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Imagine sour cream ice cream in lace cookie cups made with muscovado sugar, lime sherbet in a coconut tuile cones, or honey ice cream in thyme tuile cones. Any tuile batter (or brandy snap or lace cookie batter) can be used to make tiny cones suitable for special ice creams. Admittedly, such cones are far less sturdy than regular ice cream cones—but I love matching different cone flavors and textures with special ice creams and sorbets.
When my book Pure Dessert (in which you can find the recipes for the cone and ice cream pairings above) came out in 2007, St. George Spirits hosted a party at the distillery and we paired desserts from the book with St. George spirits or cocktails created especially for the occasion. It was fun and fancy and funky in the best possible way. We served fresh lime sherbet in tiny cones made from tuiles, and that’s how I learned—by having to make a couple hundred of them—to shape the cones around an improvised form made from a flexible plastic cutting mat. Necessity was the mother of tiny ice cream cones...
The fragility of the cones absolutely dictates dainty servings, which also elevates the entire experience. Just think in terms of sublime little tastes, sweet amuse-bouches—the new petits fours—rather than a big, sloppy ice cream cone.
Here's how to do it:
To make a cone-shaped form with a piece of flexible plastic cutting mat:
Cut a fan-shaped piece with 6-inch sides from one corner of the mat. Clip about 1 inch off across the corner. Have several pieces of scotch tape pulled off and ready to use. [Editor's note: Our test kitchen used black electrical tape—and a grubby Silpat that had seen better days—with great success!]
Roll the fan into a tall cone with an opening not much more than 1-inch in diameter; do your best to make a closed point at the bottom. The plastic may be too stiff to accomplish this, so just do the best you can—you will be able to make ice cream cones with pointed tips regardless. Secure the cone with as much tape as you need to prevent it from unrolling—this is an awkward task that may take more than one try and it’s not likely to be pretty. Fortunately, you just need to make one and they last forever (I still have mine from 2007).
While you are at it, you cut a 4- or 5-inch circle from another piece of the mat to use as a template for your tuile batter.
More: How to hack your way to nearly any kitchen tool you need, like Alice does.
To make the tuile cones:
Preheat the oven and prepare any tuile batter (or my coconut tuile batter), lace cookie, or brandy snap batter as described in the recipe.
Position a rack in the center of the oven. Line two pans with silicone pan liners. Grease the liners thoroughly with a very thin coat of melted butter. Have a triple-layer stack of paper towels or a folded dishtowel nearby.
Drop batter for just 4 tuiles per pan: For 5-inch cones, drop level tablespoons of batter well apart on the silicone sheet; for 4-inch cones, use 2 teaspoons batter. Use a small offset spatula—and a template if you made one—to spread the batter to the desired diameter. It will be very thin. Bake one tray at a time until the tuiles are mostly golden brown with pale splotches, 10 to 14 minutes, watching carefully and rotating the tray from front to back halfway through the baking time.
Take the pan from the oven and, if possible, set it right on top of the stove above the oven (so it won’t cool too quickly).
After a few seconds, as soon as you can work the thin metal blade of a small offset spatula under the edge of a tuile without destroying it, work the spatula under the entire tuile, a little at a time, pressing firmly against the mat at you go. Immediately flip the tuile upside-down (smooth side up) on the hot silicone liner. Place the plastic form on the tuile, well in from the edges, and roll the tuile around so that the tip is as closed and pointed as possible—don’t worry if it’s not perfectly closed.
Work on, and press against, the hot silicone liner as you form the cone so that the tuile stays hot and flexible. Hold the tuile, gently pressing the edges against itself for a few seconds to insure that it will not unroll. Set the cone on the paper towels. Repeat with the remaining tuiles, working as quickly as you can.
With practice, you should be able to roll all four tuiles before they become too cool and stiff. If tuiles get too stiff to roll, reheat them the oven until pliable again—about 60 seconds. While the second sheet is baking, transfer the cones from the paper towels to a rack to finish cooling. Reuse cookie sheets and liners, making sure they are cool between batches, until all of the batter is used. Cool cones completely before storing in an airtight container. Cones keep for at least 1 week.