Makes about forty 2-1/2-inch tuiles
Out of the oven, the deep fragrance of ground vanilla beans will stir memories from childhood: sweet cream-filled vanilla wafers, giant scoops of vanilla ice cream, vanilla-custard-filled eclairs...
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. If using foil, smooth it to remove any wrinkles, which would distort the cookies. Grease the silicone mats or the foil lightly but thoroughly with melted butter.
In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients until blended. Let the batter rest for at least 10 minutes or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Bake, watching carefully, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the tuiles are golden brown half to three-quarters of the way to the center but still pale in the center. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. If the cookies are not baked long enough, they will not be completely crisp when cool.
As soon as you can coax a thin metal spatula under a cookie without destroying it, transfer it to a rack to cool flat. Or shape it by draping it over a rolling pin, nestling it into a little cup, or twisting it with your fingers. Working fast, remove the remaining tuiles; reheat if necessary.
Slide the foil sheet of cookies onto a rack to cool flat. Or, for curved tuiles, grasp the edges of the foil when the sheet comes from the oven (without touching the hot pan or the cookies) and roll it into a fat cylinder, gently curving the attached cookies like potato chips. Crimp or secure the foil with a paper clip. When cool, unroll the foil carefully and remove the tuiles. Alternatively, remove individual tuiles from the foil while they are hot (as soon as you can coax a thin metal spatula under a cookie without destroying it) and shape them as described above. Flat or curved, tuiles are easiest to remove from the foil when they are either very hot or completely cool.
Repeat until all of the tuiles are baked. To retain crispness, put the cookies in an airtight container as soon as they are cool. May be stored airtight for at least 1 month.
You may be astonished at the flavor and aroma to be had from simply grating a stick of cinnamon with a Microplane grater-and at how easy it is.
Substitute 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated stick cinnamon (or a slightly rounded 1-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon) for the ground vanilla beans.
If you can find them, Meyer lemons will produce an exceptional floral fragrance and flavor. Or use mandarin orange, tangerine, blood orange, or regular orange zest.
Substitute 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (I use a Microplane zester), preferably from an organic or unsprayed fruit, for the vanilla beans.
Back porch gardeners will love this excuse to use more herbs in more interesting ways. The flavors of thyme or tarragon are clean and bright and lively in these sweet crisp wafers, and the aroma of butter, herbs, and sugar is divine coming out of the oven.
Stir 3/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, lemon thyme, or small tarragon leaves (or pieces of larger tarragon leaves) into the very warm butter. Cover and allow to infuse for 5 minutes. Proceed as directed, using the butter and herbs instead of plain melted butter.
These are exotic and impressively aromatic. Serve them with a creamy dessert such as panna cotta or a bowl of fresh sweet strawberries.
Stir a scant 3/8 teaspoon crushed saffron threads into the very warm butter. Cover and allow to infuse for 5 minutes. Proceed as directed, using the saffron butter instead of plain melted butter.
I use only pure vanilla extract—Tahitian, Mexican, or Bourbon, depending on the flavor I'm looking for. Tahitian has a floral aroma, like exotic tropical flowers, with flavor notes of cherry, licorice, and raisins. It is a lovely flavor to feature rather than use as a background. Mexican vanilla has aromas of rum and caramel and very ripe fruit. Bourbon vanilla (also called Madagascar), the type most familiar to North Americans, is most difficult to describe because it smells and tastes like...well, vanilla.
I like to use whole ground vanilla beans in cookies, instead of (or in addition to) vanilla extract. If you can't find jars of pure ground vanilla beans (not to be confused with vanilla powder that contains dextrose or vanilla paste), you can chop a whole bean and grind it as fine as possible in a coffee or spice grinder. As a rule of thumb, you can use 1/4 teaspoon ground whole vanilla beans to replace 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, but I often use more.
This page created April 2011
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