Baked Sunday Mornings: Election Palmiers

I'm so excited that Baked Sunday Mornings has now moved on the recipes in Baked Occasions! This cookbook is organized a little differently than the previous ones by the guys at Baked. Each recipe in this book is paired with a different holiday -- and some of the "holidays" are more contrived than others -- so the book is arranged in chronological order by holiday. The first recipe on our group's baking schedule is paired with Election Day: Palmiers. (The reason Matt and Renato chose palmiers for Election Day is because these pastries are often called "elephant ears" due to their shape.)

The concept of a palmier is simple. It's just puff pastry coated with sugar, rolled up to form the elephant ear shape. Making your own puff pastry is a technical and time-consuming task; I first dabbled in laminated doughs a year ago while I was on furlough (I made some nice Danishes and croissants), but I haven't been able to return to them since. Thankfully, these palmiers take a short cut. They are made with what's known as "rough puff," which gives you a result that is similar to real puff pastry, with just a fraction of the effort.

To make the ruff puff, you pulse chunks of frozen butter with flour and salt in the food processor, and then drizzle in very cold water and lemon juice. You mix in just enough liquid so that the dough will hold together when pressed between your fingers. What this means is that you end up with a huge pile of butter-flour crumbs. I made rough puff once before a few years ago, and I had completely forgotten that the pile of crumbs you dump out of the food processor is exceedingly difficult to manage. After a lot of effort and mess, I was able to work the crumbs with my hands until they formed a single, cohesive mass.

According to the recipe, you are supposed to make the first three letter folds with your hands -- shaping the dough into a rectangle and then folding it into thirds, as you would with a letter before putting it into an envelope. Then you flatten the dough back to its original size and repeat. The folding process creates the many fine layers of dough that cause the dough to puff when baked. Each letter fold exponentially increases the number of layers in the pastry by a factor of three; the six letter folds in this recipe yield 729 layers.

Since I had worked the dough quite a bit with my hands to transform it from a pile of crumbs to a ball of dough, I was worried that the dough was getting too warm and that the butter might melt (you need the butter to stay cool and intact when making puff pastry, because it is the bits of butter that create pockets of air when baked, resulting in flaky layers). So I used a rolling pin to shape the dough and make the letter folds, to minimize contact between my warm hands and the dough.

After the first three letter folds, you rest and chill the dough in the refrigerator. Then you make three more letter folds and chill the dough again. Before finally assembling the palmiers, you make a mixture of raw sugar, cinnamon, and salt (cayenne pepper is listed as an optional addition, but I couldn't bring myself to try it), and sprinkle it onto a piece of parchment. You lay the chilled dough on top of the cinnamon sugar, sprinkle more cinnamon sugar on top, and then roll out the dough, ending up with a piece of dough that is totally coated on both sides with the sugar.

To form the elephant ear shape, you roll up both of the long sides of the dough until they meet in the middle, using a bit of egg wash to glue the two halves of the dough together. After another quick chill, you slice the dough and place the slices on a dampened piece of parchment paper, sprinkling more cinnamon sugar on top. You bake the palmiers in a hot oven, flipping the pastries over halfway through the baking time. The cookbook said that the palmiers should take about 10 minutes total to finish baking, but mine took 20.
The fat chunks of turbinado sugar didn't melt during baking, so they were visible on the finished palmiers. I thought the baked palmiers looked terrific -- you could see the flaky layers of pastry that had puffed in the oven. The texture of the pastry was very tender and borderline crumbly, like shortbread. Even though the sugar had not melted, there was a nice crackly caramelized coating on the side of the palmier that had started out in the oven on the damp parchment. The level of sweetness was just right, and these small pastries were simultaneously delicate and rich.

My tasters were quite impressed with these -- both by the way they tasted, and by the perceived level of work that went into them. But they really aren't that difficult to make (well, except for wrangling the pile of crumbs at the beginning). Even though making rough puff requires several steps -- including multiple intervals of chilling the dough -- the entire process can be done in a single evening. And the end result is anything but rough! These palmiers are a big indulgence in a small package.

Recipe: "Election Palmiers" from Baked Occasions by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.

Previous Post: "Does Ruff Puff Have the Right Stuff?: Quick Puff Pastry," April 18, 2011.


Anonymous said…
What a pretty little cookie! I just loved these!
Chelly said…
Yours turned out so perfectly pretty! I love these too!
Susan said…
Just gorgeous! And, interesting to know about the ruff puff! I am determined to try making Croissants one day.
Anonymous said…
Wow, these are perfect! Your coils are gorgeous. This was the first time I'd made "rough puff" (didn't know it had a name), and I too was surprised about the big, unruly pile of crumbs, but like you said, it wasn't super difficult in the end. Well worth the time and effort! I really enjoyed these too, and I highly recommend the cayenne, though I'd cut it down a bit next time. What a nice way to start off the new book. :)