When I started working in restaurants as a pastry assistant, a tuile was one of the first things on my list everyday. This paper thin wafer of a cookie is an ideal garnish for a plated dessert because of its versatility. The flavors are endless, which makes them easy to match to a dessert. The thin batter is also not only able to be spread onto a stencil for fun shapes, but because a tuile is flexible while fresh and hot out of the oven (emphasis on the word hot), you can mold the tuile into a funky shape before it cools.
Due to the whisper thin nature of these cookies, tuiles are also particularly fragile. They break. They also turn soft at the first waft of humidity. A pastry assistant learns to guard wisely the tuile-filled plastic fish tubs that she's just spent hours loading up for service.
So why make a tuile? Because everything that I've mentioned above is what makes them a real treat. Tuiles are buttery, delicate, and crisp. And, if your hands are up for it, they can be rolled up into the classic "cigarette" shape that's perfect for munching on.
To shape these cookies into tight rolls, it requires a deft hand and a certain desire for pain, so I will admit that I don't make them often. But once completed, as your teeth break through the rolled layers and the crisp shards of wafer shatter in your mouth, you know that it was totally worth it. When making them, there are a few things to keep in mind to help the process go smoothly. The first thing is to spread the batter extremeley thin. It should be just about transparent. Otherwise, the tuile will bake up thick and lack the delicate nature that you're going after. Second, bake just two or three at a time. Tuiles cool lightening fast and you want to be able to shape each one before they cool and harden. Third, even though it's often suggested to roll a tuile up around a chopstick or a wooden handle, I've found that I always end up with a huge cigar shaped cookie. The best way is to simply roll the tuile up by itself. The cookie won't cool as fast this way, and you'll get much tighter rolls. For a finishing touch, I like to dunk each cookie in dark bittersweet chocolate. And for that truly special occasion, a final dip in colorful sprinkles give these crunchy tuiles a festive flair.
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About the Author: Yvonne Ruperti is a food writer, recipe developer, former bakery owner, and author of The Complete Idiot's Guide To Easy Artisan Bread. You can also watch her culinary stylings on the America's Test Kitchen television show. She presently lives in Singapore as a freelance writer for Time Out Singapore. Check out her blog: shophousecook.com . Follow Yvonne on Twitter.