Almond Tuiles - Elegant Holiday Cookies

To be perfectly honest, I don't bake cookies very often. Yes, I am obsessed with French macarons,  but in general when I'm baking I'm much more interested in experimenting with fancy pastries than drop cookies. It's not that I don't like cookies. From oatmeal or chocolate chip to homemade oreos, I honestly can't think of a cookie that I don't like, but with just two of us in the house, I never know what to do with dozens of cookies. Tuiles, on the other hand, I can devour by the dozens.

If you haven't had a tuile before,  it's actually less of a cookie and more of a thin wafer. French for "tile" they are named because their curved shape resembles French terra cotta roof tiles. You basically make a batter, bake them, then place them over rolling pins while they are still warm so they take on the curved shape. Once they are cooled, they are crisp and delicate and absolutely irresistible. They are used in lots of ways, mostly as garnishes for desserts, but I like them straight up.

This recipe comes from my mother-in-law, who first introduced me to tuiles. Her recipe came from the classic "Joy of Cooking Christmas Cookies." I've made just a few changes, the biggest of which is using pasteurized egg whites from the carton (easy and effective) instead of separating eggs yourself. If you are separating eggs yourself, the original recipe called for whites from 2 large eggs.

Almond Tuiles
Adapted from Joy of Cooking Christmas Cookies, makes about 3 dozen.

2.5 oz (5 tblsps) unsalted butter
75 grams pasteurized liquid egg whites
pinch of salt
2.75 oz (1/3 cup plus 1 tblsp) sugar
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1.75 oz cake flour

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

The first thing you need to do is melt your butter. This is tricky because you don't want to the butter to separate, just turn liquid. I stir over very low heat to keep it one consistency.

Slowly melt the butter, keep stirring and breaking it up.
Done, notice that it is all uniform in color and consistency.

Once the butter is liquid, set it aside. Next, add your egg whites to a clean metal bowl and whisk by hand to get them to start foaming a bit. Add the salt, sugar, and extracts, then beat that entire mixture together with your whisk until it is smooth and frothy. Then, gradually whisk in the flour. Once all the flour is added, gradually whisk in your liquid butter. You want this batter to be smooth and well-blended. It's closer to cake batter when it is done.

You can bake these on parchment paper, but I prefer silpats. I also am not good at free-handing shapes, so I made circle templates on paper, placed them under the silpats, shaped the tuiles, removed the templates then baked.

Spoon 1 rounded tsp of batter to the center of the circle, then use your spoon (or butter knife, or spatula, whatever) in a circular motion to make a 3 inch round. From here you can garnish the tops as you like. Since it is almond extract in the batter, I like sliced almonds. You can decorate with patterns or just sprinkle the finely chopped nuts on top.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time, on the middle oven rack until the wafers are rimmed with golden brown. The original recipe states a bake time of 6-9 minutes, mine take a full 10. The original recipe also says to rotate the pan midway through baking, I found that wasn't necessary with my oven.

When you pull them out of the oven, you need to move quickly. Using a spatula, lift them from the silpats and place them on rolling pins. I originally draped my rolling pins with parchment cause I worried about them sticking, but it wasn't necessary. What was needed was a rubber band looped at the base of each rolling pin to keep them from rolling around on my counter and dropping cookies everywhere.

Parchment wrapped pins.
Rubber bands kept them from rolling.
Final setup, works like a charm.

Once they are cool (It only takes a few minutes) place them for storage, nesting carefully and padding with parchment or wax paper to prevent them from breaking. I use a big tupperware container.

Store them in an airtight container. They keep well at room temperature for a week. I know a lot of people (my mother-in-law included) who like to freeze them for longer storage. Mine never last that long.

***Note, this recipe is for almond tuiles, but it can easily be adapted. You can substitute whatever flavor you like for the almond extract (from citrus to any strongly flavored liqueur) then sprinkle the tops with whatever strikes your fancy. I've seen fancy sugar, sprinkles, candied citrus zest (especially with orange extract or lemon zest added to the batter), you name it.

Another awesome thing about these cookies? They are great for the holidays. Served alongside coffee after dinner, they are an excellent sweet treat instead of a big dessert. Also, since most people haven't had tuiles, they make excellent gifts or bring alongs to holiday parties and pot-lucks.

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