Thin, crispy tuile "cigarettes"

Maybe I'm a gluten for punishment or miss the baking projects of December because I made tuile "cigarettes" the other day.  Apparently, the proper name for them is "cigarette russes" and they are basically very crisp cookies or rolled wafers in the tuile family.  Growing up, I'd find these cookies in one of those assorted cookie tins we'd get around the holidays.  I'm fond of them like I am of butter cookies, which I also favored as a child but for various reasons don't eat much of now.  It also dawned on me that these cookies are very similar to Chinese biscuit rolls, which I've eaten plenty of.
These tuiles are different from the other ones I've made in the past.  While those have been of the lace variety, these are solid, almost crepe-like.  They're sweet, shatteringly-crisp, and buttery (not greasy but dry), with a kiss of vanilla flavor.  They taste like a very thin, crispier, version of homemade waffle cones, which is probably why they make an excellent accompaniment with ice cream but they're also great just on their own.

I made these last Sunday morning when the fellas had gone off to see a Knicks game and mom (that would be me) had most of the day to herself.  It was foggy and dreary, a perfect day to lounge around, eat, read, and do a little cooking.  I decided to try this tuile recipe I'd seen on Serious Eats because they looked so good (so thin and brown that I could almost taste the shattering golden buttery-crispness of them!) and it reminded me of how much I like them.
Now the "punishment" part of these cookies is in forming them.  As with other tuile recipes, the batter is a cinch to make - it literally takes only a couple of minutes to stir a few ingredients together.  The trick is in the rolling/shaping, to get the freshly baked, hot, tuiles successfully into a tight cylinder shape (hence, the "cigarette" moniker, which I generally don't like but describes them appropriately).  And there's a good reason for the shape - rolling them creates layers; you bite into it and the cookie satisfyingly shatters in your mouth.

Now to shape them and create these layers, you have to deal with the problem of handling the scorching hot tuiles straight out of the oven and the extremely narrow window of time you have to roll them before they cool, which seems to happen in an instant.  Because of this delicate balance, I usually end up with thick, wide rounds whenever I've tried to roll tuiles (albeit the lacey kind), if I'm successful at all!
It took me 3 tries to figure out what I was doing wrong and to get into the rhythm of making these.  I followed the recipe, rolling them by hand, not around a straw, chopstick, wooden spoon or any other implement but just onto itself, and it seemed to be the trick to getting a thin, tight tube.  I finally got the hang of it and let me warn you, your fingers will be in a bit of pain and the process is also quite time consuming since you can really only make 2 at a time.  It's definitely not something you can mass-produce...making a few as a special snack makes more sense.

I ended up with a handful of rolled cookies (and some equally delicious scraps from my first failed attempts) and I'm actually glad I did it!  It was worth the effort - and the scorched fingertips - because I ended up with these cookies that taste just as I described above. 
I like these delicate and crispy tuiles just as they are.  It may be gilding the lily but you can dip one end in dark chocolate.  I topped a few with green sprinkles for my "main squeeze", who is partial to that color.  Instead of sprinkles, some finely chopped toasted almonds would be delicious.

Baking Notes

To make these, you need:

- A silpat (or two), or a silicon baking mat, to line your baking sheet.  Having more than one will speed up the process (not needing to wait for the first to cool in the rotation).  Parchment paper won't work but, apparently, you can lightly grease your baking pan if you don't have the silicon mat though I haven't tried it.

- An offset spatula (or two).  You need a small one to spread the batter out super thinly.  You also need another (otherwise, clean the one you used to spread the batter) to quickly flip the tuiles over right out of the oven.  You can also use it to press lightly on the tuiles for a few seconds to set the shape.  A thin bladed knife could do, especially when it comes to the flipping, but won't work as well when it comes to spreading the batter.

- A willingness to get your fingertips scorched.  If you're doing it right, you will be handling the tuiles while they are hot!  It will hurt your fingertips. 

- Patience.  As I mention, you make 2 at a time and it might not work at first.

Now that we got that out of the way, here are a few notes and things I learned while making these:


1) The batter - To make the batter, simply whisk confectioners' sugar, flour, salt, melted butter, vanilla, and egg whites together.  It will look like a paste and the consistency reminds me of condensed milk.
Chill the batter for at least an hour to allow it to thicken further.  I took the batter out to sit at room temperature for about 5-10 minutes before baking.  It will be thick but smooth and easily scoopable and spreadable.

This recipe didn't specify but from other tuile recipes of this kind, I want to mention that you can keep the batter in the fridge for up to 5 days.  You may want to bake up just a few at a time to enjoy fresh, particularly since you can only do two per baking sheet.  Now that I have the hang of it, I can see myself with some batter in the fridge and baking a few off to serve with ice cream during the summer.

2) Spread thinly and no larger than 4-by-6 inches.  For my first batch, I started with too much batter.  The recipe said to use 2-3 scant tablespoons and I found even 2 tablespoons was too much.  I recommend no more than one tablespoon of batter for each oval.  Use a small offset spatula to spread two very thin (nearly transparent) 4x6 inch ovals on each baking sheet.  Resist the temptation to spread the ovals bigger if they're too thick.  Instead, scrape any excess batter back into the bowl.  I recommend making only 2 at a time since they cool so quickly. 
Since I was using too much batter the first time, my ovals ended up too big.  Again, don't do that.  Keep it to no bigger than 4x6 inches.  Smaller ovals will be easier to roll/handle and will come out more neatly.

3) Bake time is tricky; let them brown but not so much that they are too brittle.   When you put the spread batter into the oven, you'll see them start to bubble, then gradually turn brown.  You want them to brown because that makes them super-crispy and more flavorful.  For my first batch, I wanted to mimic the beautifully-browned cookies I saw from the recipe so I let it turn almost completely brown throughout.  That turned out to be a mistake.  The cookies came out already crisp and there was no time/way to roll them. 

I found that 5-6 minutes in the oven was right for me.  The sides will be brown, the center will be brown in some spots but also paler in others, more of a light golden color.  This way, they come out still pliable enough to roll.  In my book, the cookie below is as close to "perfect" as I could get.  It's nice and brown but I could still roll it up nice and tight.  I generally played it safe and took them out a few seconds earlier so most of them are a little paler.  I think that's better than not being able to roll them up at all! 
Timing is a bit of a guessing game so you have to find out how far you can push it to get maximum color and crispness and still be able to roll the cookie. 

4) Quick, quick, quick.  I found that there was no time to turn the tuiles out onto a work surface to roll, like the recipe suggests.  Instead, I gently run an offset spatula (I used a larger one) under the cookie (it should release easily) and flip it over (so that the smooth side will be facing out).  Roll them - carefully - right on the silpat lined baking sheet.  Try to roll the tuile onto itself as tightly as you can and as fast as you can.  Give your hands a little break and use the spatula to press it down at the seams for a few seconds to set the shape.
The second tuile on the pan might have cooled too much to roll by the time you finish the first.  Try putting it in the oven for a few seconds if that happens.  With the oven light on, you'll see it relax and soften before your eyes.  Then pull it right out and proceed as above.  If all else fails and you can't roll it because it's just too brittle and crisp, simply crush it into large pieces and enjoy the scraps. 
And that sums up my experience making these cookies.  I learned a lot!  And I would make them again because they're just that tasty! 
I also think this is a great tuile recipe to use for molding bowls to serve frozen treats in.  Instead of rolling them into these cigar shapes, remove the warm tuile rounds from the baking sheet and mold it against an upside down bowl, teacup, or ramekin and allow it to cool and set.  Then you have a delicious way to serve your ice cream that mimics the taste of an ice cream cone.


Recipe:

Tuile "Cigarettes"
Adapted from Serious Eats

- Makes about 12 cookies -

1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 large egg whites

Optional:
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
About 1/4 cup sprinkles or finely chopped nuts (such as almonds) for garnish

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt.  Stir in (just continue to gently whisk) the melted butter, vanilla, and egg whites until a smooth paste forms.  Cover the bowl and chill for about an hour to allow it to thicken further.  You can store the batter in the refrigerator, baking as needed, for up to 5 days.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place a rack in the middle position.  Let batter sit at room temperature for about 5-10 minutes before using.  Line baking sheet with silicon baking mat.  Spread about a tablespoon of batter into no larger than a 4-by-6 inch oval.  Use a small offset spatula to spread the batter evenly and thinly so that it's practically transparent.  Take care to keep the ovals no larger than 4-by-6 inches; scrape excess batter back into the bowl, if necessary.  Spread just 2 ovals on the baking sheet at a time.

Bake until edges are golden brown and the center is a faint golden color, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven.  Immediately run an offset spatula under the tuile, flip it over (so the smooth side faces out), and roll into as tight a cylinder as possible with your fingers.  The tuiles (and the pan) are very hot at this point so be careful!  When you get to the end, take your spatula and press down for a few seconds to set the seam.  Quickly repeat with the second tuile.  If the tuile has cooled and is too brittle to roll, try returning it to the oven for a brief time to soften.

Repeat with remaining batter.

Optional garnish:  Dip one end of cooled tuiles into the bittersweet chocolate.  If desired, add sprinkles or chopped nuts over the chocolate.  Set dipped tuiles on parchment paper until chocolate sets (or place in the refrigerator to speed up the process).

These crispy tuiles are best enjoyed the day they're made since they are sensitive to moisture and humidity.  I don't think you'll have a problem polishing this small batch off but you can store them in a dry, airtight container for 2-3 days.


7 comments:

  1. Really good tips. Yours look so pretty and delicate!

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  2. Thanks! I think it really helps when you know something is going to be challenging going in...and then it doesn't seem so bad. These are so tasty, it's worth the pain.

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  3. Wow, I bet this would make great feuilletine!

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    1. Good point! It's got a very similar texture and appeal - these tuiles are a bit thicker and not as caramelized as feuilletine. I kind of think of it more like a thin waffle cone. Both good! : ) That reminds me of the chocolate-hazelnut bars - please check that out if you're a fan of feuilletine. : )

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  4. I just did a batch but they look nothing like yours, and an hour later my fingertips are still tender 😏 . But, like you say, all worth it in the end.

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    1. haha - I remember these well! Believe me, I only had a handful of these "nice" ones to show and gave up after a bit. The taste and texture are just spot on though. I will definitely make them again one day...with a bowl of ice water nearby to dunk my fingers into. Thanks for the comment and feedback! Happy New Year!

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