Crisp, Buttery Tuiles for the Tuile-Intimidated

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I’m crazy for tuiles. I spent so much time developing tuile variations one year, I thought the book I was working on would end up Just Tuiles instead of Pure Dessert.

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Tuiles are thin, buttery-tasting, crispy, elegant little wafers to serve next to a dish of something dainty and creamy like ice cream or custard or mousse, or with a little fruit compote or, frankly, anything that you can think of…. that, um, would be enhanced by a buttery-tasting, crispy elegant little cookie!

Tuiles can also be turned into miniature ice cream cones to show off tiny scoops of your homemade sorbets and ice creams, or made into dessert cups. Tuiles can be made flat (just call them wafers!) and stacked with creamy fillings to make ethereal napoleons, or curved to resemble the Mediterranean roof tiles that they are named for, or shaped into gorgeously abstract forms. No matter how you shape or serve them, everyone will be delighted—and impressed.

Almond tuiles are classic. Golden brown and curved like roof tiles, they are a pretty mosaic of shaved toasted almonds.

But you needed don’t stop with almonds! Coconut, pistachios, sliced hazelnuts, pine nuts, and all kinds of seeds are all fair game. One year, I discovered that the simple buttery egg white batter was a perfect vehicle for infusing all kinds of flavorful and fragrant ingredients, including citrus zests, spices, fresh herbs, saffron, dried flower blossom, and tea leaves. I’ve even made tuiles with extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter. I’ve also found that the classic recipe can be altered and enhanced with the addition of flavorful non-wheat flours, or even made entirely without wheat!

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You might assume that anything as fragile, thin, and impressive as tuiles must be daunting to make. Not really, but there are a few tricks and details. The batter comes together in minutes and then rests briefly, or for up to three days (how’s that for versatile?) before being shaped and baked. You can (and should) make round tuiles, either flat or curved, to start; fancy stenciled shapes, cones, and cups can come later or not at all. You don’t even have to drape your tuiles over a rolling pin for the classic curved shape—although that is part of the fun. I have a terrific method for bypassing the old-school rolling pin and shaping an entire sheet of tuiles at one time!

A first-timer may be intimidated by the details and timing involved in baking and shaping hot tuiles before they harden, as well as making sure they are crispy! Most of these concerns disappear if you choose the right pan liner and prepare it as described, and if you begin by baking a single tray at a time so that you can monitor doneness and have enough time to get the tuiles off the pan and shaped before they harden.

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As for crispiness, let that first tray of tuiles cool before baking the others, so that you can be sure they are crispy from edge to center. Bake the subsequent trays a little longer if necessary. It’s also good to know that if tuiles harden before you get a chance to shape them, you can pop them back into the oven until they are flexible again. In short, tuiles are no cause for panic!

My recipe for coconut tuiles follows. For more tuiles recipes and variations, see my books…

  • Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your Mouth Cookies: tuiles flavored with cinnamon, banana, pineapple, citrus, cocoa, fresh thyme, tarragon, jasmine tea, lavender, vanilla bean, rose, or saffron
  • Pure Dessert: Chestnut Tuiles and Corn Tuiles with Salt and Pepper
  • Flavor Flours: gluten-free tuiles made with oat, buckwheat, and rice flours, check out

Recipe tips:

  • While tuiles are baking, you can continue to spread batter on extra pan liners set on the counter (or on extra pans if you have them). Slide the batter-laden liners onto cookies sheets and into the oven as soon as the oven is empty. You do not have to wait for the pans to cool between rounds so long as the liners are already filled with batter when you slide them onto the pans and the pans go into the oven immediately.
  • Bonus technique for regular foil only: You can curve an entire sheet of tuiles at once by rolling the foil into a fat cylinder with hot cookies attached. Here’s how: As soon as you remove the baking sheet from the over, grasp the edges of the foil (without touching the hot pan or the cookies) and roll it into a fat cylinder, gently curving the attached cookies. Crimp or secure the foil with paper clips. Set the cylinder between a couple of heavy objects (cans or jars) to prevent it from sagging. When cool, unroll the foil carefully and remove the tuiles.
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Pan liner choices:

  • Regular foil (lightly greased): Tuiles baked on regular foil will spread in the oven, sometimes making beautiful but slightly irregular organic-shaped cookies with extra thin delicate edges. They will be even more irregular if the pan under the foil is not perfectly flat or if it’s creased or wrinkled! Don’t choose regular foil if you want perfect control over the shape of your tuiles. Tuiles are easiest to remove from foil while very hot, or completely cool.
  • Non-stick foil: Tuiles baked on nonstick foil hold their shape and are easy to remove at any temperature.
  • Silicone mat (lightly greased): Tuiles baked on Silicone will hold their shape and can be removed at any temperature..
  • Parchment: I don’t recommend parchment because it does not brown the tuiles as well as the other choices.

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