How the Cookies Crumble
by Darcie Friesen Hossack
It was 4 o'clock in the morning when, after staying up to keep Chefhusband company though a long night of baking fiddly cookies for an upcoming event, my eyelids slammed shut.
I wobbled, then nearly fall off the stool upon which I've been perched.
"Do you have enough yet?" I asked.
The cookies, little maple leaf-shaped tuile, had to be perfect.
They had to be identical in size, shape, and golden colour. And each one, as they emerged hot out of the oven, had to be gingerly manipulated into a three dimensional wave that gave the effect of the leaves being blown gently in the wind.
"No," came a voice from inside the oven, and for a moment I wasn't sure whether he was reaching for another cookie sheet or, in a fit of cookie fumes, had decided to end it all.
The oven was electric, though. So I didn't ask him to move over.
This was the winter of 1998. Chefhusband was, at that time, newly graduated from S.A.I.T.'s Culinary Arts program in Calgary.
"It's just a cookie," I mumbled with delirium.
"It's not just a cookie," said Chefhusband. And while I knew this to be true, I scowled at the growing collection of leaf litter.
The thing about tuile, you see, is that if you want them to be sculptural, they crack, crumble, and break more often than they take shape. Which is why this week's recipe will take on no more than the shape of a cup.
But since, back then, maple leaves were required to complete an intricate buffet platter, destined for a culinary competition, there was no such thing as sleep. Not when this was Chefhusband's first food show.
He won a gold medal, and was invited to join our provincial culinary team (British Columbia at the time).
And over the years that followed, besides leaves, there would be scalene triangle tuile, set over a rolling pin so they curved just so. Savoury pink peppercorn tuile, twisted into crispy sticks. And parmesan tuile rings that encircled microgreen salads.
There would be tuile cones for ice cream. Chocolate fortune cookie tuile. Almond-flecked tuile lattices. Orange-flavoured tuile dessert dishes and spoons. Heart-shaped tuile. Star-shaped tuile. And tuile that aspired to edible modern art in swoops, loops and spires.
Some of those were for restaurants, and some were destined to travel. Team B.C. went on to win silver at Luxembourg's Culinary World Cup. After which, Chefhusband moved over to assume a management role, and competed three more times.
"Does this mean no more tuile?" I asked, trying to suppress a squeak of hope when he finally hung up his competition apron.
"Maybe," he said.
"Can I have your recipe, though?" I asked.
After all, then as now, there were fresh summer berries just looking for interesting ways to be eaten. And a delicate cookie cup, which isn't very difficult to shape at all, is just about the perfect way to serve them.
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250 grams (1 cup plus 1 Tbs) butter
250 grams (1 cup plus 2 Tbs) granulated sugar
3 egg whites
240 grams (2 cups plus 2 Tbs) all-purpose flour
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg whites, followed by flour.
Line at least two baking sheets with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the batter onto a sheet. Using an offset spatula, spread batter into a 7-inch circles with the edges slightly thicker than the center. (Three tuile will fit on one sheet.)
Bake at 350F for 9 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through, until edges of cookie turns golden.
Working quickly, and using a small offset spatula, immediately drape cookie over an upside-down custard bowl. Gently mold the warm cookie to the shape of the bowl (a larger bowl placed over top will help save your fingers).
Baker's Note: If any tuile break, use broken bits as buttery shards in an ice cream sundae!