How To Make Classic French Palmiers

How To Make Classic French Palmiers

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Emma Christensen
Jan 20, 2016
(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Elegant palmiers made from puff pastry are one of my all-time favorite treats. I just love the crunch of the sugar with the crunch of the pastry, and the way the flaky, buttery layers practically melt on the tongue. It feels so fancy to put them on a cookie tray for a spot of afternoon tea.

I'll let you in on a little secret, though: Despite their impressive nature, these cookies are super easy to make.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)
(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Making Palmiers with Puff Pastry

Palmiers are made with nothing more than a sheet of puff pastry and some sugar. If you've made yourself some homemade puff pastry, palmiers are an excellent way to show off your baking skills. Store-bought puff pastry works just as well, but be sure to buy one made entirely with butter. Since this cookie is so simple, using puff pastry made with shortening or other oils just won't taste as good.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

The Sugar for Your Palmiers

For the sugar, I use demerara or another coarse-grained sugar. I love the crunch and flavor of these specialty sugars. Brown sugar or granulated sugar also work just fine and make a sweeter palmier. There are also no rules that say you can't mix a few different sugars together.

Folding and Shaping the Palmiers

Classically, palmiers are made by folding the left and right sides of the pastry to the middle, then folding the dough in half again length-wise, sandwiching the first folds inside. Sliced into individual cookies, this is what gives the palmiers their distinctive "palm" or elephant-ear shape.

You can also roll the sides of the puff pastry toward the middle, making even more layers and giving the palmiers a more rounded look.

(Image credit: Melissa Ryan)

Other Ideas for Filling Your Palmiers

Sugar-filled palmiers are classic, but by all means, don't stop there! You can mix cinnamon or other baking spices with the sugar, or add minced pieces of crystallized ginger or lemon peel. Dried, chopped fruits, like currants or cranberries, could also make their way into these cookies.

On the savory side, give your last few scoops of pesto or tapenade a second life as a filling in a batch of palmiers. I also like filling the palmiers with a mix of shredded cheeses. These savory palmiers make great appetizers for dinner parties.

Thaw the puff pastry, if frozen: If your puff has been in the freezer, place it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Alternatively, place it on the counter to thaw, but keep an eye on it. Once the pastry is pliable, but still cool, it's ready — about 30 minutes.

How To Make Palmiers

Makes about 18 cookies

What You Need

Ingredients

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, store-bought or homemade
1/4 cup demerara sugar, brown sugar, or granulated sugar, plus more if needed

Equipment
Rolling pin
Measuring cups
Sharp knife
Baking sheet
Parchment or baking mat

Instructions

  1. Thaw the puff pastry, if frozen: If your puff has been in the freezer, place it in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. Alternatively, place it on the counter to thaw, but keep an eye on it. Once the pastry is pliable, but still cool, it's ready — about 30 minutes.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry: If using store-bought dough, lightly roll the dough just enough to even out the seams. If using homemade dough, roll the dough out to a rectangle that is 1/8 to 1/4 inches thick.
  3. Sprinkle with sugar: Sprinkle most of the sugar in an even layer over the surface of the dough. Roll over it lightly with a rolling pin to press the sugar into the dough.
  4. Fold the sides inward: Fold the left and the right sides of the dough inward so they meet in the middle.
  5. Sprinkle with more sugar: Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the dough. Again, roll over the dough lightly to press in the sugar.
  6. Fold the dough in half like a book: Fold the left side over the right side, like closing a book. This should make a very long, flat length of dough with the first two folds sandwiched in the middle.
  7. Refrigerate 30 minutes: Transfer the log to a baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes to give the dough time to firm up. This will make them easier to cut and also help them puff better in the oven.
  8. Heat the oven to 425°F. Place a rack in the middle position.
  9. Slice into cookies: After chilling, transfer the log back to the work surface. Use a sharp knife to slice the log across into cookies roughly 1-inch wide.
  10. Transfer to baking sheet: Transfer the cookies to a parchment-lined baking sheet, laying them cut-side up. Sprinkle the cookies with more sugar, if desired. Make sure to space the palmiers a few inches apart — they will puff quite a lot in the oven! Bake in batches if necessary; place the un-baked cookies in the fridge to chill between batches.
  11. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until dark golden. If it seems like the sugar on the bottom of the cookies is starting to burn before baking is finished, transfer the baking sheet to a higher oven rack and reduce the heat to 375°F.
  12. Cool and eat! Let the palmiers cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. They will become crispier as they cool. Palmiers are best the day they are made, but can be stored in an airtight container for several days. They will gradually lose their crispiness over time.

This recipe has been updated — first published February 2011.

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