Vanilla-Scented Palmiers

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With the exception of lemon pie, these are my father's all-time favorite dessert; he likes them without chocolate. I like them with. Or without. Either way, these are not the bready imposters found in many North American bakeries.

More: 6 Steps to the Perfect Chocolate-Covered Strawberry

Simple, flaky, sweet, and buttery, these are the shattery treats sold at tiny French patisseries that line cobblestone streets. One bite and you'll think you're in Paris.

Vanilla-Scented Palmiers
(Makes 24)

3/4 cup plain granulated sugar
1 roll commercial puff pastry
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped (optional)

1. Sprinkle the work surface with half the sugar. Place the puff pastry on the sugar. Sprinkle with more sugar. Pressing the sugar into the dough, roll until you have an 8"x12" rectangle. If using homemade pastry, flip and turn the dough often to ensure lots of sugar gets worked into the surface of the dough.

2. Trim the dough so that the edges are even and set the trimmings aside for later. Fold the long sides of the pastry rectangle toward the center. Don't have these edges touch. Instead, leave 1/2" between where the folded edges would meet. This gap is crucial for the palmiers to keep their shape when cooking.

3. Fold the dough in half along this gap. You will now have a roll 4 layers thick and about 2" wide and 12" long. Flatten the dough gently with the palms of your hands, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours. Scrape the sugar off the work surface and save with the rest of the sugar for dipping later.

4. About 30 minutes before you are ready to bake the palmiers, preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper.

5. With a sharp knife, cut the dough crosswise 1/2"thick. Dip both cut sides in the sugar and place cut side down on the baking sheets. Be sure to leave at least 2" between palmiers. They will expand quite a bit sideways. They don't expand much up and down, so you might be able to get 6 rows of 4 if your sheet is big enough.

6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the palmiers are golden around the edges and the sugar has caramelized. Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool fully.

7. While the palmiers are baking, roll the reserved ends in sugar and cut into bite-size pieces. When the "real" palmiers are cooling, bake the ends for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden and caramelized. They will look odd but will taste just as good. Don't serve these. Reserve them for yourself as a treat for your hard work.

8. Optional chocolate dip: Melt the chocolate in the microwave oven in 30-second bursts or in a heatproof bowl over hot, not boiling, water, stirring gently until smooth. Tilting the bowl to pool the melted chocolate, dip half of a palmier into the liquid chocolate, then place on parchment paper or waxed paper to set. Repeat with the remaining palmiers and chocolate.

Note: Palmiers are best eaten the day they are made. Store left- overs in an airtight container. Do not freeze baked palmiers. Their sugar content is too high.

Tip: Ever wonder why some cookies freeze well and others don’t? Sugar softens once frozen, so cookies with a high sugar content or crispy caramelized surfaces will just get soggy. 

Adapted from Messy Baker


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