A tuile is a type of very lightweight, dry, crisp cookie. These cookies come in a dizzying array of shapes, sizes, and flavors, but every style tends to be delectable. Tuiles are also incredibly versatile, and they can be used for everything from ice cream garnishes to crusts for tiny, delicate tarts. Learning to make tuiles happens to be very easy and fun, and because these cookies are so versatile, you can play around with a tuile recipe a great deal.
In French, “tuile” means “tile,” and it is a reference to the shape of the classic tuile, which is typically allowed to bake and then molded around something like a dowel while it is still warm and pliable. When the cookie cools, it slips off the mold, and it looks like a tiny roof tile. In addition to using dowels as molds, people can utilize molds which will turn tuiles into little cups, flowers, and other shapes. Tuiles can also be made into cylinders which can be filled with a variety of substances.
Basic tuiles are very simple, made with flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. Many people like to add flavoring such as orange or lemon zest, chocolate, spices, sesame seeds, or nuts to their tuiles. All tuiles turn out very thin typically, but some develop an almost lacy pattern as they bake, while others remain solid. When served alone, tuiles are typically of the basic curved variety, and they are arranged to look like a neat row of overlapping roof tiles. Tuiles formed into cups can be used to hold various lightweight fillings and used as petit fours, while larger tuiles can be used to serve ice cream, sorbet, and mousse in ephemeral and edible containers.
To make very basic tuiles, whip two egg whites into soft peaks, and slowly beat in half a cup of powdered sugar or superfine sugar. Slowly fold in a quarter cup of melted unsalted butter, along with a quarter cup of flour, adding the ingredients slowly so that the mixture does not become unworkable. Then, spoon mounds of the batter onto a cookie pan lined with parchment, or a silicone baking sheet, and flatten them slightly with the back of the spoon. Bake until golden, and mold immediately.
This basic recipe can be retooled in a variety of ways. You can add ground nuts or lemon zest to the batter, or sprinkle them on top as a garnish. Melt some chocolate with the butter for chocolate tuiles, or add some black sesame seeds for crunch and flavor. Dip the tuiles in chocolate after they have cooled, or mold the tuiles into tiny tart crusts and fill them with pastry cream and fresh fruit. Serve ice cream with a tuile garnish molded into the shape of a leaf with the assistance of a tuile cutter, applied while the cookies are warm and soft. Your imagination is the limit!