ugly but good cookies

I am, as ever, a sucker for a recipe with a great name. Bring me your grunts, your bundts, your fools, slumps and sonkers. Take me across the pond and let me feast on jammy dodgers, bubble and squeak, rarebit and rumbledethumps. I hope you know it’s only a matter of time until we take in some scrumptious nun’s farts. And so, for no reasons other than an inherent fascination with great food names plus egg whites to use up after a batch of these evil things, I turned my attention this week to the brutti ma buoni (meaning “ugly but good”), an egg white cookie that hails from Prato, Italy.

what you'll need
nooooow they're toasted enough

In this age of Pin-able envy, lifestyle aspiration, and “elevated” anything (living rooms, personal brands, and soups, apparently) I find it delightfully direct that we get to call these misshapen, homely beige blobs exactly what they are. Everyone knows the prettiest pastries — too glassine and brightly colored, not a dot of royal icing out of place — are the most suspicious, and often the least tasty. Ugly baked goods are, to me, like the one out-of-place item on a restaurant menu, irresistible because it couldn’t be there for anything but the fact it must taste really good.

a rough grind
beating egg whites and sugar
stiff peaks that flop a little
fold in nuts
fold in chocolate
my son calls these cloud cookies

They are a close cousin to my mom’s meringues, or perhaps the other way around. I realize meringues don’t usually win cookie popularity contests but I think that’s because most people imagine that they’ll be like the factory-made varieties: crisp, light and somewhat bland throughout. Though you can make yours like this at home through the overnight oven-off technique, my mother, and apparently swaths of central Italy, make theirs with a quicker bake that yields a featherlight shattery exterior and stretchy marshamllow-like center. Here, it’s studded with a lot of very well toasted finely chopped hazelnuts and chunks of chocolate and scented with espresso powder, but you could fiddle at home to your heart’s content with other nuts and flavorings (almonds or pine nuts and lemon zest are traditional). What matters is that you don’t deny yourself these because their cracked surfaces and protruding lumps mean never going to be the prom queen of the cookie tin.

brutti ma buoni
ugly-but-good cookies

One year ago: Butterscotch Pudding
Two years ago: Parmesan Broth with Kale and White Beans
Three years ago: Ethereally Smooth Hummus
Four years ago: Apple Sharlotka
Five years ago: Vanilla Bean Pudding
Six years ago: Spicy Caramel Popcorn and Southwestern Pulled Brisket
Seven years ago: Pecan Sandies, Sugar-and-Spice Candied Nuts and Fig and Walnut Biscotti
Eight years ago: Viennese Cucumber Salad and Goulash
Nine years ago: Coq au Vin and Really Simple Homemade Pizza

And for the other side of the world:
Six Months Ago: Very Blueberry Scones
1.5 Years Ago: Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings
2.5 Years Ago: Slow-and-Low Dry-Rub Oven Chicken
3.5 Years Ago: Blackberry Gin Fizz
4.5 Years Ago: Skirt Steak with Bloody Mary Tomato Salad

Mocha Hazelnut Ugly-But-Good Cookies (Brutti Ma Buoni)
Adapted, a little, from Baked: Occasions

This is another one of those recipes (a theme of late) that seems to have a language gap, wherein the ones written in English largely seem to advocate a single baking (as we will here) but the ones one can view translated from Italian insist they should be cooked twice. As I really enjoy the texture that comes from a single bake, I didn’t test them out further. You can definitely fire me over this; just please let me take the cookies home with me.

Yield: 36 cookies

1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
4 large egg whites
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (optional)
8 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) miniature chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate, chopped small

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Place hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 10 minutes, rolling around once to ensure they cook evenly. Check the color; I believe that they taste best when toasted to a real golden color. Put them back in for 2 minutes at a time and check again if they’re not there yet. Let cool completely. (Putting the tray outside in winter for all of 5 minutes does the trick.) Place nuts in a dishtowel and roll them around so that the skins largely come off. Reduce heat to 300 degrees F.

Transfer toasted, peeled hazelnuts to a food processor and add 1/4 cup sugar and the salt. Grind until they reach your desired consistency; I went for well-chopped but not fully powdery.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until very foamy. Slowly pour in remaining 3/4 cup sugar, beating the whole time. Beat until stiff peaks form; when you lift the beater, they should flop over slightly after forming a peak. Fold in nuts, espresso powder (if using) and chocolate.

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Scoop batter into about 1 1/2 tablespoon mounds with about an inch of space between them. Bake for 25 minutes, until very faintly golden. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes, after which they’ll be easier to remove with a thin spatula. Let finish cooling on racks.

Cookies keep at room temperature in an airtight container for a week, but only if you don’t tell anyone they’re there.

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179 comments on ugly but good cookies

  1. Erika

    These look amazing. Question: nut allergy here. Could I omit the nuts entirely or do I need to replace them with something else (and if so, any non-nut ideas)? I know baking is more of a science than an art so thought I’d check. Thank you!

  2. deb

    Sprinkled with — A few with powdered sugar, a few with cocoa. I couldn’t resist trying to make them “prettier.” It didn’t work; don’t bother.

    Erika — You’d probably be better off with my mom’s meringues, which are chocolate chip with optional small amount of nuts (I rarely add them).

  3. AM

    For those who like their food vegan, if you didn’t know already, you can make vegan meringue from the water in canned chickpeas. Just search for aquafaba or vegan meringue on google, and you get a bunch of recipes and guides. I’ve made vegan meringue cookies by just whipping up a meringue of the chickpea water (named ‘aquafaba’) + sugar + lemon juice (to help with the stiffness and freshen up the flavour a bit) + cocoa powder. The taste isn’t as neutral as egg whites, but it doesn’t taste the same way the water smells (don’t worry!). It just tastes slightly more nutty – which I imagine would work really well in this recipe. You can use it for all sorts of desserts: chocolate mousse, lemon meringue pie, even ice cream!

    1. Legiope

      Did you, or has anyone, try this recipe using aquafaba in place of egg whites? It seems the nuttiness of the hazelnuts would compliment the flavor of the chick pea water.

      1. Petro Borchard

        I’m also intrigued with this, although I am not a vegan and have lots of frozen egg whites left over from ice cream making.

        I’m sure adding more nutty flavour can never go wrong

      2. Shannon Harvey

        My great aunt made these, but with pecans and shredded coconut, for me when I was a kid; they were my favorite cookie. She called them Forgotten Cookies. I asked her why and she said it was because she always forgot some ingredient. When I was older, I realized it was because you “forget” them in the oven.

        1. Andrea

          Ohhhh my gosh. I am a meringue convert. You’re right Deb, I thought all meringues were dry and bland and just powdery. Honestly, I used this recipe only because I had 6 leftover egg whites. I even used some compound chocolate, which I’m not crazy about, that was gifted to me since I liked to bake (couldn’t tell the giver that I was a chocolate snob!), but the result was divine! I also used cashews because we were out of hazelnuts, and instant coffee instead of espresso powder, which isn’t readily available here. Delicious all the same. Thank you so much.

  4. c

    This was the second year I tried to make meringues (my mom’s were delicious), but after getting to soft peak stage, when I added the sugar, they became soupy. All I can think is that I may have added the sugar too fast (both times). I tried adding an unbeaten white, but it didn’t fix them. I’m wary to try again but would like to overcome the obstacle — they are so tasty!

    1. Linda Michaluk

      on meringues not working…may be that sugar was added too quickly…should add sugar about 1 T at a time as this lets the sugar dissolve into the egg. Otherwise, the sugar stays granular and is a)too heavy and b) actually breaks the strands of egg white (sugar granules are sharp) so you don’t get the “loft”

    2. Francoise

      After my third failed attempt at reaching stiff peaks (old whites, fresh whites, freshly scrubbed bowl and mixer, sugar added veeeerrrrry slowly) I threw up my hands and added all my chopped nuts and chocolate and baked them off. I’m happy to report that they were still delicious. Maybe chewier and less crackly on the outside but worked nevertheless!

  5. Amrita

    I’ve never met a cookie, ugly or pretty, that I didn’t like. But for those who can’t see past the ugly, you could try piping the meringue onto a baking sheet using a large star tip (or one large enough to let the chocolate chips out) to make a prettier meringue.

  6. We just made these on Sunday for the Baked Sunday Mornings group (we’re baking our way through Baked Occasions). I always called these types of treats “fugly but delicious” but of course Brutti Ma Buoni just sounds so much classier ;)

    1. Laura

      I can’t eat chocolate or palm oil (found in baking chips) – do you have any substitution suggestions for the chocolate? Or wpuld they work without anything extra if I omitted the chocolate? Thanks!

  7. MJ

    Like Erika, I’m allergic to nuts so I popped over to see your mom’s meringue recipe, which looks eerily similar to my aunt’s. I’ve put it on my baking list of the weekend.
    Where I stumble on meringues is the cooking temperature. The lowest setting on my Italian gas oven is 275F. Most (all) meringue recipes suggest 200F, which is a significant temperature difference. Is it just a hit-and-miss timing thing where I need to check them (by opening the oven?) every so often or do you have a suggestion on how long I should bake the meringues for at a higher temperature?

  8. Meg

    I’m going to try these later! I used to make something very similar at a restaurant where I made pastries. I piped them out of a pastry bag and they were always pretty little puffs. Looks like you have big ol’ chocolate chunks though, so that might not work. :-D

  9. Mel

    Swiss meringues have that same texture, shattery outside, stretchy inside. Yum!

    Oh, and this appears to be a typo:
    “In a large bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixture…”

  10. Sarah

    I’ve been making a version of these with chopped English Toffee (Heath, Skor) chocolate bars. They are divine! That might work as a substitute for nuts (although Heath-brand bars contain almond).

    Whenever I make ice cream, my husband gets excited because he knows I will need to use up the egg whites…

  11. SallyT

    Great timing, because I just read a bunch of reviews of the original recipe on Baked Sunday Mornings – I love their reviews, and loved the Baked Cookbooks –

    The original recipe calls for vanilla – what made you omit it? I’m a huge vanilla fan – do you think that I could add it back in? THANKS!

  12. alo

    Hi C! I haven’t made these biscuits before but tips regarding meringues.
    I recently made a Pavlova (a glorious giant meringue with a beautiful marshmallow filling) and the first was a disaster. I added sugar at soft peaks and it never got really stiff (the ‘ribbon stage’), I baked it and it ended up being like a rubbery pancake. As this is a staunch Australian christmas tradition, I persisted and did a Christmas eve trip to the supermarket and picked up the freshest eggs I could find. Result: the most beautiful pillowy and stiff Pavlova I have ever made! I honestly put it down to the really fresh eggs.
    Before you add sugar, make sure it is able to maintain a peak after you remove your beater. Also, maybe try some cornflour or vinegar to help keep the peak but this should be added when it’s already very stiff.

  13. deb

    Sarah — Meringues are almost always on the sweet side, mostly because there’s little else offsetting the sugar, however, I find these to keep the sweetness in check as much as possible, with just 1/4 cup sugar per egg white.

    Something else I meant to mention but am probably wordy enough: I make these with 1/2 teaspoon salt. The result is salty, like, you can taste it. But we love the balance. For someone nervous about making them salty but wanting to bump it up a little, you might try 1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon. Hope that helps.

    SallyT — I just figured it would get lost among all these other stronger flavors. Definitely use it if you’re skipping the espresso, or with it if you know you’d miss it.

    Baked Sunday Mornings group — You are exactly who reminded me of this! (Thank you.) I have all their books and a note to make a version of these on my to-do list, but those things and the leftover egg whites came together because of you.

    MJ — The ones baked at a lower temperature are usually the long-baked over overnight variety. The goal here is less crisp, more stretchy inside, so we bake them faster and hotter.

    Mel — Thanks. Every time I do that. EVERY TIME.

  14. Jane M

    Sorry but your baby daughter got all my attention in this post – the cookies are a close 2nd. GAAAAAH! So so so sweet! Oh yeah the cookies too!

  15. Anne

    I make something similar each year for Christmas, and pretty them up with a dollop of melted chocolate–for cosmetic purposes only ;)

    Your beautiful daughter has such and old-soul face–she looks like she’s taking in everything and pondering deep thoughts. So cute! I know from experience that you’re asked about her red hair every time you step out in public!

  16. My grandmother used to make these. This brings back great memories. She was not a baker by any means but had a few special treats she made and these were one of them. Yum!

  17. These look like the kind of thing that gets brought into the break room at work and I’m gonna be hesitant to taste it but then once I do I’ll hoard them all.

  18. Charlotte in Toronto

    My friend’s mom makes these but she’s cagey about letting go of the recipe. Thank you for posting this. I know they’ll be great.

  19. Laura

    This might be a dumb comment, but do these taste like meringues? I don’t like meringues because of the hard, dry texture. The flavors of hazelnut, espresso, and chocolate are right of my alley… but if it’s hard and dry and “grindy on your teeth” like a meringue, I couldn’t do it…

  20. Judy

    These sound wonderful! Two peripheral comments: if I put hazelnuts (or any others) outside in Greensboro, there wouldn’t be any left for the recipe. And it’s wonderful to see a meringue recipe that DOESN’T use the overnight method. I discovered to my distress that the oven my fiancé installed in our kitchen (IKEA) uses a fan to cool off the oven rapidly, so no overnight bake works. Sigh. Nice guy and nice oven otherwise…

  21. Sharon

    Any idea of the weight of the hazelnuts? I ground too many pistachios for a cake recipe I misread (Frannys cookbook, Melissa Clark, perfection). Would love to try them here. Thanks!

  22. Charlotte

    I’ve been making “marshmallow” cookies as my boy calls them all year. I make his bigger with chocolate chips (just egg whites, sugar (1/4 c per egg white) and then chocolate chips added once the peaks are stiff and a dribble of vanilla. For the adult (ahem) version I’ve played around with all kinds of things – butterscotch chips, ground hazelnuts, toffee bits, etc. If they are added after the stiff peaks stage all is good – I think my favorite had ground hazelnuts and chocolate bits in them – the adult version is shaped more in a kiss shape. I bake at 250 for 15-20 minutes and then leave them in the turned off oven to cool and they generally are crisp and shattery outside and marshmallowy inside. Everyone seems to love them. I’ve often thought of drizzling chocolate over them – sprinkling cocoa powder is a great idea – but usually there are none left to decorate..And Anna Banana made my day with her hello – so sweet!!!

  23. ” Everyone knows the prettiest pastries — too glassine and brightly colored, not a dot of royal icing out of place — are the most suspicious, and often the least tasty. Ugly baked goods are, to me, like the one out-of-place item on a restaurant menu, irresistible because it couldn’t be there for anything but the fact it must taste really good.”

    This is so true! I feel the closer to homemade, the better the taste. Presentation is nice but taste is better. And these cookies are ugly but I’m sure they taste fantastic! And I also love the name of them. lol Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  24. Becca

    I have maybe a cup of hazelnuts in my freezer – do you think almonds could be subbed in for some of the hazelnuts? These look so good but I don’t always have enough hazelnuts on hand.

  25. Lauren

    That was the cutest sample of red-headed deliciousness I have ever seen, and (bless you) HEARD. Watched it 4 times.Wondering whether I will ever be able to grab my toes like that again…thank you for sharing that tiny perfect being with us Deb,I want to munch those cheeks and that tummy. Cookies are paling in comparison, sorry. Your own fault for having a daughter who can upstage your recipes!

  26. Meike

    These look very similar to a Christmas cooked recipe I inherited from my grandmother. They are called “Wespennester” (wasps’ nests, another great name) and are made with chopped almonds rather than hazelnuts and without espresso powder.

  27. Nicole

    I make something similar, but i make a shallow indentation with the bake of a spoon on the top. Once cooked and cooled I put a dollop of cream and a slice of strawberry or nectarine or kiwi on top – inspired by the traditional NZ/Aus pav.

  28. lorena

    First off – I love your fucking blog. Something you say during each post makes me laugh just enough to pee myself a wee bit. Which is a nice change from peeing myself when I cough…or sneeze. While in Italy my aunt would take me into town and get “Nun’s tits”. They were these huge cream puff type pastries. Delish. I need to try this recipe so I can impress my mother!

  29. Susan

    Thank you for sharing! Anna is so beautiful and sweet. I got misty remembering my children at that age. Even my husband heard the coos, stopped to see what I was watching, and oohed and aahed. Precious stuff.

  30. Beth

    Am I the first to make these today? Maybe really truly? I think my unspoken resolution was to stop bookmarking and start baking! Sitting on an adjacent counter stalking my oven for the next 12 minutes… I’d sit directly on it to fend off the cookie thieves in my home, but it’s a gas range, lol. For now it’s safe; they’re too busy licking their fingers of the chocolate slivers on the cutting board.

    Thank you!

  31. Kelly

    I am new to this whipping egg whites thing. I tried it in your coffee cake recipe with my kitchen aid mixer (money mostly wasted on me by my generous MIL) on the highest setting for… 5? Minutes… to minimal success (foamy at best) although the recipe still tasted so good I ate most of the pan single handedly over a few days… whoops). Do I do it for a longer or use an electric hand mixer instead on ?? setting for ?? time for better success? Thanks for any insight!!!!!!!

    1. Glug

      Made it with 2 month old eggs, still a bit cold, 1/3 c less nuts (walnuts or prob anything (coconut? extra chocolate?) would work fine too), used unchopped chocolate chips, some dark, forgot to add 1/4c sugar and all of the salt, didn’t have parchment paper so just put them on the pan, no grease, and they came out great! Would recommend if using instant coffee instead of espresso powder to up the amount a bit, did 2 1/2 tsps, could have used more, but then it was the cheapest instant money could buy.

  32. Stephanie

    These look very similar to the delectable Widow’s Kisses that our local bakery makes at Christmastime. In place of expresso there is a hint of cinnamon. Thanks for the recipe- I can’t wait to try them!

  33. Saurs

    Don’t know how conscious the decision is, but I’m glad to see you’re sticking to stripped down, real life staging for the blawg. Glossy photos and complicated props and artfully situated flatware ‘n’ linens are fine, if you like that sort of thing, and in books they serve a useful purpose, but I want two things out of a cookery blawg: carefully orchestrated and well-tested receipts and step-by-step photographs that explain how they work. Love you forever, Perelman, for delivering the goods without the pretense.

  34. Susan S.

    Kelly, if I may, I have a few tips for meringue success. First, as someone above mentioned, make sure your eggs are fresh. Second, room temperature whites … or even slightly warmed, whip better than cold out of the fridge. Sometimes I’ll put the eggs in a bowl of hot water before breaking if I forgot to take them out. And thirdly, and I think this is really important, egg whites won’t whip if there’s even the tiniest bit of grease or oil in the bowl or on the beaters. Wash them well with hot soapy water and rinse thoroughly just to be sure (the warmth will help the beating too). Don’t whip in plastic bowls … they tend to retain grease molecules. Gross. And make sure they’re already starting to peak before the sugar is added and add it very slowly in tiny amounts, blending each addition before adding more. Also, finer sugar works better. I’ve tried using a coarser grained organic sugar before and had problems. Hope that helps! (mom taught me well)

  35. Susan S.

    Oh, and if I may add to the above post, make sure when you separate your whites from yolks there’s NO egg yolk in there. The tiniest bit (grease again) will keep them from whipping properly.

  36. Marie M.C.

    i’m confused about the temp and baking time for the meringues. The nuts are toasted at 350 F right? But I didn’t see the temp and time for the meringues. Did I miss it in your recipe? I read through number 25 so maybe it’s answered somewhere else.

  37. Beth

    Regarding espresso powder: could you sub in actual brewed, cooked espresso (or strong coffee) in place of the powder, or would that additional liquid mess up the texture of the meringue?

  38. eiko

    would you mind adding the weight for the chopped hazelnuts? I don’t have a food processor, so I might buy almond flour instead.

  39. Dahlink

    A traditional way to use up the whole egg in my husband’s family was to use the egg whites for angel food cake, and then the yolks went into a golden yellow cake.

    Those eyebrows slay me!

  40. We just made a Danish version of these cookies for Christmas dinner. Instead of hazelnuts, they had corn flakes but the same bits of chocolate and marshmallow-like texture. They came out exactly as you describe (which we thought was a pleasant mistake!).

  41. Jan

    I thought this question might arise but did not see it… Want are your thoughts on egg whites in a carton…? I have used them occasionally and feel that overall, they are okay but, at the same time, there is something different about the results if used for meringues? More dense or something..? Really always love receiving your blog!
    Thank you for both the entertainment and the great recipes!

  42. Mary

    Wow…..25 minutes was too long…..I not sure if my oven didn’t cool down enough after toasting the nuts or what. I was very bummed to find black burned bottoms after 19 minutes. I am going to try again today and use my oven thermometer……I ate a couple any way ;)

  43. Liz

    OMG – “Anna banana says good morning” (irresistible link) – that MADE my day and I’m not even a person who goes ga-ga over babies. And I wish I could still grab my feet like that :) !!

    Like another commenter – something great to do with those egg whites after making ice cream – yea!

    And about things looking pristine – so funny as just yesterday after a peruse of the internet I thought: “I am kind of tired of looking at ‘perfect’ stuff: food, kitchens, homes” – and it is not that I haven’t spent time and energy on my own space which I spend a lot of time in as a self employed/work from home/computer programmer – but although perfect for me, my space(s) are not “au currant”. And also tired of photos that show the stuff in a sparse, white light manner.

    Maybe Smitten Kitchen is 10 years old but it always seems fresh and real and I am always happy to have visited!

  44. Deb, these are among my favorite cookies. Yes, we have enjoyed them in many spots in Italy, made them at home using countless recipes – BUT the absolute best are from restuarant Perbacco in San Francisco. The owner is from Piedmonte and I believe they use Piedmontese hazelnuts which have a flavor that can’t be beat. I look forward to giving your recipe a try with some of the Langhe hazelnuts I am hiding in the freezer.

  45. Kathy

    I’ve heard the best way to get the skins off of hazelnuts is to boil them in water with baking soda, rub the skins off, dry them and THEN roast in the oven. Does this process change the final flavor? Am I wasting precious minutes of my life???

  46. alo

    Susan S – yes! Great tips. Room temperature egg whites are compulsory. If you are like me and only have a plastic bowl, a swish of vinegar around the bowl helps to clean it up.

  47. Sure they’re not perfect and “pretty,” but they DEFINITELY look delicious. Especially as batter like that – I want to lick the spoon! Saving this recipe to try later.

  48. ila

    Years ago, my school age son and friends knew that they could rely on finding meringues loaded with chopped toasted almonds in the cupboard. They were called HEALTHY, HIGH-PROTEIN SNACKS FOR KIDS AND ADULTS , eaten without guilt. They are even better (but more work) with toasted hazelnuts (tasted shredded coconut for the nut allergic?). Your addition of chocolate surely makes them a perfect combination of health and bliss! Thank you.

  49. I recently made meringue cookies that didn’t come out as pretty as I had hope but still tastes great as well! As for this recipe, I’ve never actually had to deal with hazelnuts with the skins on cause I can only ever find them prechopped.

  50. SallyT

    This is a personal record for me in terms of time posted to time made! Made these last night. DELICIOUS. Next time I’d make them smaller (2 t?) and I loved the hazelnut. I omitted the espresso powder and used 1 t of vanilla – I loved the vanilla/salt taste combination. I baked them for 25 minutes and they were perfect.

  51. SallyT

    Oh, and next time I’d either use mini chips or get rid of the chocolate powder after chopping the chocolate – it made them a little too chocolatey. Thank you!

  52. I know these Italian cookies, infact I had them recently… they are so incredibly moreish. Not sure why they call them “ugly” or brutti. They don’t look that bad after all. Love the way you have written the recipe with the step by step photos.

  53. Kat

    Our family makes a similar cookie every Christmas for gifts that we call Cocoa Kisses–recipe is in an old Joy of Cooking. Just egg whites, sugar, cocoa, and a little water/vanilla/salt. We cook even lower at 250 for about 40 minutes; they come out shatteringly crisp outside and soft and chewy on the inside. Mmmm. Maybe one round this year wasn’t enough.

  54. c

    @alo / #22 — thanks for the tip! I hadn’t thought about freshness of the eggs being a potential problem. Next time I’ll be sure to try that (mine weren’t past the date or anything, but I know the ones this year were getting close — maybe that was the problem.) Hope springs anew.

  55. I made these very cookies (minus the espresso and chocolate) on Christmas day. As the family Jew, my job on Christmas, as I see it, is to cook for people. My husband takes care of the present end of things. Anyway, we were having folks over and I’d decided to make a variety of cookies. I made some gf gluten free sables with a coconut buttercream filling, some gf Mexican wedding cakes/Russian teacakes, and some gingerbread. And then, as I worked on the lamb or something else, I burned a whole sheet of the Russian teacakes. What to do, what to do?!? So I toasted up some hazelnuts, whipped some egg whites with cream of tartar and sugar, ground the hazelnuts, mixed up the cookies, and popped them in the oven. Voila! So delicious and quick. Next time, I’ll make them with the espresso and chocolate. Maybe tonight….

  56. deb

    Beth — Re, subbing in actual espresso, I think you could add up to 1 tablespoon but more than that, I’m not sure it wouldn’t mess up the consistency. If using liquid, I’d make a hyper-strong shot.

    Weight of the hazelnuts — Do you guys see that picture where I had the hazelnuts ON THE SCALE? Right, I never wrote down the weight. However, I’d say about 220 grams.

    Saurs — Thank you. I have learned over the years I am way too lazy for food styling and I would find it way too exhausting to try to keep up the appearance of having everything in order. This is our actual food, our actual kitchen — we want to eat! So, I snap some photos and then we dig in and sometimes there are fewer cookies on the plate by the 5th photo than there were in the 1st. Not sure how that happens.

    Forgot to respond, re: boxed egg whites — I am actually not sure how well they work, but FWIW, I have used dried egg white powder more than once in frostings and the like and they whip up almost as well, sometimes a touch softer but with powder these also the factor that one might have added a little too much water or too little powder. In short: I suspect you’d be just fine.

  57. Jan

    The first comment mentioned ordering your recommended waffle iron. Might I ask what it is? I am looking for a regular waffle iron and thought I would check it out.

    Thank you

  58. Helen

    Any ideas on how to substitute for the sugar? Will stevia drops work or do you need something granular? Thanks for the recipe!

  59. Helga

    My Croatian grandma always made the most amazing meringues and I was thinking about her today. This is fate. I must make these cookies!

  60. Maryse42

    Before I clicked on the link to nun’s farts, I thought you were referring to the French-Canadian version ( I grew up with! I had never heard of the ones you linked to! I learned something new today. (By the way, I have made the French-Canadian pets de soeurs with your scraps of leftover pastry when I have baked various Smitten Kitchen pies/tarts/galettes, always with scrumptious results, since your doughs are so good.)

  61. Shona

    Interesting to see this coffee and chocolate variation. The ones we know and love are huge and heavy and homely, baked at a village bakery outside Rome that does rustic traditional sweet things as well as bread and pizza. No chocolate at all, just the nuts. There are 2 varieties – one made with almonds and the other with hazelnuts. This bakery also makes a wonderful torta della nonna, interpreted as an intense lemon cream full of pine nuts in a pastry shell. Their recipes are secret but I hope to work them out one day.

  62. Elizabeth

    Great recipe, but more importantly, I speak some Baby, and I believe what she is saying is “Thank you for taking care of me. I love you…and I love my feet”

  63. symphonic chef

    Deb, these sound incredible. Do you think it would work to make one huge one, like a pavlova only more delicious and flavorful?? Thanks!

  64. Laura

    I made these yesterday. They were so easy and absolutely fabulous! I had to use macadamia nuts because that’s what I had, but they worked fine! Next time I am going to skip the chocolate chips and use cocoa powder.

  65. Mai

    yum! that pillowy interior shattery exterior is exactly how we make them for Christmas baking but now I HAVE to make some with hazelnuts right now as we normally just do mini chocolate chips.

  66. Michelle

    I don’t know what I did wrong but mine turned out to be Brutti e Brutti!! I’ve only ever had success with your recipes so this was a first…rubbery little brown lumps that not even the cook could love!! I’ve decided it’s because I used frozen egg whites (because it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the cook!!).

  67. MelissaBKB

    Hey Deb! It looks like you used two kinds of chocolate? Did you like having the variety or would you prefer/recommend one type? I can’t wait to try!

  68. These cookies look… interesting :) Of course, I’ll trust your judgement and expertise here, so I know that despite their appearance, they must taste delicious!

    Just wanted to take a moment to thank you for all the time that goes into your blogs and recipes. I received your book as a Christmas gift this year, and I was so excited! I’ve been a blog follower for years, and having a physical copy of your recipes in my kitchen is just wonderful. I’ve read through all the recipes, and can’t wait to try them out this year!

  69. Jan (#91)

    Deb’s waffle iron is: Hamilton Beach 26030 Belgian Waffle Maker
    It’s about $40 on Amazon
    I can vouch for it as well… I love it!! Removable plates, so easy to clean. I had all but given up on making waffles prior to her recommendation for it.

  70. deb

    Types of chocolate — I actually only had very dark bitter chocolate and milk around, so I used about 2/3 of the dark and 1/3 milk. I’d just use semi- or bitter-sweet chocolate (as suggested) if I had it around.

  71. I’m not complaining about the original configuration of these, I’m really not. But they would be spectacular with a bit of finely chopped dried orange peel, don’t you think? Orange and hazelnut and chocolate.

  72. Dalnapen

    Just wanted to say that Baby is doing a perfectly executed yoga move–it’s even called ‘happy baby.’ However, she is perfect and not in pain when she executes it, unlike me! Will love to audition this ugly cookie–I dearly love the chocolate fondant that is inside these cookies (which a second bake would ruin, methinks). For pretty meringues, have you seen Mimi Thorisson’s chocolate swirl meringues on her blog, Manger? Beautiful!

  73. Linda

    Fond childhood memories! My grandmother made meringue cookies every time we visited them. We called them stucco cookies as they lived in a stucco house. Delicious melt in your mouth on first bite, chewie bottoms.

  74. Noel

    I haven’t read all the comments, so maybe someone’s already mentioned this, but you don’t need a recipe for nun’s farts; in francophone Canada, ‘pet de soeur’ is the name for the treat produced from pastry scraps, which are rolled out, spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon (or spread with jam), then rolled up, cut into pieces, and baked. My English-speaking family didn’t have a name for this treat, which is surprising, because it appeared quite often (for my Prairie farm grandmothers, ‘dessert’ almost always meant ‘pie’).

    1. EL

      There are two types of Canadian nun’s farts. The one that Deb posted the link to probably would need a recipe, the other (there’s a link to that one, which sounds like the one you’re writing about) doesn’t need a recipe (probably).

  75. Jen Doyle

    My gluten-free baking buddy and I made these on Wednesday, and they are *delicious*! One problem – lots of afternoon /evening cookie snacking meant we were both up very late due to the espresso powder. Oops! (And I liked the bowl, too…)

  76. Lisa

    I’m not going to tell you how many of these I ate. They are so light and airy and they didn’t hurt my tummy eating that many, but if I log them into my calorie counter I won’t be able to eat again until Tuesday. Great recipe.

  77. Kathryn

    I made these last week and we all loved them dearly. Did not change anything, no need to I think.
    Perfect, thank you
    Also, made your marshmallows for Christmas Holiday and they were great fun. Although I think I caught tennis elbow from holding the mixer for so long!
    My other smitten kitchen stand by is the fig/olive oil/sea salt challah.
    Always worth the time and effort. And very beautiful.
    thank you for all of this

  78. Laura in CA

    My husband and I made these this afternoon with walnuts (didn’t have hazelnuts). I was suspicious because I really don’t like meringues, but I like these! I had a second one right away. These are not dry and crispy in the way I typically think of meringues, and the gooey chocolate in them makes them better too! I could taste the espresso, too, which was awesome! I also love that they’re not at all overly sweet.

  79. Marion

    I finally made these this afternoon, and my boys’ friend who is the pickiest eater on Earth was here. This kid lives on white bread and junk(ier) food–gah! He ate six of these one after another, I was dying. They’re easy and delicious–thanks so much!

  80. Tawni

    I made your mom’s chocolate chip meringues, and while they were delicious (and I all of them), they didn’t have the marshmallow like interior like you said that baking method produces. Could I have baked them too long? Or would high elevation change how they turned out?

  81. Randi

    Every year my mom holds a cookie exchange and this year I attempted Christmas tree merengues. FAIL! Fail FOUR TIMES! I’m still a little bit scarred after warm, fresh whites, clean, warm bowl and beaters and everything I could possibly think of to make my cookies work, however these sound delish and I will have to try them once I get over my trauma. Hahaha!

  82. Heather

    Yay! Will make low carb version next week. I don’t know how to reply directly to the person who asked about a sugar sub, but an equal amount of Vitafiber powder to what is listed for sugar, plus about a 1/4 tsp of stevia glycerite will do the trick! I make low carb pavlova all the time with that.

  83. Sandy

    I baked these this weekend exactly as written in the recipe and they where ugly, but delicious! My teenage daughter said they looked like fungus, but once she tasted them, she was hooked. I wonder if there’s a way to stabilize the meringue with cornstarch or some other ingredient (without compromising the texture), so that that the “dough” could be placed in a bag and piped onto the cookie sheet in a more traditional Hershey-kiss type shape? Has anyone tried this and how did it shape up after baking?

    Thank you for posting the recipe. It’s easy and delicious!

  84. Dear Deb Perelman, Thank you for your excellent article on ugly but good cookies. By the way, I wish you could add video in this article but the images were awesome. Keep the great writing skill up. Thanks again for giving me a good resource. Waiting for your reply!

  85. KQ

    Hi Deb,
    This question isn’t so much about the cookie, but your photo of the dough on your silpat reminds me: how the heck do you keep your silpats clean? I don’t mind having less-than sparkling baking sheets, but the silpats have developed a residue that I cannot remove. What’s your secret – are you willing to share? Thanks!

    1. deb

      KQ — I put them through the dishwasher. Not sure if you’re supposed to but it wouldn’t stop me. They don’t get very dirty though, right? Nothing really sticks.

  86. Deb: The name of a cookie has never made me want to eat it less. Thank you for the recipe, but most of all, thank you for making me laugh aloud every time I read your posts!

  87. Becky C

    I have been eanting to try these for a few weeks, and they are in the oven now! First taste test (yeah, raw) just what I was looking for, except…is there a recipe with a bit of flour in it?
    I tasted one at the grocery store that was like a pillow!
    Thanks for the recipe, can’t wait to bite in! Buzzer just went off!

  88. Alex

    Just made these last night and they were so so delicious. Served them after a heavy beef stew with some ice cream. I let mine cool for 10 minutes on a baking sheet and they were totally cool by then. Then I stacked them on a cake stand. No need to pull out the cooling rack, IMO.

  89. Olivia

    So I made these following the directions exactly, and felt that while they were absolutely delicious, there wasn’t enough hazelnut flavor for me. I made them again with 2 cups of hazelnuts and found that the texture was unchanged but the hazelnut flavor really came out more. Obviously it depends on what you’re going for, but I though I’d share that you can increase the hazelnuts if you want more of a nutty flavor, without sacrificing anything about the texture of the cookie. Great recipe!

  90. Marilyn

    Perhaps the hazelnuts could be replaced by banana chips? I think it would work, but would make it a bit sweeter. It would be a nice compliment to the bananas with dark chocolate bits.

  91. Donna Marino

    Thanks to A.M. for the tip about making these with aquafaba! I love these cookies but I’m vegan, so that’s a great alternative! :)

  92. elisssabeth

    Delizioso! Thank you so much. I love taking such good care of my gluten-free friends. I used dry-roasted, salted macadamia nuts and a handful of tiny Enjoy Life allergy-friendly dark chips.

  93. EL

    I don’t make things that need egg whites because I really don’t like waste. I would love to make these, but what on earth do I do with four egg yolks (or god forbid that I make Mario Batali’s version that calls for 7 egg whites). So I am asking you and reader/commenters: For those of us who don’t like waste — Please could you combine egg white dishes with ones that use egg yolks? I would like the egg yolk dish suggestions to be realistic for a single person, who eats normal amounts. Preferably the suggestions would be such that the yolks (which don’t keep well) would be used within 24 hours of making the cookies. I would prefer not to freeze them (is that possible?) but to use them. Surely someone’s grandmother has a recipe that is traditionally made to use them up? Also, please answer quickly, as I would like to make these now!

    1. sparkgrrl658

      my reply isn’t exactly timely but i just put the egg yolks in a bowl and then add them to regular eggs within a day or two for extra yummy scrambled eggs. but it is for two of us, so.

      you could also make homemade mayo.

    2. Very late comment, but the best use for egg yolks is a French dessert called pots de crème – basically a very rich chocolate pudding that is steam-baked in the oven and HEAVENLY. One of my fave desserts! Here are two versions, both delicious.

      Also, here is a version of chocolate chip cookies made with extra yolks. Might sound crazy, but it’s good!

  94. MKH

    Could I use already ground almond meal from Trader Joe’s? I love almond flavor and it would make them so easy to make (and fewer dishes to wash). If using already ground nuts, what volume?

  95. emilyklash

    My sister brought me some ground hazelnuts from Germany, and they are destined to be ugly cookies (because I just don’t have it in me to make the macaroon torte– sadly, because it is delicious!) Any idea what the hazelnut content here is by weight? Thanks!

  96. Jenn

    I have a question that I know may be controversial… Is there any reason, apart from obvious puritanical reasons, that I shouldn’t use egg whites from a carton for this recipe? I know, I know, I risk being booed off the platform for this, but seriously!

  97. FizzyBlonde

    Divine. Elegant, chewy, light as air – a fancy fabulous cookie. Money quote from my husband: “These are my favorites, just like everything else you make from Smitten Kitchen.” So happy to find such a great use for leftover egg whites!

  98. Anita Luong

    These are delightful! Light, airy, nutty, and delicious!
    I strongly recommend going for the bittersweet chocolate and not skipping the espresso powder so that the sweetness of the meringue can be balanced out.

    Next time, I plan to try adding the lemon (or orange!) zest and pine nuts, just to see how they will add to the cookie.

    Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  99. Clementine

    Made these – ate all of them… I think toasting the nuts and the espresso powder are essential. Used mini-chocolate chips which I think are nice because there are more of them :)

  100. Carol

    I was able to use a ice cream scooper with these to get them a consistent size. Temperature was too hot in my oven so I took them out at about 12 minutes as some were getting too brown and then put them in a much lower oven to dry them. Ate way too much of the batter; yes sweet, but I can’t resist that marshmallowy texture with nuts and chocolate! Oy. So good, and proud of myself for trying something new.

  101. Tricia

    I’ve never seen a recipe that mimics my favorite holiday cookie , we call them Angel Kisses. One of my favorites! If you want another twist try adding tiny cherry chips and well as the chocolate. No espresso and made with walnuts. Yum!! Can’t wait to try this version ❤️

  102. Mandy

    I love these cookies! Such a great way to use up egg whites. I found I like them better with almonds than with hazelnuts. I usually use sliced almonds from Trader Joe’s. (I keep the almonds in the freezer for the sudden occasions when I have egg whites that are clamoring to become these cookies.)

  103. Kathleen

    These were delicious! I made them pretty much as-written, except for cutting the espresso powder back to about 1 tsp. They are delightful – and not just because you can tell people about the fun name when you serve them. Mine only got a tiny bit golden around the very base, which was fine. Also, I can verify that they do keep really nicely for at least 4 days (that’s how long ours lasted) – just as good on the last day as the first.

  104. Kathleen

    These are wonderful! I’ve made them twice now, and they were even better the second time. The first time I dialed back the espresso powder, because I didn’t want them to taste too coffee-ish, and they were a little too sweet. The second time I used the full 2 tsp of espresso powder, and I increased the salt to 1/2 tsp, and they are perfect. The espresso flavor is not really noticeable – it just tastes wonderfully chocolate-y to me (if you want a stronger espresso flavor, I’d add even more espresso powder). Also, I tried freezing them, and they freeze/defrost nicely – they still have excellent texture when defrosted. My only tiny problem is that some of my cookies came out quite flat – I might not have baked them long enough, or perhaps they wanted more resting time on the cookie sheet before baking.

  105. Kat

    I didn’t have as much dark chocolate as I thought, so I made up the last 3oz with chopped up dark chocolate orange. I loved the little bit of citrus against the chocolate and nuts. Skipped the espresso powder; not sure how that would play with the orange flavor. But as they were, I would definitely add the chocolate orange again.

  106. Jenn

    This recipe SUCKS. The egg whites NEVER stiffen. You’re left with a bunch of stinky half-burned hazelnuts and a bowl of wet, white, worthless goop. BOO.

    1. Emma

      The part of the recipe where you beat the egg whites and add the sugar is simply a meringue. That’s it. People have been making meringues for quite some time.

      If you’re having trouble getting your egg whites to stiff peaks, it would be a better idea to ask people in the comment section for some tips. Stating that the recipe “sucks” is simply untrue, since that the part of it that you’re complaining about has been used successfully for about three centuries.

    2. Katy

      The problem is not the recipe. It’s going to be either that you have residue of fat or soap on the beaters and/or bowl you are using, or that the egg yolk broke a little and there’s yolk in the whites. Or that you are beating them by hand in which case it will take a long time to stiffen them! It’s worth trying again with fresh egg whites and washing the bowl and beaters thoroughly – maybe run a slice of lemon round the beaters and bowl as it will get rid of any traces of fat from previous cooking.

  107. Amelia

    I love these cookies so much! Fun anecdote: my toddler called them ugly good butt cookies… I make them whenever fresh pasta gets made here and use almond flour since it’s really available pre ground. I’d love to have an accurate weight measurement though. Mine changes pretty drastically each time I make them. All of the variations have been delicious as you really can’t go wrong with meringue chocolate and almond flour (some more chewy, some more crunchy) but if love to get rid of the guess work if any of you have already figured this out. Thanks!

  108. Janet Dugan

    These sound delightful, I’ll try them soon!
    As for yummy ugly baked goods, our family favorite is “Bird Turd Cookies”. It’s a chocolate – chocolate chip walnut with a couple of mini marshmallows melted on top, which resemble the thing they are named for. They are the most requested cookie for Christmas!

  109. Alex

    So ugly, and so so good. A few notes: I probably had to roast my hazelnuts for about 10 minutes longer than suggested to get that golden brown. Also I did what I could to remove the skins, without obsessing over it. I didn’t seem to mind the bit of skin that remained in the final product.

    I stopped adding the mini chocolate chips at about 6 oz. Seemed there was no more “matrix” left to mix the the remaining chips into.

    What a triumph!

  110. Lisa Kelso

    Delicious and easy and not ugly. I made them exactly as written and will definitely make them again.
    One comment – a standard 30” wide (total width…not interior width) oven doesn’t fit 2 large baking sheets side by side. I would have found it helpful to have a suggestion for how to bake them. On 2 oven racks and switching mid-way? Or can the batter keep for 25 min. while the 1st batch bakes? My solution, which wasn’t that great since the cookies were too close together, was to use the 2 smaller baking sheets that I know do fit in my oven side by side.