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'Zuni Cafe's' complex cookie recipe worth the effort.

Byline: Cookbooks by Kim Davaz For The Register-Guard

THE ZUNI CAFE COOKBOOK

By Judy Rodgers

(Norton, $37.95, hardcover)

JUDY RODGERS is the chef at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco and author of "The Zuni Cafe Cookbook."

This is restaurant food, with recipes and sub recipes and sub sub recipes. If one is in a restaurant and has, say, rabbit sausage or pickled glasswort on hand, it makes the recipes easier and faster to make.

While you may not want to go to all the fuss, it's nice to know how it's done, on the off-chance you feel very ambitious.

"The Zuni Cafe Cookbook" is, above all, a good teaching book. Rodgers' instructions are long and detailed, with explanantions of the hows and whys.

Don't be intimidated by the complex recipes. There are many recipes that are simple, quick and delicious.

Rodgers says the recipe for tuiles, a thin almond cookie, is her favorite recipe. The lengthy recipe for a simple cookie is a good example of her teaching stye. How could you resist making a cookie whose suggested wine is Veuve Cliquot champagne?

She says you can fit nine tuiles on a 14-inch square baking sheet. I've never even seen a 14-inch square baking sheet. Eight tuiles fit on my sturdy rimmed baking sheet.

If your sheet isn't nonstick, you can grease it with unsalted butter.

Tuiles mean tiles, as in curved roof tiles. To shape them, drape the tuiles over a rolling pin or glass bottle as they are removed from the baking sheet. The tuiles taste equally good if cooled flat, which also makes them easier to store.

The crispy tuiles were indeed the perfect accompaniment to chilled Veuve Cliquot, which we used to toast our new grandson.

Tuiles

1 tablespoon salted butter

Generous 1/3 cup superfine sugar

Generous 1/2 cup sliced almonds

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/4 cup freshly separated egg whites (1 to 2)

1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set a mixing bowl near or on the oven to warm. Melt the butter in a small pan over low heat and monitor it as it turns a pale hazelnut color and starts to release its nutty fragrance. Promptly pour into the warm mixing bowl. Add sugar, almonds, flour and egg whites and stir and fold gently to combine. Don't beat. Add salt and taste. It should taste salty-sweet. The batter will be viscous, ropey and glossy.

Spoon about 1 teaspoonful of the batter onto a nonstick cookie sheet and use a fork to spread it into a rough 3-inch circle, barely thicker than a slice of almond.

Try to scoop about half almonds, half batter for each tuile and dip the fork into a glass of water between efforts, to keep it from "grabbing" the batter as you spread it into translucent puddles.

The batter will spread a little more as it bakes, so leave an inch between each finished puddle.

You can fit about 9 tuiles on a 14-inch square baking sheet. Bake until the cookies are mottled golden in the center and tea colored on the edges, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Because many ovens don't bake evenly, the cookies may not, either. Watch and either rotate the cookie sheet to correct for this or remove any tuiles that brown much more quickly than the rest.

Pull the pan from the oven and immediately transfer the tuiles one by one to the chosen cooling spot with a thin-bladed metal spatula. If the cookies start to stick before you get them all off the pan, you need only return the pan to the oven for long enough to remelt the caramelized sugar, then peel them off the pan while they are still pliable.

Wipe the baking sheet clean between batches. To speed up production, you may want to use 2 pans, spreading the batter on the second one while the first set of cookies bakes.

The caramelized sugar will readily grab humidity out of the air, which could quickly soften the cookies and collapse their curves, so as soon as they are cool, place the tuiles, cantilevered like roof tiles, in an airtight container.

Yield: about 20 cookies.

Kim Davaz of Eugene writes a cookbook review column every other week for The Register-Guard.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 22, 2003
Words:717
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