Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Palmiers in a snap

Have you ever found yourself in need of a very quick dessert?  Palmiers are a fantastic solution, and the secret weapon is frozen puff pastry.  With just a few other pantry staples - sugar, salt, and perhaps some preserves - you can whip up an impressive batch of crisp, sweet, buttery cookies in just minutes.

Always use a very high quality, all-butter puff pastry, such as Dufour, since it will be the star ingredient.  Classic palmiers are made with just sugar and salt, and I also decided to make a version with apricot preserves for just a hint of fruity, sticky filling.

The only part of making palmiers that requires pre-planning is defrosting the puff pastry - it must spend the night in the refrigerator or an hour (or so) on the counter, until it's still cold but just pliable enough to unfold and spread flat on the work surface.

To assemble, first cover your work surface with sugar (with a few dashes of salt mixed in) and roll out the puff pastry dough on top of it, just until the sugar adheres to the underside and the dough is of an even thickness.  For the version with apricot preserves, I removed the chunky apricot bits - they made a great snack - and spread the jammy part in an even layer over the top surface of the dough.  For the classic version, I flipped over the dough and ensured that both sides were crusted with sugar.

Next, time to fold up the palmiers.  I've also seen versions that direct you to roll up both sides, but I prefer the folded look.  Each side of the dough must be folded in twice towards the center, then closed like a book.  Once assembled, simply slice and bake.

Fold #1, above.  Fold #2, below

Cutting into slices

The palmiers caramelize in a magical, lovely way while baking - flip them over to ensure both sides are crispy and golden.  My Silpat liners enabled me to slip the cookies off the baking sheets quite easily, though they also seemed to mysteriously set off the smoke detector far more than they should.  But my panicked attempts to make the alarm stop shrieking were a small price to pay for these perfect palmiers.

1 package Dufour puff pastry (or another all-butter pastry, 14 oz)
Scant 1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Apricot preserves (optional)

Defrost the puff pastry slightly, until it is just pliable but still cold.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spread sugar and salt on counter (or whatever work surface you prefer) and lay the puff pastry on top.  With a rolling pin, roll out the pastry just slightly to even it out and press the sugar mixture into its surface.  If using apricot preserves, spread them very thinly over the top surface of the pastry.  For plain palmiers, flip over the pastry and press the sugar into the other side as well.

To form the palmiers, first fold the outside edges of the pastry sheet in halfway to the middle (so that you can still see the sugar-coated inside surface in the center).  Fold them again into the middle, then fold in half so that you have 6 layers.

With a sharp knife, slice the palmiers into 1/2 inch slices and place on Silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake 10 minutes, then flip palmiers over so other side can caramelize (also rotate baking sheets) and bake an additional 5-10 minutes, until golden brown and caramelized.

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