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For the love of CRUNCH
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For the love of crunch
If you’ve spent much time reading pastry cookbooks or recipes, you’ve probably come across feuilletine (or paillete feuilletine) listed in the ingredients. In the culinary world, feuilletine (which is French for “leave”) refers to lacy, crispy, sweetened wafer flakes. They’re frequently used in pastries or confections to provide crunch. You’ll see feuilletine mixed into melted chocolate or praline paste and spread thinly over cake layers, or sheeted out and cut into shapes to accompany a plated dessert. In her iconic cookbook Milk, Christina Tosi uses feuilletine in her “nut crunch” recipes, essentially flavorful clusters to serve with soft/smooth desserts like panna cotta and ice cream.
Even if you’re not planning to make an entremet or fancy plated dessert, feuilletine can still be a useful back-pocket ingredient when you’re looking to bring some texture or pizazz to a bake. For example, you can…
Mix it with oil-based spreads or melted chocolate and spread it thinly onto your cakes for a layer of crunch
Sprinkle it on ice cream
Replace some of the rice krispies in a cereal bar for unexpected flavor
Create a crumb crust for cheesecake or other cream-style pie
Use as a garnish on choux buns
Add into tempered chocolate to create textured chocolate bark or bars
Note that feuilletine isn’t waterproof and will go soggy if you mix it directly into wet / water-based fillings, like curds or creams. So if you’re planning to use it as a garnish, wait until the last minute to add it.
How would you use feuilletine?
You can buy feuilletine online or at some specialty baking stores, but it can be spendy and often comes in quantities overwhelming for the average home baker. While I won’t deny that feuilletine has a unique texture and taste, there are several excellent alternatives, both store-bought and DIY.
The most common feuilletine suggestion I see is cereal — either cornflakes or rice krispies. Both lack the sweet, caramelly taste of feuilletine, but either can be a decent substitute — especially in a multi-element dessert that only calls for a small amount (aka my chocolate raspberry mousse cake). (Personally, I think cornflakes resemble feuilletine more closely.)
Cookie or sugar cone crumbs
Another easy feuilletine alternative is some type of neutral-tasting cookie crumb, like graham crackers. Even better, try a tuile-style cookie such as sugar cones, fortune cookies, rolled wafer cookies, or possibly plain Chinese-style egg roll cookies. These cookies come closer to mimicking feuilletine’s texture, since both start out as flat, thin sheets. They are, however, thicker than classic feuilletine so won’t be as “shattery.”
Gavottes/Crepe Dentelle cookies
The best store-bought feuilletine alternative, if you can find them, are these gavotte/crepe dentelle cookies because they are exactly what paillete feuilletine is. If you live near a European grocery store or even a well-stocked supermarket with a large international section, you might get lucky!
Lots of feuilletine recipes exist, and most read similarly — make a thin tuile-style batter, spread it into thin sheets, and bake. I also have a recipe I saved from Bravetart’s old blog (sadly the recipe is no longer online) which differs significantly in ingredients but baked similarly to the others. I baked up a batch of each and tasted them side-by-side to see how they compared.
Tuile-style: Simple to make and spread. Tastes like a sugar cone, pleasant and neutral. Definitely a good option if you have spare egg whites.
Bravetart: More involved preparation and ingredients. A little more difficult to spread. Includes baking soda, which contributes to both browning and an aerated, shatter-y crumb. Definitely a deeper caramelized flavor compared to the tuile batter.
Verdict: The Bravetart recipe tastes much more special and I would opt for this in a recipe calling for a high proportion of feuilletine, or in something like a chocolate bark or bar that showcases feuilletine. I’d also use it as a garnishing element or honestly eat it by the handful. However, the tuile-style is so easy to prepare that I can see myself whipping it up when I have a couple spare egg whites, and using it where feuilletine is being used more for crunch than flavor.
50g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
50g granulated sugar
50g egg whites, room temperature
50g all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
Dash of vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F with a rack in the middle.
Whisk together all ingredients to form a loose batter. Spread thinly onto a silicone mat (I did two batches on half sheet trays).
Bake sheets one at a time for about 8 minutes, until golden.
Cool thoroughly (feuilletine will be flexible straight out of the oven, but harden as it cools), then crumble into pieces. Store in an airtight container.
Note: This is 1/3 of the original recipe, hence the odd egg amount. It takes me four 1/2-sheet batches to bake off this amount, which is about as much as I want to make in one go.
Stella also called for molasses in the original recipe and said that it couldn’t be replaced by golden syrup. However…I tried both and personally prefer it with golden syrup (the molasses flavor was too aggressive for my tastes; sorry Stella!). I don’t think the texture was compromised either. I think honey could work too, though again the flavor will be quite pronounced.
45g unsalted butter, at room temperature
40g light brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
57g golden syrup
125g all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Line four half sheet pans with silicone mats (if you don’t have that many, wait for the mats and pans to cool down between batches. This batter is definitely easier to spread on mats vs. parchment, though still possible with parchment if that’s all you have).
In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and golden syrup until lightened, 2-3 minutes. Beat in the egg until well combined.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then sift in the flour and mix on low until moistened. Add the milk and mix until just combined.
Spread about 1/4 of the batter into a paper-thin layer onto a prepared sheet as evenly as possible. The thinner the better!
Bake one sheet at a time until golden, 7-8 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter until used up. Cool thoroughly (feuilletine will be flexible straight out of the oven, but harden as it cools), then crumble into pieces. Store in an airtight container.