If you know me, you know that I adore elephants. Elephants are my most favorite animal (which we can discuss another time), and for some reason my “cannot resist dessert” is Elephant Ears. Is there a connection? I don’t know. Elephant Ears, or Pig’s Ears, or Palm Leaves are names for what the French call “Palmiers“. Palmiers are an elegant confection or cookie made using Puff Pastry. Puff pastry (flour, butter and water) is known and used by many cultures from Europe to South America to the Middle East for everything from sweet to savory.
Because I couldn’t authenticate the origin, “legend” suggests that Puff Pastry was invented in France in 1645 by an apprentice pastry cook, Claudius Gelée. As the story goes, Mr. Gelée wanted to bake a butter cake for his father, who was on a special diet. With a recipe of just flour, water and butter, Claudius mixed the flour and water together, but realized he completely forgot to incorporate the butter into the flour. Thinking quickly he ‘lay some Butter in litle Pecies’ onto the already rolled dough. He then folded the dough over and rolled it out … and then he did it again and again and again. After folding and rolling the dough several times, he formed it and baked it. When Claudius removed the cake from the oven, surprisingly, not only had it risen significantly, it was light and “puffy”. The story continues with Mr. Gelée being hired by the famous Rosabau Patisserie in Paris, where he perfected his ‘puff paist’, became quite successful, moved on to Florence only to have his secret recipe stolen from him by the Brothers Mosca Pastry Shop. Fact or fiction? Who really knows.
What we do know is that Puff Pastry is a near relative to Phyllo (Filo) Dough. Phyllo Dough is used throughout the Middle East much like European Puff Pastry and seems to have existed long before Puff Pastry was invented. Although the two can be used interchangeably, there are differences. Puff Pastry has layers of butter incorporated within the pastry, which when baked, causes pockets of steam to form in the dough. The dough then separates into flaky layers. Phyllo needs oil or melted butter brushed onto each pastry layer before baking, usually requiring three or more layers, it then becomes tender and flaky.
Making Puff Pastry from scratch is doable, but it is so labor intensive. If you’ve ever watched the Great British Bakeoff, you’ve seen the Puff Pastry challenge where the contestants are asked to make Puff Pastry from scratch in order to create their specialty desserts. No thank you! For me, it’s to the frozen food aisle in the grocery store. Good quality puff pastry, using butter and not shortening, is available and it’s not overly expensive. Because it’s handy for so many dishes from meat pies to desserts, I always keep a couple of boxes in my freezer.
This recipe is an easy, sure-to-impress cookie … perfect for tea time. You can get as creative as you’d like by varying the fillings … a mixture of brown sugar and pecans, or a cinnamon sugar blend, or how about bananas and peanut butter. Get creative and have fun!
CHOCOLATE WALNUT PALMIERS
1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough, thawed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup chocolate spread (Hershey’s, Nutella, Biscoff)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, or any chopped nuts
Preheated oven at 400° (but only after the pastry is rolled and in the refrigerator). Makes about 2 dozen.
Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar over the pastry board and then unfold the thawed puff pastry dough on top. With a rolling pin, gently roll the dough out just to smooth it and incorporate the sugar onto the underside. Turn the pastry sheet over and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup sugar on the board and roll it again.
Spread the chocolate (or Nutella or even peanut butter, if you’d like) over the entire sheet of pastry. Sprinkle evenly with chopped nuts.
Starting from one long end, begin to tightly roll the pastry into the center. Stop halfway. Then from the other long end, tightly roll that side in to the center. You should have an equal number of rolls on either side, meeting in the middle. Squeeze the middle together, then turn the rolled pastry over and place it seam side down onto a parchment lined baking tray. Place the tray into the refrigerator for at least half an hour (or 15 minutes in the freezer) to chill thoroughly.
Now its time to preheat the oven to 400°. Take the rolled pastry out of the refrigerator and place it onto a cutting board. Cut into slices about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. It’s entirely up to you. The thicker the slices, the longer they will take to bake. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until they are golden and cooked through. Cool on a wire rack.
You can make a quick glaze using confectioners sugar and milk to drizzle over the top (or not).
With a steaming cuppa tea, a fruity glass of wine, or an icy cold glass of milk, these crunchy on the outside, gooey on the inside, sweet pastries are just delicious! Enjoy.