Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tuile of Fortune

The Petit-Fours Secs practical on Oct 1st proved to be a satisfying and high yield practical class….with no extreme whisking required! I am sure I was not the only one who cheered silently for that small yet important detail!

During the demo, we observed Chef Cotte making a range of fairly simple, classic dry biscuits, which included Cigarettes, Palets aux Raisins, Tuiles aux Amandes and Duchess. My favorite from the demo was undoubtedly the Cigarettes. These are those gorgeously thin wafers that are rolled into a cylindrical shape whilst still hot from the oven. I had only ever tried the commercially prepared versions, but Chef Cotte’s were truly delicious. I love the fact that they can be filled with cream or dipped in chocolate, and because of their elongated shape they create some elegance on the biscuit platter or when served with ice cream.

During the practical, the roster of choice was simplified and we proceeded to make only the Palets aux Raisins and the Tuiles aux Amandes.

The Palets are a small, delicate biscuit garnished with golden raisins, nappage d’abricot and a rum glaze. Using a pastry bag & round tip, the dough is piped out into small balls onto a parchment lined baking sheet. The baking sheet is then tapped on the counter a couple of times to help flatten the balls slightly. As we were only making one sheet of these, Chef Cotte instructed us to place a trefle pattern of golden raisins atop each biscuit before baking. Normally when making large volumes, the raisins would be chopped and stirred into the dough before piping out. Once baked and cooled, the palets are brushed with the apricot glaze and finished with a covering of sugar glaze. Whilst it sounded like a lot of extra sugar to add, the cookies themselves are not that sweet. So the unglazed cookies were, well…just a bit bland and actually a bit ugly too!

The Tuiles aux Amandes are more to my taste preference…these are thin cookies filled with slivered almonds and baked on a heavily buttered baking sheet. As they are removed from the oven, these are then shaped while still warm into a slightly curved shape, then allowed to cool. I’ve made these once in the past, draping the hot cookies over a wine bottle or rolling pin to obtain a pleasing curvature. In the practical, Chef Cotte asked us to use a goutiere, which was a sort of baking sheet with a fairly steep corrugated grooves. It reminded me a bit of corrugated sheet metal, however the grooves were even deeper.

When making the palets, I was quite proud of my piping skills that evening, and I achieved smooth, round & even extrusions of dough onto the baking sheet. Once topped with the raisins, which I had selected carefully for each cookie to ensure a balanced appearance, mine looked very delicate and even. A few of the students noticed this detail and gave positive feedback…unfortunately Chef Cotte did not mention it when assessing my final presentation.

The tuiles I found more challenging. Whilst I followed the required measurements exactly, I felt I had way too many sliced almonds in the batter. So they were difficult to shape into the goutiere when coming from the oven…I am guessing because the ratio of less flexible nuts to more flexible egg-based batter was out of sync. So mine emerged from the goutiere looking a bit more tented rather than domed. But I reckon that mankind lived in tents before they began living in domed palaces…so I cut myself some slack. Anyway, their color looked good and the flavor was amazing… filling my mouth with the roasted and slightly buttery richness of all those almonds.

As my group had demo & practical all in the one day, it was fairly late once we had finished and cleaned up. I ended up sharing my yield with my logeuse Isabelle that evening and the rest with my Paris colleagues the following day. The tuiles seemed to be the stronger favorite of the two choices, and folks appreciated that mine were crisp and nutty. By the end of the afternoon, everything was eaten…even the ungarnished palets!

A few of my classmates told me that they had given their yield away to their host families…or even to street people on the way home from school. The latter comment really made me think. How many hungry people in the world would love to have all these tuiles and palets we’d made that evening…whether tented, dented, broken or unglazed. I found it to be a wonderful gesture and demonstrates the very philanthropic nature of many of the younger students, who are ready to share generously with others less fortunate.

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