experiments in cooking

French Almond Wafers (tuiles)

I have made these thin, almond-flavored cookies twice now. Both times, they came out looking nothing like they were supposed to. They are supposed to be round, but I just can’t seem to manage it. Yet with all the trouble I’ve had making these, they are so delicious that I am going to keep making them until I get it right. 

This is a wafer that spreads when you bake it, so much so that both times the wafers have run together and spread all over the pan, so that I had to cut them into slices with a pizza cutter. And I made a big mess both times too. And yes, I yelled a lot. But regardless of how they look, they taste yummy.

When I made them for friends a couple of weeks ago, as a back-up dessert for a cake that didn’t rise properly, my friends ate every wafer in the dish. Actually, they tried to hide the few they didn’t eat, but their four-year-old daughter found them and ate the rest while we were sitting at the table playing Scrabble.

Then I made the wafers for a church Thanksgiving meal last night, and again, they disappeared. (It sure is a thrill to pick up your dish after a potluck and discover that the crowd ate everything you brought.)

I’ve got to admit, when I made the wafers on Saturday, I was pretty fed up. The first sheet of wafers I had to throw out because I forgot to top them with almonds, and as a result they spread so thin I couldn’t make anything out of them. And I also dropped the cookie sheet face down on the open oven door. Then the second sheet of wafers spread together and had to be sliced into pieces. Also, you are supposed to drape the wafers over bottles or rolling pins to curl them, and my bottles and pins kept rolling around on the counter. Only the third sheet of wafers looked okay, but there were only four of them. I had produced four correct wafers out of a batch that should have made two dozen.

I was almost ready to throw out all my odd-shaped wafers, but I picked up a scrap to eat and realized that they just tasted too good to throw away. So I piled them in a pretty, but small, serving dish, twined artificial autumn leaves around the dish, and confidently labeled them “French Almond Wafers (tuiles).”

You have got to try these yourself. And if they don’t look the recipe says they should—well, no one but you and I will know what they are supposed to look like.

 

Tuiles (French Almond Wafers) from the Joy of Cooking

These curled wafers are often brought to the table at the end of a special dinner and served with chocolate truffles, coffee, and brandy. Their name is the French word for tiles, because they are shaped like the curved terra-cotta roof tiles so prevalent in the south of France. Almost paper thin, with a subtle almond flavor, tuiles are curled by being draped, while still warm and pliable, over a rolling pin until cool and firm. The step that requires attention is removing them form the baking sheet. The trick is to use a wide spatula with a very thin blade and to work very quickly. Cookie sheets need to be clean and cool before you make a new batch.

Have all ingredients at room temperature, 68 to 70 degrees. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Very generously grease cookie sheets or cover with parchment paper or well-greased aluminum foil. Have ready several rolling pins or bottles the same width as the rolling pin to shape the wafers.

Warm, stirring constantly, over very low heat until very soft but not thin and runny:

5 tbsp unsalted butter

Whisk together until very frothy:

2 large egg whites

1/8 tsp salt

1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp sugar

¼ tsp almond extract

¼ tsp vanilla

Gradually whisk in:

½ cup sifted cake flour (not self-rising)

A bit a time, whisk in the softened butter until the mixture is well blended and smooth.

Drop the batter by heaping measuring teaspoonfuls

onto the sheets, spacing about 3 inches apart. Don’t crowd, as the wafers will spread a great deal. [Note: the only time I’ve kept the cookies from spreading together, I placed only four on the plan.] Using the tip of a knife and working in a circular motion, spread each portion into a [3-inch] round. Very generously sprinkle the rounds with:

½ to 2/3 cup sliced almonds, coarsely chopped [Note: I did not chop the sliced almonds]

Bake 1 sheet at a time until the wafers are rimmed with ½ inch of golden brown, 6 to 9 minutes; rotate the sheet halfway through for even browning. Remove the sheet to a rack and let stand for a few seconds. As soon as the wafers can be lifted without tearing, loosen them with a thin-bladed wide metal spatula and slide them, bottom side down, onto rolling pins or bottles. (Remove the wafers to the rolling pins 1 at a time, so the others remain warm and pliable. If some of the wafers cool too quickly to shape on the rolling pins, return the sheet to the oven briefly to warm and soften them.) As soon as the tuiles are firm, transfer to racks [or wax paper] to cool.

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