Thursday, December 17, 2009

Raspberry Palmiers: A Lesson Learned

I’ve been baking for a long time (let’s say 30 years or more—as you can probably tell from my youthful appearance, I started VERY young). Despite this, I still experience my share of baking screw-ups. Things don’t always go perfectly in the kitchen, even for me, Tish Boyle, baking genius (it’s not polite to laugh here). Case in point: Recently I had an inexplicable urge to make some palmiers (a.k.a. elephant’s ears), but I wanted to do something a little different with them. I started off by making a quick and excellent puff pastry dough; the recipe is from my book The Good Cookie. I then rolled the dough out, one-half at a time, using granulated sugar instead of flour on my work surface. Rolling sugar granules into the dough makes these pastries sweet and gives them a beautiful golden color. All run-of-the-mill, routine palmier stuff so far. It was here that I decided to wander off the reservation and spread a thin layer of raspberry jam, seeds and all, over the dough. Yummy, right? Yummy, maybe, but all hell broke loose when my pretty raspberry-filled palmiers hit the oven. As they baked, the high-sugar raspberry jam bubbled up and pushed the dough out, uncurling all my perfectly formed, lovely little palm leaf pastries. To salvage the situation and all my hard work up to this point, I simply pushed them back together before I flipped them over to finish baking them. Not so easy with piping hot jam scalding your tender fingers, but, hey—nobody ever said pastry was easy, right? I'm giving you my straight Palmier recipe, sans the raspberry jam filling, but the photo above is of my hard-fought Raspberry Palmiers. My new motto, as far as palmiers go, is “keep it simple.” Stick to sugar and maybe a little cinnamon, if you want to go wild.
Classic Palmiers

Makes 36 cookies
Storage: in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Really Rapid Puff Pastry:
1 3/4 cups bread flour
1 1/3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon ice cold water

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 large egg
1 teaspoon water

Make the dough:
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment or beaters, combine the bread flour, cake flour, and salt at low speed. If your mixer has a splatter shield attachment, attach it now. Add the butter pieces, one-third at a time, and mix for just a few seconds. The mixture will be very crumbly, with large pieces of butter in it. While continuing to mix at low speed, add the ice cold water, and mix just until the dough starts to come together. (Large pieces of butter should remain.)
2. Scrape the dough onto a floured work surface and pound and pat it into a rough rectangle with a rolling pin. Roll the dough into an 8-by-16-inch rectangle, dusting the dough with flour as needed. Arrange the dough with a short side closest to you. Brush off any excess flour on the dough with a pastry brush. Fold the bottom third up over the center, and then the top third over the bottom, as if you were folding a business letter. The dough now has three layers. Rotate the dough 90 degrees, so that the open folded sides are at the top and bottom. Roll the dough out again to an 8-by 16-inch rectangle. Fold it again to make three layers. The dough has now been “turned” twice. Wrap the dough well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3.  Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it so that the open ends are on the top and bottom. Roll and fold the dough as before, to make two more turns. The dough is now ready to use, or may be stored for future use.

Make the palmiers:
4. Cut the puff pastry dough in half to make 2 rectangles. Wrap 1 of the rectangles in plastic wrap and return it to the refrigerator. Sprinkle a work surface with 1/2 cup of the sugar. Dredge both sides of the other dough rectangle in the sugar. Using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough into a 12-by-13-inch rectangle, turning the dough over frequently so that both sides of the dough absorb as much of the sugar as possible while being rolled out. DO NOT SPREAD THE DOUGH WITH ANY RASPBERRY PRESERVES OR JAM. Fold each 13-inch side two-thirds of the way in towards the center. Fold each side in again so that the folded edges meet at the center point. Fold the dough over again from the center forming 6 layers of dough. Cut the folded dough in half crosswise, to make two 6 1/2-inch long strips. Wrap each strip well in plastic wrap. Place the dough on a tray and refrigerate at least hour (or up to 2 days), until firm. Repeat with the remaining rectangle of dough.
5. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375°F. Have two ungreased baking sheets ready.
6. Remove 1 strip of dough from the refrigerator and unwrap it. Trim off the ends, if uneven. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the dough into 1/2-inch slices. Arrange the slices cut side down on the baking sheet, spacing them 2 1/2 inches apart. Cut only as many slices as will fit on the baking sheet. Rewrap the uncut portion of dough and refrigerate until needed. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and water until smooth. Using a pastry brush, brush the egg mixture over the top of each cookie. Spinkle the cookies with sugar. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until the bottoms are just beginning to brown. Remove the sheet from the oven and turn each palmier over. Bake them for another 8 to 12 minutes, until they are golden brown. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely. Repeat the slicing and sugaring process with the remaining dough strips.