Tuile is the French word for tile, and these thin, delicate cookies are often curved in the shape of a French roof tile. Not much is known about their history, except that they were probably invented after crystallized sugar became available in the 17th century. There are versions in Spain known as tejas, and Italy has something similar called tegolinos.
They can be either sweet or savory and are usually served as a garnish, or tuiles can be molded into serving dishes for ice cream or other desserts. There are not many limitations to the shapes these cookies can take. They can be formed into cones, cups, tubes (known as cigars or pirouettes), spirals — you name it. The trick is to form them quickly after they come out of the oven when they are still warm and flexible. Once they have cooled, they should retain the shape and be light and crispy, with a distinct snap when broken. Then they can be filled or dipped in chocolate and ground nuts or simply served plain.
This recipe is Mary Berry’s, and it was a technical challenge for the bakers in the Great White Tent for biscuits and traybakes week. As usual, when I watched The Great British Baking Show Masterclass episode on Netflix (season 2, episode 3), I found some discrepancies in the way Mary demonstrated the recipe and how it was printed on the BBC website. Most notably, the recipe says to let the batter rest for 30 minutes, while in the Masterclass Mary specifies that it should be chilled in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes.
Since I didn’t have a template like the ones the GBBO contestants used, I had to make my own. I used a piece of plastic that had served as the base of a reusable shopping bag, but you can use almost any thin but somewhat stiff plastic, such as a placemat or a coffee can lid. I was able to cut six 2½-inch holes in mine, but you really only need one or two; you just have to lift up the template and move it each time you make a cookie. I found that it’s better to bake just a few tuiles at a time so you are able to form them all before they cool. If you bake more than six on one cookie sheet, you might find that you have to rewarm them to get them all shaped.
I must confess, I had some difficulty with these. Fortunately, the recipe makes plenty of batter, so I was able to make three batches of 18, and the third time was the charm! The first ones were too thick and came out too soft. The second batch was thinner, but I didn’t bake them long enough to get them crispy. By the third batch, I had learned to make them as thin as possible, and I left them in the oven just a little longer than the recipe said to, watching to make sure they didn’t over-brown. But look for that light brown around the edges so you know they will crisp up as they cool.
The other tricky part was piping the chocolate circles onto the unbaked tuiles. On this GBBO episode, the bakers weren’t given piping bags, so they had to make them out of parchment paper. Wanting to give myself the same challenge, I tried doing the same thing. While I was able to use my homemade bag for the first batch of tuiles, by the time the second and third batches came along, the paper piping bag was falling apart and the chocolate batter was oozing out the sides and the top! I gave up and grabbed one of my disposable bags instead. (Note: You could use a zip-lock bag for this. Simply snip a small hole in one corner.)
Once I got the hang of making the tuiles thin enough, I was pretty happy with the results. They gave a nice snap when broken. I liked the chocolate-dipped cigars the best (because chocolate, of course!), but next time I would take it a step further and dip them in chopped nuts as well! I’d like to try other flavors and different shapes, too, like making my own ice cream cones or dessert bowls. The possibilities are endless!
You can find Mary’s recipe here, but I have adapted it below for American bakers.
Mary Berry’s Tuiles in Two Variations
Adapted for American bakers
- 10 T. (7 oz.) butter, softened
- 1¾ c. powdered sugar
- 1 t. vanilla extract
- 6 egg whites
- 1½ c. all-purpose flour
- 1 T. cocoa powder
- 1¾ oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the butter, sugar and vanilla into a paste. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites together to loosen them a bit. Add the egg whites to the batter a little at a time, mixing continuously. Add the flour and mix well, making sure all the butter is well incorporated.
- Transfer one-sixth of the batter into a small bowl and mix the cocoa into it. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 15-20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and place the tuile template on top. Using a palette knife, spread some of the plain tuile paste over the cut-out shapes in the template. Draw the blade across the template to remove any surplus paste, making the batter as thin as possible. Peel the template away from the cookie sheet, leaving the paste shapes on the cookie sheet. You should be able to fit nine tuiles on one or two cookie sheets.
- Spoon the chocolate paste into a small piping bag fitted with a writing tip. Pipe patterns (concentric circles, dots, straight lines, squiggles, wavy lines) onto the tuiles. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until tuiles are just turning golden-brown around the edges.
- Remove cookie sheets from the oven and, working very quickly, drape the tuiles over a rolling pin or wine bottle while they’re still warm so that they cool in a curved shape. If they start to harden before you have a chance to shape them all, return them to the oven for 30 seconds to a minute to soften them.
- For the tuile cigars, make another nine plain tuiles using the template as before. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until pale golden-brown. Remove from the oven and, working very quickly, bend the warm tuiles around a wooden spoon handle to make cigar shapes. When cooled, dip the ends of the cigar tuiles in the melted chocolate. Transfer to parchment or wax paper to set.
- Serve tuiles the same day or store in an airtight container. They will soften up if they are in a humid environment for too long.