Friday, May 6, 2011

Blueberry Banana Sorbet & Whimsical Tuiles . . . (How to Make Your Own Tuile Stencils)

I am psyching up to begin another pastry class next week. This one, Pastry II, goes until the very end of June. So, besides readying my psyche, there are a number of other things I need to prepare in order to launch quickly from the house come 6:30 a.m. on Monday morning. The supplies alone can require a pack mule--notebook, binder, textbook, recipe packet, apron, neckerchief, chef's coat and pants, chef hat, digital scale, digital thermometer, and the rather awkward and weighty knife-filled case that is the unmistakable identifying mark of a culinary student in transit.

Yesterday, while sorting through my papers from last semester, I happened upon the recipe for tuile dough that I used as one small part of my "practical final" exam in my Plated Desserts I class this winter. I'd always intended to make tuiles at home and blog about them, and this seemed like a good time to finally do it.

In case you're not familiar with them, a basic tuile (pronounced tweel), which means "tile" in French, is a very thin, slightly sweet, rather bland cookie made from an exquisitely short list of  ingredients--typically just butter, powdered sugar, egg whites, and flour, though additional ingredients like sliced almonds are not uncommon. A tuile's most unique characteristic is the fact that it can be shaped/curled/molded by hand while it's still very hot.

Tuiles are not really something that one can mass produce in a short period of time at home, but that's hardly a concern. They allow for so much customizing and creative interpretation, they're worth the trouble. And, best of all, they're actually a lot of fun. Do they require some planning? Kind of. If you want to make them into particular shapes, then yes, definitely, because you'll need templates. Rubber or plastic templates specifically made for tuiles can be purchased, but they're pretty costly. The templates I used are my own; I made them using thin, soft, non-toxic craft foam from Michael's craft store. I cut the designs out of the foam with an exacto knife.

The sky's the limit in terms of shapes if you're making the templates yourself. The foam sheets are very inexpensive so it's no big deal if you make a few mistakes. And, if you just want to make plain round tuiles, you won't necessarily need to use templates at all.

Tuiles make perfect serving vehicles for other dessert items. Ice cream, sherbet, sorbet, and mousse all love nestling close to tuiles. They provide the perfect crunch factor and their lack of assertive flavor works to their advantage. Case in point: What might go well with a wacky item like blueberry banana sorbet? A thick chocolate cookie? Yuck. An overwhelmingly lemony cookie? Ehh, not so much. A lovely, crunchy, sweet-but-subtle tuile? YES!

About these recipes . . . 

I adapted this sorbet from pastry chef David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop, including twice as much banana as the recipe called for, along with a bit more sugar and slightly more blueberries (yeah . . . I had to get rid of  those speckled bananas languishing on the counter . . . again). It's a simple, casual treat, and it's even fat free. The flavor combo seems a little off the wall, but if it's good enough for David Lebovitz, well, enough said. You could make this and have it chilling in your freezer inside of half an hour if you're quick on your feet. It's easier than heck--no fussing required.

The tuile recipe is from Professional Baking, by Wayne Gisslen. That was the textbook used for my Pastry I class last autumn, my Retail Baking class a year ago, and even for my Plated Desserts I class that ended a couple of months ago. It's a pretty thorough volume. Another remarkably easy formula, it's practically impossible to screw up. And, you can make the dough ahead of time because it has to chill for at least an hour before you spread it.

Blueberry Banana Sorbet and Tuiles
(For a printable version of these recipes, click here!)

Yield: One quart of sorbet and at least two dozen average size tuiles

Equipment for sorbet:
-- food processor or blender

-- ice cream maker, or ice cream maker attachment for your mixer
-- 1 quart container in which to chill finished sorbet

Equipment for tuiles:
Food scale to measure tuile ingredients
1 or 2 Silpats (silicone pan liners) or parchment paper
1 or 2 very flat cookie sheets
1 small offset spatula
flexible tuile templates

Ingredients for sorbet:
2 and 1/2 cups frozen wild Maine blueberries (They're little, very blue, and sweet; I buy them in large bags from Costco. Of course, if you have good fresh berries on hand, don't hesitate!) 
4 medium size very ripe bananas
1 and 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup cold water
1 Tbsp. lemon juice 

In a food processor or blender, pulse together all of the ingredients until the blueberries look almost  pulverized and the mixture looks not-quite completely smooth. 

Then process the mixture according to the instructions for your ice cream maker. (I used the ice cream maker attachment for my KitchenAid mixer, mixing on low speed for almost 20 minutes. Then, I put the sorbet into a container and froze it for several hours before serving. It doesn't freeze rock hard, and it scoops nicely.)

Ingredients for the tuiles: 
2 and 1/2 oz. (5 and 1/3 Tbsp.) of unsweetened butter (An extra high-fat brand like Plugra is often recommended for tuiles.)
3 oz. cake flour or all purpose flour, sifted (one scant cup) 
3 oz. powdered sugar, sifted (about 3/4 cup)
2 and 1/2 oz. egg whites (approximately, the whites of two or three large eggs)

In the bowl of a mixer, cream together the butter and powdered sugar; start on low speed, then increase to medium as the sugar mixes in. Add in the egg whites and flour alternately, mixing until combined. The dough should be kind of thick, sticky, and stretchy.

Scoop all of the dough into a disposable pastry bag with an un-cut tip (not critical to have a pastry bag, but helpful to do it this way!) and refrigerate it for one hour or more. 

You'll trim the tip off the pastry bag right before you use the dough. 

If you'd like to make decorative little designs in the tuiles after the dough has been spread on the templates, separate out a couple tablespoons of the dough before it's chilled and mix a teaspoon or two of cocoa powder into it. 

Put this cocoa dough into a very small pastry bag, preferably one made of parchment paper (here's a site that shows how to make one of these; it's a foundation skill for cake decorators and pastry chefs!). It will need to have a tiny opening tip that you will trim with scissors right before you're ready to use the dough.

Once the dough has chilled sufficiently and you're getting ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325. 

Take a perfectly flat cookie sheet without sides (or use the back of a cookie sheet with sides), and place your Silpat or parchment sheet over it. This process is stress free if done on a Silpat type of pan liner, just fyi. If you're using parchment, it should be cut to fit the cookie sheet without overlapping the sides. 

Place your tuile template over the Silpat/parchment. Cut the tip off of the filled pastry bag, about an inch up from the point. Squeeze a plump line of dough onto each template shape you'll be using. 

With the offset spatula, carefully spread the dough smoothly into each cut-out. You may need to hold the template sheet in place with one hand if you're doing this on parchment. 

If you want to add decorative designs in the dough with the cocoa dough, do it now. Cut the tip of the parchment cone with the cocoa dough in it and create any designs you like, just squeezing a tiny line onto the plain dough.

When all the shapes you're using have been filled, gently lift the edge of the template and peel it off. 

Bake the tuiles for approximately 6-7 minutes,just until they begin to get lightly golden. They bake quickly and burn easily; keep a close eye on them. 

Using the offset spatula, carefully lift each piece, working with just one at a time, and mold it quickly with your hands or press it over a form (like a small, upside-down drinking glass) to make it into a bowl shape. It will be quite hot so use care. If a tuile cools into a shape you didn't intend, you can put it back in the oven to soften it and try again. The tuiles will start to harden within about 15 seconds, so you don't have any time to fool around once you start doing this. Store the finished tuiles away from moisture.

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