Palmiers

What to do with the other half of the rough puff pastry after last week’s tarte tatin?  You make palmiers!

A mainstay bakery treat, palmiers are almost as easy to make as they are to buy.  Talk about bang for your buck!  Two ingredients (plus a pinch of salt) gets you  just-about-to-shatter buttery dough layered with deeply flavored caramelized sugar.

While I affiliate the shape of these goodies with butterflies (les pappilons), palmier is French for palm tree and so named because of their resemblance to a palm leaf.  Growing up, I knew these treats as orejas (ears–or elephant ears when they are over sized).

After a some trial and error I learned that the trick to these is to be really brave and let them bake for much longer than you might be comfortable.

It will take some time in the oven for the sugar to begin to caramalize.  But when it does, do not be afraid to go dark.  Eating an anemic palmier is worse than not having one at all.

Want some other things to make with puff pastry?

How about my favorite appetizer:  brie en croute.

And then there are Jesuits, delicious no matter your religious persuasion.

Or super easy, cheater morning buns.

Palmiers

1 pound of puff pastry makes about 32 palmiers

Ingredients

  • 16ish ounces puff or rough puff pastry
  • 1 C or so of granulated sugar
  • Pinch of kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Sprinkle half of the sugar on a work surface.
  3. Cover surface with your pastry dough (if you are using store-bought, unfold dough first so that it is one big sheet).
  4. Cover the sheet of pastry with remaining sugar and your pinch of salt.
  5. Roll the dough out to a 13X13 inch square, pressing the sugar into the dough on both sides.
  6. Fold-in each side so that it is halfway toward the mid-point of the dough.  Fold again (see photos).  This will give you that pretty palm/butterfly shape and creates six layers of dough.
  7. If your kitchen is warm, you may want to put the resulting log into the fridge for a few minutes.  It cuts more precisely when cold.  When you are ready to cut, cut the log into 1/4-1/2 inch slices.
  8. Arrange palmiers onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.
  9. Bake for 6-7 minutes.  Pull pan from the oven and flip each palmier.
  10. Finish baking until golden brown–7-10 minutes.
  11. Allow to cool.  When cool, cookies will be crisp.  Stored in an airtight container, they’ll keep their crispness.

 

Tarte Tatin

Tarte tatin is my favorite.  Hands down, no more to say, drop the mike, walk off stage and leave the building favorite.

The first time I had tarte tatin was from The Ivy.  A good friend  worked there after college and introduced me to the deeply flavored, almost burnt caramel and robust apple of this rustic french dish.  At The Ivy, it’s served hot and when that scoop of vanilla ice cream hits it, it turns into the best thing you will ever put into your mouth.

There is quite a bit of mythology around the origins of tarte tatin.  The stories agree that it was created at the Hotel Tatin run by two sisters in the picturesque town of Lamotte-Beuvron in central France.  From there things get a little hazy but my favorite version is that they were making an apple tarte, forgot to make the crust and so popped it on top of the apples.

While the ingredient list is incredibly simple: apples, butter, sugar (a pinch of salt) and puff pastry, it doesn’t seem to get as much love as apple pie.  I suspect it’s  because it needs to be served fairly quickly after it is done to get the full experience.  Left overnight, the pastry goes soggy (but the apples are still delicious.  ‘Aint no shame in taste tatin apples and a strong cup of black coffee for breakfast.

I’ve tried several tarte tatin recipes over the years and my favorite comes from the New York Times.  In this version, you peel and quarter the apples the day before and then refrigerate them.  This allows them to release some of their juices before cooking, creating less liquid to manage during the stove-stage and ultimately, a richer caramel sauce.

Tarte tatin can be made with all kinds of fruit, but apple is my favorite.  Just like apple pie, the kind of apple you use is up to you.  I like to mix some tart (usually Granny Smith) with something a little sweeter.  When shopping for this tarte tatin, I came across a new (to me) variety called envy.  They’re a really delicious eating apple and, because they’re a little crisper than some of the other sweeter varieties, they held up well.

This dish starts on the stove top in a cast iron pan.  First comes a layer of butter, then a layer of sugar.  The the apple quarters are arranged in a rosette. Pack them in as tightly as you can.  They’ll shrink.

The dish is then topped with either puff pastry or pate sucre.  I prefer puff.  And yes, this is what we’re doing with the first eight ounces of the rough puff from last week.

On goes the heat and in about five minutes your kitchen will start to smell insanely delicious.

The sugar and butter melt together to create a caramel that the apples cook in until everything is dark gold.

Then it all goes into the over so that the pastry can puff and crisp.  This is a great dinner party dessert.  Have everything ready to go before your guests arrive.  As you sit down to dinner, pop the dough on the top and start the stove.  Just as the group is finish their first course, it’ll be time for the oven.  Forty-five minutes later, you have dessert.

The scariest part of the whole endeavor is flipping the tart upright onto the serving platter.  And even that is no big deal.  If an apple or two sticks to the pan, just pull them off and pop them back into the tarte. NBG.

Serve warm with either vanilla ice cream or a healthy dab of whipped cream.

I swear, once you go tarte tatin, there is no going back.

Tarte Tatin

adapted from the New York Times, recipe by Julia Moskin

Ingredients

  • 8-10 large, firm-fleshed apples (buy a couple of extra–you want to pack the pan tightly)
  • 6 TBS (80g)  salted butter, very soft
  • 2/3 C (135g) granulated or light brown sugar
  • 1 sheet (8 ounces) puff pastry

Directions

  1. At least one day before you plan to cook the tart, prepare the apples: Slice off the bottom of each apple so it has a flat base. Peel and quarter the apples. Use a small sharp knife to trim the hard cores and seeds from the center of each quarter; don’t worry about being too neat. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate, lightly covered, for at least one day or up to three days. (This key step reduces the amount of liquid in the tart. Don’t worry if the apples turn brown; they will be browned during the cooking anyway.)
  2. When ready to cook, heat oven to 375 degrees (or 350 if using convection). Thickly coat the bottom of a 10-inch heavy ovenproof skillet, preferably nonstick metal, with butter. Sprinkle sugar evenly on top.
  3. Cut one piece of apple into a thick round disk and place in the center of the skillet to serve as the “button.” Arrange the remaining apple pieces, each one standing on its flat end, in concentric circles around the button. Keep the pieces close together so that they support one another, standing upright. They will look like the petals of a flower.
  4. On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry about 1/8-inch thick. Place an upside-down bowl or pan on the pastry and use the tip of a sharp knife to cut out a circle about the same size as the top of your skillet. Lift out the circle and drape gently over the apples. Use your hands to tuck the pastry around the apple pieces, hugging them together firmly.
  5. Place the skillet on the stovetop over medium heat until golden-brown juice begins to bubble around the edges, 3 minutes (if the juices keep rising, spoon out as needed to remain level with pastry). If necessary, raise the heat so that the juices are at a boil. Keep cooking until the juices are turning darker brown and smell caramelized, no longer than 10 minutes more.
  6. Transfer skillet to the oven and bake 45 to 50 minutes, until puff pastry is browned and firm.
  7. Let cool 5 minutes, then carefully turn out onto a round serving plate. (Or, if not serving immediately, let cool completely in the pan; when ready to serve, rewarm for 15 minutes in a 350-degree oven before turning out.) If any apples remain stuck in the pan, gently use your fingers or a spatula to retrieve them, and rearrange on the pastry shell. Cut in wedges and serve warm with heavy cream, crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.

 

Roughing up the puff

Admission time: I was very late to the Great British Bake-Off party.  Like I don’t think we started watching until fall of 2015 late (five seasons in if my research is correct).

People kept telling me I should watch it.  However, I’m a lackadaisical television viewer at best and downright neglectful at worst (like if I can’t immediately find the remote I don’t bother).  Also, with the exception of Top Chef, reality competition shows aren’t really my jam.  I think its because I was writing my dissertation (ie living under a rock) when Survivor kicked-off and so basically missed that genre’s bus.

Luckily I finally got the hint about the Great British Bake-Off and tried an episode.  From the first episode, TD and I have been periodically hooked.  The show is delightful.  Since I’m the last person on the planet to join in, you don’t need me to tell you all the reasons why. But I’ll give you two.  First, I love how nice everyone is.  I know that respect and cooperation are not generally considered the cornerstones of good reality TV.  But here (as in real life), it shines.   Second, the amazing baked goods (just call me captain obvious).  I’ve taken quite a bit of inspiration from the novel-to-us-in-the-U.S. bakes.

Case in point: rough puff pastry.

We made puff pastry in the baking course I took a few years ago.  And while I loved making it, puff pastry, like most laminated doughs isn’t really worth the time and effort.  In the full recipe you beat a block of butter into submission and then try to incorporate it into the dough by carefully rolling it in over many turns (there are more steps but they’re tedious and you don’t care).

However, rough puff is an entirely different story.  It’s kind of a combination of traditional laminated puff and pie dough.  The key is frozen, grated butter.

The reason we love puff pastry is in the name.  All of those beautiful layers of crisp and tender dough that surround any number of delicacies are as impressive to look at as they are delicious to eat.  This recipe achieves this through  three turns of the dough.  Turns refer to the laminating process whereby the dough is rolled out, folded, rested in the fridge and then the process is repeated.

Why should you make your own rough puff?  Well, it’s fun for starters.  With a little patience, it’s easy to make.  It’s also economical.  Puff pastry retails for about $5.50 for just over a pound (.32 per ounce).  The only real cost in rough puff is the butter.  Nice middle of the road domestic butter costs about $5 a pound where I live (or .31 an ounce).  The recipe calls for 13 TBS, or about 6.5 ounces of butter to yield a pound of dough.  That’s about $2 in butter.  Add in another .50 for flour and it’s still less than half the cost of store bought.  Finally, it’s probably better quality.  Pepperidge Farm is the king of puff (not bashing on them–I use it all the time).  However, if you check the ingredient list you’ll find that butter is not one of them.  They use shortening instead.  Shortening absolutely has its place in flakey pastry (it has a higher fat content than butter from a density perspective and so can create a more tender bite).  However, everyone knows butter tastes better.

If I still haven’t convinced you to make your own,  at least hear me out for the next two weeks.  I’m going to show you what I made with my rough puff.

Until next week…

Rough Puff Pastry

makes about 1 lb (16 ounces) of dough

not adapted even a little from Epicurious

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 13 TBS FROZEN unsalted butter (1 stick plus 5 TBS)
  • 5 to 6 TBS iced water

Directions

  1. Sift together flour and salt into a chilled large metal bowl. Set a grater in flour mixture and coarsely grate frozen butter into flour, gently lifting flour and tossing to coat butter.
  2. Drizzle 5 tablespoons ice water evenly over flour mixture and gently stir with a fork until incorporated.
  3. Test mixture by gently squeezing a small handful: When it has the proper texture, it will hold together without crumbling apart. If necessary, add another tablespoon water, stirring until just incorporated and testing again. (If you overwork mixture or add too much water, pastry will be tough.)
  4. Gather mixture together and form into a 5-inch square, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 30 minutes. (Dough will be lumpy and streaky.)
  5. Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 15- by- 8-inch rectangle. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you, then fold dough into thirds like a letter: bottom third up and top third down over dough. Rewrap dough and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
  6. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you on a floured surface and repeat rolling out, folding, and chilling 2 more times. Brush off any excess flour, then wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour.

Note: This dough does really well in the freezer.  Double wrap and then bag it and it will be just fine in the freezer for up to a couple of months.  Thaw in the fridge for a couple of hours before using.

 

Butter, cinnamon and sugar my muffin

When I mentioned the big plans I had over the holidays to attempt making my own puff pastry dough, I had morning buns on the brain.  Alas, the sun was too inviting and I decided to play with puff pastry another day.

I still had morning buns on my mind though.

This recipe, if you can even call it that, is embarrassingly simple:  a sheet of puff, some butter, cinnamon and sugar.  Then, right out of the oven, an additional dip in butter and a final cinnamon and sugar bath (sort of like these french doughnuts).

I took these little darlings to work along with the Jesuites.  Someone very important in my organizations who had the ability  threatened to fire me if I ever brought them in again.  I think this means they were a hit.

 

Mini Morningish Buns

(one sheet of puff pastry yields 16 mini and 6 regular-sized buns, hun)

Ingredients

  • Sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp (or more to taste) of ground cinnamon
  • 12 TBS butter, softened

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter your muffin pan.
  2. Combined sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl until cinnamon is thoroughly distributed.  Taste and add-more spice as desired.
  3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the puff pastry dough until about 18X10 inches.  Be sure to life the dough after each roll so that it does not stick to the surface.
  4. Spread a thin layer of butter over entire surface of dough (it will take about a stick of butter, maybe a little less).
  5. Generously sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture across the buttered surface, reserving at least 1/3 of a cup.
  6. Starting at the far long end of the rectangle, roll the dough tightly all the way to the edge of the closest long end.  The finished product will look like a log.
  7. If using a mini-muffin pan, cut log in half and then cut each half into quarters and half each quarter so that you have 16 small rolls.  If using a regular muffin-pan, cut the log in half and then each half into thirds.
  8. Carefully place each cut roll into the wells of the pan, cut side facing up.  You may want to squish the dough down a bit to get it to spread-out in the well.
  9. Bake until dark golden brown (20 to 30 minutes–begin watching at 20).
  10. While buns are baking, melt remaining butter.  Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.
  11. Remove buns from oven and let sit for 5 minutes.
  12. Using tongs (or your fingers if you are brave), remove each bun, dip it in butter, roll it in the remaining cinnamon sugar mixture and set atop a cooling rack to cool.
  13. Try not to get fired from your job.

 

Not just a puff piece

A couple of years ago I went to work for a Catholic university of the St Ignatius of Loyola and Marymount persuasions.  While I’ve made my career in education, most often at the college-level, this was my first religiously-affiliated institution.

Always the diligent researcher, I went deep when preparing to interview for the job.  Part of my motivation was professional—I needed this prospective place of employment to know that I’d done my homework.  Selfishly, I also needed  to understand the values of the private, religiously affiliated institution.   See, I wasn’t raised Catholic.  In fact, even though both of my parents affiliate as Episcopal, WASP is the closest to religion I come.  And by WASP I mean the hair-band wearing, knowing how to use the appropriate fork and then stabbing you in the back with it part…not the actual Protestant part.    But, as usual, I digress.

In my research of this Catholic university in the Jesuit tradition, I was impressed by what I learned.  The Jesuits are known as teachers and seekers of knowledge. Among other things, their educational tradition seeks to produce not just successful leaders, leaders in the service of others.   It’s kind of their jam.  To this end, I was very drawn to the idea of a mission-driven university.  This was especially true provided this university’s triumvirate mission: the encouragement of learning, the education of the whole person and the service of faith and justice.

I’ll admit, at the time I didn’t really understand the service of faith piece.  But, the other components certainly read like the kind of place I’d like to be producing our future (in the form of college graduates).  I didn’t learn until I had an employee ID number that the mission truly  saturates the being of the institution.  It is in the classroom.  It is in the activities and programs in which students participate.  It is in the engagement of the alumni.  It is a pleasure to work in a place that strives to walk the talk.

I’ve also come to understand that this is pretty standard across other Catholic-Jesuit institutions.  Values are important.  Being a good person is important.  Striving to create a more just society is important.

Which, brings me to a bit of serendipity.  About the time I went to work at Loyola Marymount University, TD began collaborating with some colleagues on a documentary about the 1951 University of San Francisco football team (also a Jesuit university).  The story is poignantly emblematic of the racial climate of the time.  In a sentence, the University’s undefeated football team chose not to play in a bowl game rather than leave their black teammates behind.  Ironically, 1951 was the last season for football at both USF and Loyola University (now Loyola Marymount University). ’51 DONS airs this Sunday on ESPN (4:00 PM PST) and ESPN2 (7:00 PM PST):

You can also go here to learn more about the team.

Speaking of serendipity.  I had this post for Jesuite pastries scheduled for later in the month.  I actually didn’t think to line up my Jesuit themed bits and pieces until yesterday.  Sometimes I wonder about myself.

Jesuites are a french pastry  filled with almond cream and topped with almonds (and sometimes a layer of icing).  They get their name from the three-pointed hats Jesuits are said to have been fond of wearing back in the day.  Over the holidays I had big plans to make my own puff pastry.  But, unlike most of the country, the sun was shining in Southern California and I abandoned my winter-dark kitchen to go play outside.  So, for this recipe and its partner (that I’ll post later in the month), I used prepared pastry dough.

Jesuites

Almond cream recipe adapted from Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel’s Bouchon Bakery

This recipe makes about a dozen Jesuits with two sheets of puff pastry.  I was pretty wasteful with the dough…a strategic cutting and you could get several more out of it.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 C + 2 1/2 TBS (75 grams) almond flour/meal
  • 2 1/4 tsp (7 grams) all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 ounces (73 grams) unsalted butter at room temp
  • 1/2 C + 2 TBS confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 large eggs (1 for almond cream, one for egg wash)  (44 grams)
  • 2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • flaked almonds (I like the honey glazed variety from Trader Joes)

Directions

note: finished almond cream needs at least 2 hours in the fridge before use

  1. In a medium bowl, sift together almond flour and all purpose flour.  Set aside.
  2. Using an electric hand mixer, cream butter until it is the consistency of mayonnaise.
  3. Sift-in confectioner’s sugar and mix on high until fluffy (2-3 minutes).
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the almond mixture in 2 additions, combining on low.
  5. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to combine all ingredients.
  6. Add in 1 egg and combined on low until mixture is smooth (about 30 seconds).
  7. Refrigerate until cold (at least two hours).  Can be made up to three days in advance, kept in an airtight container in the fridge.
  8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  9. On a floured work surface, roll-out puff pastry to roughly 14X18 inches.
  10. Using a 12 inch bowl as a template, cut out a round using a sharp knife. Cut the circle into 6 equal parts.  You should have enough dough left at the corners of the rectangle not included in the circle to cut 4 additional triangles.  Repeat with second sheet of pastry.
  11. Space five triangles on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  12. Spread about a tablespoon of almond cream evenly across each triangle leaving about a centimeter along the edges.
  13. Top each triangle with a second triangle, pinching the edges (they’ll break free in the puffing-up process…this is supposed to happen).  Repeat until each triangle on your tray is topped.
  14. Paint each pastry with egg wash and top liberally with flaked almonds.
  15. Repeat with second baking sheet.
  16. Bake baking sheets one-at-a-time for 20-25 minutes until tops are golden brown and pastry puffs to about 3 inches.