Thursday, September 22, 2011

Getting all fancy

When I was a kid, you knew a meal was fancy when it was garnished with a sprig of parsley.
Now, you know a meal is fancy when it isn't garnished with a sprig of parsley.

Hopefully, even years from now, people will know dessert is fancy when it's garnished with these lovely lacy cookies.   Or even when dessert is just these lovely lacy cookies, all by themselves.  After all, unlike that curly parsley*, these are: 

a) actually impressive looking; 
b) meant to be eaten; and, 
c) absolutely scrumptious.

Pecan-Butterscotch Tuiles

I've made these several times, and love both the taste, which is almost like crisp toffee candy, and the ease and versatility of the recipe.  I've made bowls for ice cream, curved and flat cookies, and most recently, thin cigars to use as a garnish for my butterscotch budinos.  The key is to bake only a few at a time, and be ready with whatever shaping tool you're using right when the cookies come out of the oven.  A single batch will make about 12 cookies, so feel free to double it if you want more.  I almost always do!

4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. light corn syrup
1/4 c. finely chopped pecans, lightly toasted
6 Tbs. flour
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 400.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (silpats are not advised for this recipe) and set aside.  If you are planning to make curved tuiles (the traditional shape), get out a rolling pin and set it up like a bridge between two folded dish towels.  If you are planning on making cigar shapes, get out a long handled wooden spoon, and if you are making ice cream bowls, get out a glass with a bottom about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.  Now you are all set up!

Place the butter, the brown sugar and the corn syrup in a small saucepan, and warm over low heat, stirring until melted and completely smooth.  Stir in the flour, pecans and salt.

Drop batter, a scant tablespoon or so at a time, onto the prepared baking sheets.  Only put 4 cookies on each sheet, as they will spread A LOT in the oven.   Bake one sheet at at time, until the cookies are deep golden brown, about 7 minutes.

Let cool briefly, about 1 minute.  If the cookies have spread into each other, use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to separate them while still hot. Lift each cookie off the baking sheet with a metal spatula, and shape as desired.  For tuiles, drape over the rolling pin.  For cigar shapes. curl around the handle of the wooden spoon, starting with one edge of a cookie and wrapping around the handle.  For ice cream bowls, place center of cookie on the inverted glass, then press edges down around to form sides of the bowl.  

In each instance, shape the cookies quickly, moving on to the other three on the sheet.  If the cookies harden before you can shape them, return the sheet to the oven for a minute and try again.   Place shaped cookies on a wire rack to cool completely.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for a few hours until serving, but are best the day they are made.    

*  Unless you are a guinea pig, in which case, eating that parsley sprig will pretty much make your day.  When I was little and we went out to eat, my sister and I would ask for a doggie bag for our parsley.  Then we'd give it to the guinea pigs as treats when we went home.   Or, if we happened to have a guinea pig stashed in a large purse at the restaurant, we'd just feed them the garnishes directly under the table.   FYI, guinea pigs do not like these cookies.

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