cigarettes russes cookies

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Cigarettes Russes Cookies (Piroulines)
Cookie batter adapted from Gourmet, March 2002

The best things about these cookies is how simple the batter is to make, how quickly they bake, how delicious they taste and how pretty they look. The peskiest thing about these cookies is that if you have a short attention span (ahem), you may tire of spreading those batter blobs into thin circles and rolling them individually around pencils or chopsticks. Nevertheless, these cookies are perfect — light, crisp, and pretty — it’s worth it, so worth it.

Yield: 2 to 3 dozen cookies

3 large egg whites
3/4 cup (90 grams) confectioners sugar
1/2 cup (65 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons or 75 grams) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon table salt
Seeds from a 2-inch segment of vanilla bean, or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
4 ounces (115 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Sprinkles or other decorations (optional)

Heat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Grab a bunch of pencils or chopsticks.

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients with a whisk. Working in small batches to begin (I’d just make 2 on the first tray, so you can get the hang of it; add more to ensuing batches as you do), drop 1 level teaspoon of batter for each cookie at least 3 inches apart on your prepared sheet. Using a small offset spatula or spoon, spread each into a thin 3-inch/7.5-cm circle (circles don’t need to be perfect, nobody will care).

Bake cookie sheets, one at a time, until edges are golden, about 6 to 8 minutes, but you should closely watch your first batch in case your oven bakes things more quickly and adjust the baking time for remaining batches if necessary. Slide a small offset spatula under the first cookie and quickly roll the loosened cookie around a pencil, chopstick or other thin rod into a tight cylinder. Transfer cookie-wrapped pencil to cooling rack. Repeat with remaining cookies and additional pencils. If they start cracking at the edges or become too brittle because they’ve cooled too much (this will probably happen after every two to three cookies), return the cookie sheet to the oven for 20 to 30 seconds to soften them again. Do this as many times as needed. Cookies can be slid off their pencils almost immediately, but it’s even easier if you give them a full minute or more to cool. Leave cookies to fully cool on rack; repeat process with remaining batter.

Melt chocolate in a small saucepan or microwave until half-melted. Stir until remaining chunks melt. When cookies are cool, working with 1 cookie at a time, dip 1/4 inch of tip of one or both ends into melted chocolate, letting excess drip off, then rolling them in sprinkles (if desired) and place on a parchment- or wax-paper-lined baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature until chocolate sets.

Do ahead: Cookies can be made 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container. They will keep even longer in the freezer with layers of waxed paper between them.

More tips:

  • You can flavor the cookies in many ways. Here, I use some vanilla bean (highly recommended, totally delicious), but you could also use 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or another spice (or mix of wintry spices), you could replace a tablespoon or two of flour with cocoa powder for a chocolaty effect, you could use a pinch of espresso powder for a coffee flavor, citrus zest, etc. Have fun with it.
  • A small offset spatula is your friend in basically all baking endeavors, in my humble opinion, but especially here as you’ll want something thin to easily slide between the paper-thin cookie and baking sheet, as well as to spread the batter thinly once it’s spooned on the baking sheet. Bake a lot? Buy two.
  • If you’re the sort that really wants perfect circles for all of your cookies, you can trace 3-inch circles in permanent market on a piece of parchment paper. Flip it over and bake cookies on the reverse side; the outline should show through.
  • If you have a Silpat or two, use them instead of parchment paper. I found that my parchment paper sheets over time became crinkly from the dampness of the batter. It’s not a big deal, but it doesn’t leave the cookies as smooth. (I promise, however, nobody will care.)
  • I was definitely a beginner when making these, so was nervous to overbake them, but you can definitely get a touch more color on yours than I did on mine.
  • I mention this in the recipe, but do not fret about the cookies firming up the second they leave the oven. Every recipe I’ve read tells you to hurry, this part is so stressful — this is not stressful. Put the cookie tray back in the oven for 20 seconds any time the cookie becomes too firm to roll without the edges cracking. It will not overbake the cookie, just soften it again. You can do this multiple times with each tray, as many as needed.
  • Finally, the more pencils or chopsticks you have around the faster this will go as while you can remove the cookies almost instantly after they’re rolled (they set quickly), it’s even easier to slide them off if you can let each rest on the rod until it’s fully cool, one minute. To do this, you’ll want more than one.

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