Tuesday, December 9, 2014
Sesame and Poppy Palmiers
I've loved palmiers for as long as I can remember. Years ago, my dad was taking a Saturday art class at the Art Students League in Manhattan, and on his return trip home, he would always stop at the Hot and Crusty in Penn Station and buy me and my sister an elephant ear (the palmier's most popular nickname) or black and white cookie. I loved both, but the elephant ear was my favorite. It was massive, so my sister and I would always split it right down the middle. Sometimes he would bring us one that was covered in chocolate, but my favorite were the classic, caramelized sugar palmiers.
My dad is no longer taking his Saturday art classes, but I've made palmiers for myself a few times since then. They're one of the simplest cookies you can make, but they're also one of the most delicious. They become tricky is you use homemade puff pastry, but a good quality store-bought puff pastry will be just as delicious. I've never attempted to make puff pastry myself, but I think I'd like to one day. Working with the massive quantity of butter needed for puff pastry makes me feel a bit nervous; I prefer to work with large quantities of butter that I can't actually see. Know what I mean?
One of my favorite things about my new job at Random House is that I get to work closely with the Clarkson Potter imprint, meaning that there's a world of cookbooks everywhere I look. I was thumbing through Johnny Iuzzini's newest book, Sugar Rush, and while I wanted to try out just about every recipe I read, I immediately stopped at these Sesame and Poppy Palmiers. I was intrigued by Johnny's claim that these palmiers aren't very sweet, and are on the verge of being savory; palmiers are almost always sweet, because hey, the main ingredient aside from puff pastry is sugar. I'm always on the lookout for desserts that aren't cloyingly sweet or modifying them slightly to take out some of the sugar in them, so a palmier that was supposed to be on the savory side was right up my alley. I had to make these!
Johnny's original recipe uses a pound of homemade puff pastry, a bit of simple syrup, and a mixture of sugar, salt, poppy, and sesame seeds. I made these palmiers with frozen puff pastry (I used Pepperidge Farm) and got great-tasting results, so no worries if homemade puff pastry intimidates you too. I used both sheets of puff pastry and rolled them out until they were 10x16-inch rectangles. Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets are very close to that size already, so it didn't take too much rolling. If you have to roll the sheets out, try to keep the edges as straight as possible. Brush a little simple syrup on top of the puff pastry, and then sprinkle the sugar-seed mixture evenly all over the surface of the puff pastry. All that's left is folding and slicing. The long edges are simply folded over themselves, in towards the center, until you have a long log. The logs are then wrapped in plastic and frozen for at least an hour- this will make them easy to slice and will also chill the butter so the palmiers bake up nice and flakey. Once they're frozen solid, you'll be able to slice them into 1/4-inch thick cookies, and bake up the palmiers.
The palmiers come out of the oven golden brown and caramelized. Once the cookies cool, they're crisp and flakey little bite-sized cookies. They aren't nearly as sweet as the traditional palmier, but they're every bit as tasty. I had a very hard time stopping myself from eating the entire batch by myself; this is one of those treats you just have to help yourself to whenever you happen to walk by them in the kitchen. They're easy as pie to prepare, making them a delicious cookie to keep in stock in your kitchen for everyday indulgences as well as for a fancier holiday party. These will go fast no matter where and how you serve them. Enjoy!
Sesame and Poppy Palmiers
recipe from Johnny Iuzzini's Sugar Rush
For the Simple Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
For the Cookies
All purpose flour, for rolling
1 pound store bought puff pastry (I used 2 sheets of Pepperidge Farm), thawed
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
Begin by preparing the simple syrup. Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and heat on medium heat. Stir the sugar until completely dissolved, and then allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.
To make the cookies, begin by lightly flouring a work surface and rolling pin. Roll one of the sheets until it is a 10 x 16-inch rectangle, making sure to keep the edges as square and straight as possible. Brush the surface of the entire rectangle with the simple syrup. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds. Sprinkle half of the mixture evenly over the puff pastry.
Working from the long edge of the puff pastry, fold over a 1-1/2 inch wide strip and fold the dough in towards the center on both sides of the dough. Brush off any excess flour that may have stuck to the dough. Brush the tops of the folded dough with a little simple syrup, and fold each side in towards the center again. Fold the dough in half to create a horseshoe shape. Brush off any excess flour, and tightly wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Repeat the entire process with the remaining sheet of puff pastry. Place both logs of dough on a baking sheet and freeze until firm, at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper. Remove the dough from the freezer and unwrap the dough. With a very sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/4-inch slices, making sure to only cut straight down, not sawing back and forth. Arrange the slices on the prepared baking sheets. If the dough has thawed slightly, freeze the baking sheets with the sliced cookies for 15 minutes.
Lay a sheet of parchment paper or another silicone liner on top of the frozen cookies, and then set another baking sheet on top (this will help the cookies bake perfectly flat, as well as help caramelize the sugar on the bottom). Bake the cookies for about 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until the cookies are golden brown. If after 45 minutes you find that the cookies aren't golden yet, remove the top baking sheet and parchment paper and leave the cookies in the oven for an additional few minutes, just until they get a little more color. Cool the cookies completely on wire racks before storing. Enjoy!
Makes 4 dozen cookies