“Palmiers are one of my favourite French pastries. The combination of well caramelised puff pastry with well caramelised sugar is so basic but, when done to perfection, it’s one of the best things in the world. When it comes to baking the palmiers, keep in mind a few burnt edges is a good thing, otherwise the palmiers will taste too sweet. Do be careful though – sugar turns from perfect amber to burnt within seconds, so be very attentive during those last moments of cooking. And take extra care when flipping the palmiers over as soon as they come out of the oven, as molten sugar is super- hot!” Poh Ling Yeow, Poh & Co. 2
- 250 g plain flour
- 250 g unsalted butter, softened and cut into 2 cm dice
- 1 tsp salt
- 120 ml cold water
- 310 g (1½ cups) caster sugar
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time 1 hour 10 minutes
Place the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and pulse for 1–2 seconds at a time until the butter has broken down into roughly 1 cm pieces. With the motor running, slowly add the water, pulsing for about 2 seconds or until the mixture looks like tiny pebbles; take care not to over-process. Transfer to a bowl and, using a circular motion, gather the dough into a ball.
Alternatively, to make the dough by hand, mix the flour and salt in a bowl, then and break 3 cm chunks of butter into the bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until 1 cm chunks of butter remain. Make a well in the centre, then pour in the water and gently mix until the dough comes together to form a single, crumbly lump.
Transfer the dough to a floured workbench and shape it into a rectangle with a shorter edge facing the bench; the dough will have some wet bits and dry bits, but should generally hold together. Dusting with extra flour as needed, roll the dough until it is just over double in length than it is wide, then fold into thirds. Pat the sides down to create a uniform rectangle to work with. Turn the dough 90˚clockwise, so the seams are no longer facing you. Repeat this rolling and turning process three times. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Dust the clean workbench with some of the caster sugar, then place the dough on top and sprinkle well with a little more of the caster sugar. Roll the dough until it is 5 mm thick; if it becomes sticky, sprinkle with more caster sugar, as you would with flour. Roll out the dough so it’s 2½ times longer than it is wide. Trim the shorter ends to create straight edges and sprinkle well with sugar. Imagine a centre line cutting across the width of the dough, then starting at the top end, sprinkle the top third of the dough with sugar, forming a line across the width of the dough. Repeat on the bottom third of the pastry, forming another line of sugar across the width of the dough.
Fold the pastry over the top to cover the sugar, then sprinkle with sugar and repeat twice to form 3 folded layers. Repeat with the bottom layer of sugar-coated dough, again sprinkling each layer with sugar, until the rolled dough at the top and bottom meet at the imaginary centre line. Fold the bottom layer over the top layer to form a flat, layered rectangle. Carefully wrap the dough in plastic wrap and freeze for 15–20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 230˚C.
Line a large baking tray (or 2 baking trays) with baking paper and sprinkle 1 teaspoon caster sugar at a time at 10 cm intervals; you should have 25 or so patches of sugar.
Unwrap the pastry, then cut into 1 cm-thick slices, placing 1 on each patches of sugar on the baking tray/s. Gently move the pastry slices so the sugar sits flat against the pastry. Sprinkle a little more sugar on top of each pastry slice.
Bake the palmiers for 12 minutes or until the sugar has caramelised and the pastry is golden; check carefully during the last 4 minutes or baking, as sugar burns easily.
As soon as the palmiers are removed from the oven, carefully flip them over to prevent a pool of sugar sticking to them. Leave to completely, then store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
• It is important not to knead the dough – all that is required is using a gentle circular motion. If you use a food processor to make the dough, take care not to over-process it. There should still be visible patches of flour; if not you may have processed it a tad too much but don’t panic, most times it will work out.
Photography, styling and food preparation by china squirrel.
Poh & Co. 2 Thursdays at 8.30pm on SBS.
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