios and chocolate chips with a spatula. The batter will be thick, sticky, chunky, and will have a slight tinge of pink from the cocoa powder.
Scoop it onto your cookie sheets with a medium spring-loaded ice cream scoop– I had enough batter for 4 trays. Mine baked up perfectly in 16 minutes, though the third and fourth pans cracked a bit on top, perhaps because the batter sat out longer?
After the utter gluttony of the past 2-3 months, I feel pretty okay about eating these, given that they contain no butter. The meringues are light as air and addictive. The chocolate and pistachio flavors shine through– this is such a great Sicilian combination that I’ve only recently come to appreciate, maybe in the past year or so. For New Year’s I made a similarly flavored cake, Smitten Kitchen‘s Cannoli Pound Cake, and I’m perfectly happy keeping the Italian theme going!
You can find the recipe for Brutti Ma Buoni at Baked Sunday Mornings— they are a great treat all year long, not just right after the indulgent holiday season. See how my BSM homies liked them as well. BAKED chose this recipe to celebrate La Befana, an Italian holiday on Epiphany Eve (January 5) that is something of a Christmas/Halloween mashup. Legend has it that Befana travels on her broomstick to deliver gifts or coal (depending on good or bad behavior, of course) to Italian children via the chimney… like a Halloween Santa Claus of sorts. I agree with the recipe intro in the book– it is quite an “imaginative celebration”. 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2016.