(A lot of) years ago when I was in law school, a group of classmates and I hit up all the EU hotspots on a ten-day trip right before Christmas. As Lettuce and I, roommates for the trip, entered our hotel room, we were greeted by a note splashed across a TV screen welcoming Mr. and Mrs. Buddha-Lettuce* to Brussels. We still laugh about it, but I think that seeing that designation on screen cemented our travel relationship for good.
We always joked that those 6-day, 7-night trips that you often see on Groupon or Living social starting in London, ending in Paris should really be called the Buddha-Lettuce special since it combined my favorite city with hers. It’s because of her that I find Paris charming, and her love for it, and France as a whole, is contagious; it’s why biking on Provence has become a priority on my list of trips, why I’m willing to always return to the City of Lights despite a so many other new places to go, and it makes me celebrate Bastille Day with a vigor that I’d otherwise set aside for other occasions.
Bastille Day is tomorrow, and with that, for you, a special French-style sweet treat. Palmiers. Sweet ones.
Palmiers are French pastries shaped in the form of a leaf (or an elephant ear, or a butterfly…you get the idea), can be sweet or savory, and are characterized by layer upon layer of butter, creating the most flaky bit of goodness you can imagine. Same idea as a croissant, but without the yeast to make the dough rise.
Just look at that caramelized sugar!
Mom and I made sweet palmiers when we took a puff pastry cooking class when I first moved to Ann Arbor. They were so good and so easy, that we made them again, savory this time, for an appetizer over the 4th. While you can buy puff pastry dough (obviously), I encourage you to make it yourself. It’s not hard- all it takes is time (so, therefore, patience) and the result is well worth the effort.
I’m sorry I don’t have a step by step, but my kitchen is not (yet) equipped for hands-off photography. I’ll do my best to walk you through it, but here is a neat-o graphic we got in cooking class.
(Graphic from Zingerman’s Bakehouse)
The result is a pastry that is just shy of 1000 (!!!!) layers.
The recipe is easily adaptable for savory. Just replace the sugar with your favorite grated, hard cheese (parmesan works well) and maybe some dried herbs (rosemary! Or sage!).
- 1/2 cup (114 g) water, room temperature
- 3/8 tsp sea salt
- 2 TB (25g) unsalted butter (room temperature)
- 1/4 cup + 2 TB (50g) cake flour
- 3/4 cup + 2 TB (130g) bread flour
- 1 cup + 2 TB (250g) unsalted butter, room temp
- 3/4 tsp lemon juice or vinegar
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 cup + 2 TB (64g) bread flour
- For the palmers
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, salt and cake flour. Mix until well combined. Add the bread flour and continue to mix with your hands until well blended.
- Create a well in the center of these dry ingredients and add the water. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture looks shaggy. Scrape off the dough onto a table to knead (do not add more flour to the table! It will be okay, promise). 4-6 minutes until the dough is soft and supple.
- Wrap the dough and chill for at least 30 minutes.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the butter, salt and bread flour. Beat with a wooden spoon until the butter is really soft and well blended. Add the lemon juice and mix until homogenous.
- Remove the butter from the bowl. Place on a plastic wrap and form into a 4 x 4" square. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap and place on a LIGHTLY floured surface. Mark an "X" on the top of the dough and roll out the ball of dough in 4 places so that it looks like a flower petal with a thick section in the middle. Brush away any excess flour (see above diagram for visual explanation).
- Remove the butter block from the refrigerator. While still in the plastic, gently tap the block with the rolling pin to loosen it up a bit. Place the chilled butter square on the thick part of the dough (the center part of the "flower").
- Fold the four "petals" over the butter from left to right and from top to bottom to enclose it. Brush away the excess flour between the layers. Make sure it's completely enclosed so that the butter does not come out.
- On a lightly floured surface, start the rolling process by gently tapping the center of the dough with the rolling pin. Center to right and then center to left. This helps the butter move through the dough, but prevents tearing the dough. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 7 x 14". Brush off any excess flour and make sure the corners are square.
- With the rough side up, fold the dough into 4th (book fold) and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 30 minutes.
- Repeat the process of rolling the dough into 7 x 14" four times using a letter fold (like you would fold a letter to get it into an envelope. So, one book fold, 4 letter folds. After the fifth fold, the dough is ready to be rolled into its final shape.
- Now, start the palmers! Preheat the oven to 400F (375F if a convection oven).
- On a well SUGARED (not floured) surface, adding sugar to the top of the dough, roll out the dough into a rectangular 8 x 20, using more sugar as needed to ensure that it doesn't stick. Really work the sugar into the surface of the dough.
- Turn the dough into a landscape orientation and complete a book fold with the fold going from the top to the center and the bottom to the center. Sprinkle more sugar on top of the fold and then fold the dough over onto itself.
- Cut the dough into 3/4" pieces and arrange, cut side up, on a sheet tray . Refrigerate cut palmers on the sheet tray before baking at least 4 hours to give the sugar a chance to start dissolving, which will lead to better caramelization.
- Bake 14-16 minutes until you start to see caramelization. Remove from pan, flip over each palmier and continue baking another 7-8 minutes until nice and brown.
- Cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container. They can be frozen.
Viva la France!
*Her name is not Lettuce. Obviously. Changed for her protection and my amusement.