These are not the bready imposters found in many North American bakeries. Simple, flaky, sweet and buttery, these are like the shattery treats sold at tiny patisseries that line cobblestone streets. One bite and you’ll think you’re in Paris.
3/4 cup (175 mL) vanilla sugar*
1 roll commercial puff pastry, defrosted
4 ounces (125 g) semi-sweet chocolate, optional
1. Sprinkle the work surface with half the sugar. Place a disk of puff pastry on the sugar. Sprinkle with more sugar. Pressing the sugar into the dough, roll until you have an 8-by-12-inch (20-by-30-cm) rectangle.
2. Trim the dough so that the edges are even. Fold the long sides of the pastry rectangle toward the centre leaving one-half inch (1 cm) 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 four layers thick and about two inches (5 cm) wide and 12 inches (30 cm) long.
4. Flatten the dough gently with the palms of your hands. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for one to two hours. Scrape the sugar off the work surface and save with the rest of the sugar for dipping later.
5. About 30 minutes before you are ready to bake the palmiers, preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper.
6. With a sharp knife, cut the dough crosswise 1/2-inch (1 cm) thick. Dip both cut sides in sugar and place cut side down in the parchment.
7. Be sure to leave at least two inches (5 cm) between palmiers. They will expand quite a bit sideways. They don’t expand much top to bottom, so you might be able to get six rows of four if your sheet is big enough.
8. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until the palmiers are amber and the sugar has caramelized. Allow the palmiers to cool a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.
9. Optional chocolate dip: Melt the chocolate in the microwave oven in 30-second bursts or in a heat-proof 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 chocolate, then place on parchment paper or waxed paper to set.
Vanilla sugar is where steeped and scraped pods go to die. You can make as much as you want with this ratio. Use it in place of granulated sugar in baked goods to boost the flavour. It also makes a lovely addition to tea and coffee. The best part? You never waste a scrap of vanilla again.
1 vanilla bean (whole or with the caviar removed and steeped)
2 cups granulated sugar
1. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Place the bean pieces in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.
2. Pour the sugar over the bean pieces, tighten the lid, and give it a shake or two to distribute the sugar and bury the beans.
3. Place in a cool, dry place for a week before using. Once infused, vanilla sugar keeps indefinitely. Replenish any time you use a vanilla pod. You cannot add too many pods. As the sugar gets low, top it up.
4. Just keep baking with vanilla, and you’ll never run out of vanilla sugar. If it clumps, grate the sugar on the large holes of a box grater to break apart.