Friday, November 11, 2011
Caramel-Glazed Cardamom Palmiers
When you work in a French pastry kitchen, puff pastry is the centerpiece of production. It takes a long time to prepare and due to the amount of butter involved, is quite dependent on temperature conditions. It's used for a range of classic French pastries, from tart bases to Chaussons aux Pommes, Napoleons and Palmiers, a small cookie-like pastry in the shape of a palm leaf. Puff pastry is always baked off to a deep golden brown to ensure its flakiness and full flavor. For Palmiers, a rectangle of pastry is rolled up from each side toward the middle to form a palm shape. Sugar is layered into the folds to create a caramelized look and taste.
This recipe for Palmiers from the incomparable Alice Medrich substitutes a very easy butter and cream cheese pastry for the laborious puff pastry. She then introduces cardamom to the sugar that is sprinkled throughout. This subtle but unmistakable embellishment makes for a super delicious variation on a theme. The utter simplicity of Palmiers is turned into a very different experience just by the haunting touch of spice. My advice would be to make sure you’re not alone when these come out of the oven. The aroma, the beautiful caramelization, the crunchy, crispy, chewy tenderness will have you unabashedly reaching for another slice.
These cookies would make a supreme partner at an afternoon break for refreshment, an elegant gift for a good friend or a lovely addition to your holiday cookie platter - or a cookie platter for any season for that matter.
**A special note of appreciation to Victoria, a long-standing East Coast reader of my blog who recently inspired me with a very gracious gift. Thank you very much for your thoughtful generosity!!**
- This dough is pretty easy to work with. Although it sounds like a bit of work to prepare these, it really is quite simple once you get the idea of how to roll up the dough.
- Sugar is used generously to prevent sticking as you roll out the dough and to ensure that the cookies will caramelize properly. I also use a bench scraper to gently loosen any dough that appears to be sticking.
- Every oven has its own personality. Should the cookies brown at different rates, remove the darker ones and let the lighter ones continue to bake.
- I sliced mine a bit too wide and they took twice as long to bake.
- While the recipe calls for an ungreased cookie sheet, I used a silpat.
- The cookies will keep in an airtight container for at least a week.
Caramel-Glazed Cardamom Palmiers
adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich
Makes about 48 cookies
2 1/2 C flour
2 T sugar
1/4 t salt
8 oz (2 sticks) cold butter
8 oz cold cream cheese
For the cardamom sugar:
1 C sugar
1 t ground cardamom
2 large pinches salt
Place the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine the ingredients.
Cut each stick of butter into eight pieces. Cut the cream cheese into pieces. Add the butter to the flour mixture and pulse until the mixture resembles very coarse bread crumbs. Add the cream cheese pieces and pulse until the dough begins to clump together, about 30 seconds. Pour the dough out onto a work surface and gather it gently. Divide it in half and flatten into 2 squares. Wrap and chill until firm.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it soften for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Mix the sugar with the cardamom. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the sugar mixture to a small cup and mix in the salt. Set aside. Divide the remaining cardamom sugar in half. You’re going to use each half of the sugar for each dough packet.
To begin forming one packet of dough, sprinkle the work surface generously with cardamom sugar. Set the dough on the sugared surface and sprinkle it with more sugar. Roll out the dough, generously sugaring the work surface and the dough and lifting the dough to be sure it isn’t sticking. The desired shape is a rectangle 24” x 8” and about 1/8” thick. Trim the rectangle to form clean edges.
Mark the center of the long side of the dough with a small indentation.
Starting at one short edge, fold about 2 1/2” of the dough almost one-third of the distance to the center mark. Do not stretch or pull the dough. Continue to loosely fold the dough toward the center three times, leaving a scant 1/4” space at the center mark. Repeat with the other end, folding it in the same fashion toward the center three times, leaving the 1/4” space at the center. The dough should now resemble a narrow open book. Fold one side of the dough over the other side, as if you are closing the book. You should have an eight-layer strip of dough about 2 1/2” wide and 8” long.
Sprinkle the remaining cardamom sugar under and on top of the dough. Roll gently from one end of the dough to the other to compress the layers together and lengthen the strip to about 9”. Wrap the dough loosely in parchment or waxed paper (plastic wrap will cause moisture to form on the outside of the sugared dough). Place in the refrigerator to chill. Repeat this process for the second dough packet. Chill the formed dough for at least 30 minutes.
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
When the oven is ready, remove one packet of dough from the refrigerator. Trim the ends of the roll and cut into 1/3” slices. Place them on an ungreased baking sheet about 1 1/2” apart.
Bake until the bottom of the cookies are golden brown, about 8 - 10 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back about halfway through baking. Remove the pans from the oven and gently turn the cookies over. Sprinkle each cookie generously with the reserved salted cardamom sugar mixture. Return the cookies to the oven and bake until they are a deep golden brown, another 3 - 5 minutes. Rotate the pans and watch the cookies closely at this stage of the baking to prevent burning.
Transfer the cookies to rack and cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.