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Tuiles, those delicious French cookies that are skinnier than a runway model, need to be in your cookie repertoire. They’re the crisp simple tasting cookies you’ll find perched alongside little balls of ice cream in French cafés. Often, you’ll see them rolled like cigarettes. As far as flavor, they bring to mind a fortune cookie, but buttery.

Since the holidays are near, a lot of folks are searching for cookie recipes to bake as gifts or to add to the neighborhood exchange. Sorry, tuiles are not those cookies. These are the delicate flowers of the cookie world.

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Happily, they’re a cinch to make and, while they’re still warm, you can bend, twirl and pretty much shape them any way your imagination wants to go.

Think of tuiles as the béchamel sauce of cookies. Once you know the basics of the French mother sauce, you can flavor it up just about any way you want. It’s sort of the same with tuiles.

I’ll give you the basic recipe, and you can adjust it to suit your taste. I like tuiles marbled with chocolate and served as an accompaniment to crème brulee. I crumple them up like pieces of paper, then place one atop the glassy burnt sugar. They bring a little whimsy to the deadpan crème brûlée

I want you to know how to prepare these cookies because homemade tuiles are wonderfully versatile. You can shape them into bowls, fill them with berries and drizzle with a little crème anglaise. Or make tiny cones and fill with gelato, or simply drizzle nuts on the cookie batter, don’t shape them at all and enjoy them with a cup of Earl Gray.

These are flavored with vanilla bean paste, but you can use a little of your favorite liqueur. Consider adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the batter – but now we’re leaving the French realm.

The only real word of warning I have when making tuiles is that if you’re baking them in humid weather or on a rainy day, they’ll end up a little soft, and you really want them crisp once you’ve shaped them the way you want. A flaccid tuile is quite unsatisfying. Trust me on this.

Tuiles

Makes about 20 or so cookies.

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup powdered sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted

4 tablespoons heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract

3 egg whites

1 teaspoon cocoa (You’ll mix the cocoa with about 2 tablespoons of the finished batter to marbleize the tuiles.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grease a baking sheet.

Sift flour and sugar together into a medium bowl. Gradually stir in the melted butter. Add the cream, vanilla, egg whites and stir or whisk to blend until smooth.

When the batter is smooth – it should be the constancy of fairly thin pancake batter – remove about two tablespoons and place it in a small bowl. Stir in the cocoa until smooth. Set aside.

Spread about a tablespoon of the regular batter onto the cookie sheet and smooth it into a thin circle about three inches in diameter. You can use an off-set spatula to smooth the batter evenly, but I have good luck with a soup spoon, too. Dab a little of the chocolate batter over the cookie and, using a toothpick or small cocktail fork, carefully create a marbled effect.

Bake for about six minutes, but pull them out when the edges start to get golden. If you overcook the cookies, they’ll be too brittle to shape. And you need to shape them while they’re hot. Keep them on the cookie sheet and shape one at a time.

To crumple cookies (You’re not breaking them, you’re wadding them up a bit.), push a spatula beneath them and they’ll start to crumple. You can then lift them and gently continue to wad them with your fingers. You might have to hold them like that for a moment until they cool and hold their shapes. They’re so thin that they won’t be too hot to handle.

I wrapped some around a wooden spoon handle to make them into classic cigarettes, well, more like cigars to show you what they look like. And I also chopped some pistachio nuts, sprinkled them on the batter and crumpled the hot cookies to serve with ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Store in an airtight container if you’re not eating them the day you prepare the tuiles. Since the batter can be refrigerated for a few days, you can make them fresh.

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The batter takes just a couple of minutes to put together.

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You can use a toothpick or a little cocktail fork to swirl.

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Place the cookies about 2 inches apart.
They’ll spread a little while baking.

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Start watching the cookies closely when
the edges are this brown. This is not the time to leave the kitchen.

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See how easy tuiles are to shape?

Oh, and take a look at those little cigarettes below. The ends can be dipped in melted chocolate, then rolled in finely chopped nuts. I should have done that to show you how sweet they look, but I’m off to Atlanta in the morning, and I haven’t even finished writing my weekly column for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, yet. So, I’d better get to work, and you can go bake a batch of tuiles.

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