My bakes as of late as you may have noticed, are not cake based. A small confession from my side:cakes are always more enjoyable to make when you have a group of people to share it with at the end. With no birthdays or occasions coming up, I’ve been testing some alternate, less complicated (read: less time needed) bakes my dad used to make.
This week’s bake is what my dad would call “palm leaves” or palmiers in French. Never frequently made, or requested by customers, my dad only made palm leaves when there was spare puff pastry lying around. I hate to describe the palm leaves as being made up by leftover pastry, because it doesn’t give it justice. As simple as these treats are, there’s something about taking your first bite of a palm leaf, crunching through caramelised, layers of sugar and letting the buttery, flaky pastry melt in your mouth.
In February, the Europain show took place in Paris which of course, lured my dad across the pond, meanwhile, convincing me to come along with him. During the couple of days, my dad was on a mission to find some “authentic French palm leaves” to bring back. Who knew it would be so difficult to find?! It was only with a bit of luck and curiosity that we stumbled across a small side street with a market stalls set up (don’t ask where it is, because I can’t remember). There it was: a small, independent bakery selling baguettes, pastries, and lo and behold, palm leaves that were almost the size of my face. I think we wiped their stock clean.
Rather than making the trek around Paris, try this one at home. They may not be as big, but just as delicious.
PALMIERS (PALM LEAVES)
Makes 15-18 pieces
Part 1: Puff pastry
If you’re making this from scratch, you can easily do this way ahead of time and store it in the freezer. Just move it to the fridge to defrost overnight before use. Store-bought is a time-saving option, it just won’t be as rich and buttery!
125g All purpose flour
Sea salt, pinch
75mL Cold water
125g Unsalted butter, room temperature but not softened.
- Place flour in a large bowl; add water and salt. Mix carefully into a smooth dough, being careful not to overmix. Gather dough into a ball, and wrap in plastic. Chill for 30 minutes.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle. Mark lightly into vertical thirds (this is just for your reference).
- Break the butter up into small pieces in the middle panel of the rectangle – if it’s starting to melt, sprinkle some flour on as you distribute the butter. Fold over the dough from the left and right side, overlapping in the middle.
- Press the dough with your rolling pin, making it longer, then lightly mark into thirds from the top down. Fold the bottom third up to cover the middle third and the top third down. Seal the dough gently by pressing down on the edges with your rolling pin. Turn the dough 90 degrees clockwise.
- Roll the dough out to a long rectangle, carefully keeping the edges square and sides straight. Fold into thirds from the top down. Seal the dough gently by pressing down on the edges with your rolling pin. Repeat once more, then cover and chill for 15 minutes.
- Repeat step 4 twice more, covering and chilling each time.
- Before use ensure dough is chilled for 1 hour. The dough should be extremely smooth and silky, with no lumps of butter visible.
Part 2: Folding & Molding
1/2 cup Granulated sugar
Water, for brushing
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside.
- Remove the dough from the fridge and let it stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, until it’s workable but still cool.
- Roll the dough into a rectangle, until it is about the height of a pound coin (no more than 1/4 inch thick).
- If there is any flour on the surface of the dough, brush this away. Using a pastry brush, lightly wet the surface of the dough – this helps the pastry not only puff up during the bake, but to help caramalise the sugar.
- Sprinkle the surface liberally with sugar until well-coated.
- Fold in the top third and bottom third so that they meet in the middle. Lightly brush the surface with water and sprinkle with more sugar.
- Fold the dough in half so that you end up with a total of 4 layers when you look at it from the ends – the dough should resemble a long log.
- Transfer to the prepared tray, cover with cling film, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. This will allow the butter in the dough to firm up again and make it easier slice.
- Preheat the oven to 200℃/375℉.
- Use a sharp knife to slice the cookies so that they are 1 inch wide.
- Cover sides with more sugar if desired before placing them on the baking tray. You’ll want to ensure you have about 1.5-2 inch space between each one as they will puff out and grow when baking.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown. I was anxious to let mine caramelise more (also didn’t brush as much water as I should have!) so they’re a little on the dark side!
- Allow the cookies to cool before eating. If you live in a humid environment, these cookies will lose their crispiness within a day and get a bit sticky, but you can easily save them by re-heating them in the oven on low heat (120℃/250℉) for about 5 minute to get the moisture out.