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!!**

Bench notes:

- 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.


Victoria said...

Thank YOU for all the beautiful recipes and the lovely writing.

These look absolutely fabulous!

pastry studio said...

Warning, Victoria: They are addictive!!
Very best to you.

Maggie Asfahani Hajj said...

Oh. My. Goodness. These look wonderful! And perfect timing...I'm planning what to make for some cookie swaps I am invited to this upcoming holiday season! Thank you!

Sharon T said...

I am so intrigued with using this dough instead of puff pastry! These will be excellent to make and take to the in-laws for Thanksgiving. Thank you :)

vanillasugarblog said...

now this is something i would eat very fast. i've had these before and man oh man they are so light, so tasty and so easy to devour 10 in one sit.

Lucia Metcalf said...

We have them in Argentina a lot!!
question: if we're short on time, can we but pre made puff pastry? I've never used that one though.

Adam said...

I could eat a dozen of these . . . now. Three of my favorite things in one: caramel, cardamom and palmiers!

pastry studio said...

Lula, since palmiers are normally made from puff pastry, I'm sure your substitution will work if you find a good brand of pre-made pastry.

Adam, that's a winning trifecta!!

Luv'n Spoonfuls said...

These sound absolutely glorious, and I am definitely giving them a try this year for my annual cookie extravaganza!. Great post, and I LOVE the addition of cardamom.

Anonymous said...

Oh my! Such simple perfection!! Tea is just a bonus, those would be perfect all on their very own!!!

Bryan said...

You provide such good inspiration, PS!
these palmiers are awesome.

i hope this is on-topic enough.
palmiers are the first thing i made after learning how to laminate dough.
after the first couple folds of the dough, it feels cool and kind of velvety. i love working with it.

unfortunately, i didnt make the cream cheese dough here. will definitely try it next time though.
i had already made chocolate puff dough to experiment with. your post was perfect for it, thank you!
it's fun to see how far you can push the caramelization during baking.

(chocolate puff pastry and cardamom sugar work really well together, btw.)

pastry studio said...

Hey Bryan! Sounds like you've really been working on your mad pastry skillz and enjoying it. I so agree about chocolate and cardamom.

LOVE working with all kinds of doughs. Just a beautiful pastry experience. Puff can be so gorgeous. But I've also had my share of trying to work with it in hot weather and even on marble and constant chilling it can just drive you crazy. But there's nothing like pulling a rack of puff pastries out of the oven and seeing the magic of all those layers perfectly browned.

I made these again and went against the advice not to wrap the roll in plastic because it will weep. I left it for a couple of days in the refrigerator and it did weep but I sliced them thinner and baked them off and the caramelization was magnifico. They're also crunchier. So I'm with you on seeing how best to work the caramelization.

Unknown said...

Just made these with all-butter frozen puff pastry and they are amazing! Caramelized, little saltiness to offset the sweet. Fresh, aromatic cardamom to add some intrigue. Thanks for the recipe!

pastry studio said...

Unknown, glad to see you found a great shortcut. I treasure cardamom!

Unknown said...

All due respects to your recipe from a novice wannabe baker :-P:-)
But isn't palmier a laminated product? it's supposed to have layers of fat and dough as the method demands.
This is quite a different variety, much more like a short crust a normal cookie maybe. So how can this be a 'puff pastry' when it's not actually puffing up due to lamination?
P.S - just a clarification. :-)

pastry studio said...

Hello, Anish! Yes, palmier is normally a laminated product and I wrote about the proper puff pastry version in my intro. This one is clearly a different approach, a short cut. Akin to butter, there is a high fat content and a water content to cream cheese, so these turn out pretty flaky even though, as you say, they are not puff pastry palmiers. But they are very delicious.

Just to be clear, this is a recipe from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich.