Sunday, August 30, 2009

Raspberry Palmiers-- Easy Peasy and Ooey Gooey

I love caramel! I love the flavor of caramelized sugar and a nice chewy texture.

I recently been blogging about overcoming my fear of puff pastry, so I decided to graduate from making simple turnovers to making "Palmiers" (otherwise known as Elephant Ears). What are Palmiers?

Also called palm leaves , this crispy delicacy is PUFF PASTRY dough that is sprinkled with granulated sugar, folded and rolled several times, then cut into thin strips. After baking, these golden brown, caramelized pastries are served with coffee or tea or as a dessert accompaniment.

© Copyright Barron's Educational Services, Inc. 1995 based on THE FOOD LOVER'S COMPANION, 2nd edition, by Sharon Tyler Herbst.

I try to make as many recipes as I can "from scratch" but I admit that puff pastry is far too complicated for me to attempt making-- too much folding and making sure to keep the butter nice and cold. Thank you, Pepperidge Farm, for being reasonably priced and making this step one that I don't have to worry about. Trader Joe's sells a great puff pastry, but only at Christmas. Whole Foods does, too, but it's a bit pricey. 'Nuff said.

I'm a very visual person, so I decided to pay a visit. Sure enough, there were plenty of folks willing to show how to make palmiers and how to fold them. I searched around for a few recipes (by the way, Palmiers can also be made savory). I rolled up my sleeves and decided to give this a go-- my virgin attempt at making Palmiers.

You will need: Puffy pastry, parchment paper (I have a Silpat but I'll explain, later, why I'm glad I chose parchment), a baking sheet, a rolling pin, and sugar. I was trying to use up leftover seedless raspberry jam (because I made homemade raspberry jam and I need refrigerator space), so I decided to add this as well.

If I plan to use puff pastry in advance, I thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Today, this recipe was a total "whim" so I did a quick thaw.

I removed one sheet of puff pastry (Pepperide Farm comes in two's). I set the puff pastry on top of my parchment paper-- a trick I learned the hard way. You see, frozen puff pastry will thaw in about 30 minutes (unless you live in Siberia and it's winter). Once, I thawed the pastry on my cutting board and it was hard to handle. After about 5 minutes of thawing, I carefully unfolded the puff pastry. Don't worry about lines or if it's torn. Thawed pastry repairs very easily.

I have a tile counter (how I dream of a granite counter), so I used a marble pastry board. Sprinkle the board, generously, with sugar. How much? I don't measure... about this much.

Now, lift the parchment paper with the thawed pastry and flip it onto the sugared pastry board (or your counter). I use a bench scraper to shape the dough after the first roll, and I repair any cracks.

Now, sprinkle more sugar on top, and gently roll in order to press the sugar into the pastry. You also want to roll the dough to be thinner. I apologize, I can't give you a specific measurement of thinness. Just a bit, if that makes sense.

I used about 1/4 cup of seedless raspberry jam (you can skip this, if you want)...

...and spread the jam, leaving at least a 2- inch border. I figured that by the time I folded the dough, and pressed it some more, it would really spread.

Now, it's time to fold. Each side is rolled in about 1-1/2 inches. Eyeball it. I added a little more sugar and used the rolling pin to flatten it-- this was tricky, because of the jam.

Once more, I rolled each side in, until they met. Roll it flat again. Last, the two ends meet and are rolled one on top of another, then flatted with the rolling pin.

The jam oozed out of one end. Hmmmm, maybe a little less jam next time, but I'm not quitting now! Into the freezer, the first batch went, for 15 minutes. In the meantime, I put the second batch into the fridge. Both techniques worked fine, by the way. Remove from the fridge/freezer and...

...with a sharp knife, cut the dough in uniform sizes-- eyeball it. I'm guessing 3/8-in sizes. The first few slices didn't have jam in them, but that's okay. It gave me a chance to see if I like them better plain or with jam. Each sheet of puff pastry should yield 18 slices.

At first, a video showed that I should brush each piece with a little water and then dip into sugar.I decided that I could skip that, only because the jam was sticky enough. It worked like a charm.

As you can see, I set these on parchment paper. I was forewarned, by one recipe, that the puff pastry has a tendency to unfold, so to be sure to really press the dough together. I tried to figure it out... so we shall see what happens. I decided to experiment, since some recipes say to chill these between 15-30 minutes. The first set of cookies (12 of them) went into the freezer for 15 minutes. Then, I popped them into a 375F degree oven, on the middle rack. The "secret" to puff pastry are all the multiple layers of butter that expands when baked.

NOTE: At this point, you can freeze the palmiers to bake at a later time.

These smell out of this world! My husband walked into the house, sniffing and commenting that I was making something really good.

These are pretty! Some of them did, indeed, unfold a bit. C'est la vie.

Take note of all that caramelized sugar! Parchment paper is my friend, on this occassion. The one on the right reminds me of a mushroom.

I flipped some over and look at that beautiful caramelized sugar! I could hardly wait to try one, but they are very hot. Be careful!

Oh yeah, look at that caramelize sugar! I dare you to not eat one!

Onto a cooling rack...

Eaten warm, they are crunchy, chewy and incredibly good. A nice cup of tea would go well with these, for sure. Cooled, they are equally good.

You can do many variations-- cinnamon sugar, pumpkin spice, vanilla sugar-- have fun with this!

Baked with love,

Palmiers on Foodista

Rapberry Filled Palmiers

These are very simple to make, with just two ingredients ...

See Rapberry Filled Palmiers on Key Ingredient.

Palmiers on Foodista

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Martha Stewart's Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

I recently bought Martha Stewart's Cookies Cookbook and I am very glad that I did.

I love cookies, especially as a treat for lunch boxes. I especially love sugar cookies-- you know, the ones that you roll and cut and decorate with frosting. But they take a lot of work, and I save that for the holidays.

There are many recipes in the cookbook that I plan to make, but this is the first one. I liked the idea of adding lemon zest and juice, and the recipe looked very simple, so I got started making these. A note about my philosophy on baking:
I would rather eat a smaller portion of baked goods made with real butter, than trying to save a few calories using margarine and/or Splenda. I don't like the results of using either of these ingredients. If I'm going to eat a dessert, I want the real deal! I simply make a choice not to eat too much at one time. As far as baking for diabetics-- my son has Type I diabetes so I have invested a lot of time taking nutrition classes. Using "fake" sugar, in my opinion (as learned by diabetes experts I know) isn't the answer. Truly, diabetics need to watch their carbs. My son can eat sweets (in moderation, of course) as long as he counts his carbs, exercises and takes the right amount of insulin to compensate for it. I only wanted to share this information, because I read countless people asking how to adjust baked goods for a diabetic. It is "old school" to try and eliminate sugar. It's about carbs! Most importantly-- find a nutritionist who is very familiar with diabetes and follow their advice.
Sorry-- end of soap box.

Back to the cookie recipe... and on the subject of sugar... I was especially glad that I have a bag of sparkling white sugar, that the recipe calls for.

I bought mine at King Arthur Flour, along with a few other fun kitchen goodies that I will be playing with in the next few weeks. If you don't have this product, you can use granulated sugar.

The dry ingredients are simple-- flour, baking soda, and kosher salt are sifted. In a mixing bowl, white and brown sugar and lemon zest.

Before I bake, I always bring the butter (and I prefer to use unsalted butter) and eggs to room temperature. TIP: you can also submerge the eggs in very warm water, as a short cut. Using my faithful Kitchen Aid Stand mixer, I mixed the sugars and the fresh lemon zest and then I creamed the butter until fluffy.
Next, the eggs are added one at a time, the lemon juice and then the dry ingredients are added a little at a time.

This is my newest Kitchen Aid gadget-- a beater blade, recommended by Dorie Greenspan a few months ago, on her blogsite. What I like about this beater blade design is that it really scrapes the batter off the sides of the bowl a lot more efficiently. I bought mine through

The recipe says that it yields 18 large cookies. I used an ice cream scoop for the first batch..

Wow! Godzilla Cookies!

However, I decided I wanted smaller cookies or I'd have to buy a bigger lunch box! I switched over to my smaller scoop size.
TIP: I used a silicone spatula and wet it with water, so that the dough wouldn't stick. That also made flattening the cookies easier, and then I sprinkled the sugar on top. Otherwise, the recipe says to brush each cookie with water to make additional sugar stick.

After 15 minutes of cooling, I gave one a taste. Oh! A little crispy on the outside, and chewy in the middle-- the sparkling sugar adds an extra crunch. The cookies aren't super sweet, with a very subtle taste of lemon-- but the lemon isn't overpowering at all. Yep, these are delicious!

I think it would be a fun twist to make this recipe with almond extract (another personal favorite of mine) and even some ground almonds.

These cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days. These lasted two days, so we wouldn't know!

As always, the recipe is at the bottom of this page. If you are receiving my blog, via Feed Burner, you will need to visit my blog to see and print the recipe.

I'm so glad that it's the weekend and I can catch up on what the rest of you have been making!

Sugar Cookies on Foodista

Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies

These large cookies have a classic lemony flavor, a chewy ...

See Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookies on Key Ingredient.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tomato Bounty, a little garden work and a visitor. Eeeeeeeeeek!

Late this morning, I decided to spend a little time attending the bounty of ripe tomatoes, and the herbs in our backyard. I have to give my husband a lot of kudos, because he is the one with the green thumb who planted all of this in spring. He's the one who tended to the tomatoes by feeding them, and managing the tomato cages-- and pinching the suckers off. Thanks, Sweetie!

Here are the tomato plants in late March...

Here they are in late summer!

Craig and I mutually agree that we need to stick to container gardening. We have too many ground squirrels and gophers, who (the first year we lived here) massacred the garden Craig created on top of our hill-- including a drip irrigation system.

The earth is too clay-ish and would take a lot of work and money to try growing vegetables on top of the hill again. At one time, Craig managed to have 200 heirloom tomatoes, that were growing beautifully. Those darn rodents chewed up and destroyed most of our tomato crop. We were so frustrated, and we tried everything we could think of-- to no avail.

These two little scaredy cats (littermates Camo and Tiger Lilly) are in their prime years (12 years old) and have quit being useful hunters of rodents. They just watch me from the safety of the back door, and are pampered and spoiled rotten by us.

I picked a lot of tomatoes, and I made something that I'll blog about later in the week.

Craig has lovingly fed and nurtured our two container lemon trees-- one is a Eureka and the other is a Meyer Lemon Tree. That !#$#$ Meyer lemon tree has not coughed up one ripe lemon in three years!

Ha! there are a LOT of blossoms and small green Meyer lemons. Could this be the year of bounty? Please? I love Meyer lemons!

It won't be long until these orange bell peppers are ready for something tasty!

Do you see my lovely chives? These have done so well for me this year (and I take credit for watering these, faithfully). I had to pull out a lot of dried chives I fell behind in trimming. I use chives in so many recipes...

I love baked potatoes with butter, sour cream (in moderation, of course) and fresh chives. Yummy!

See my garden cart (actually this used to be my horse's manure cart when my horse lived nearby and I had stall cleaning duty) full of dried curly parsley, dead cilantro and old chives? It kind of felt like giving the chive plants a haircut-- and it does look a whole lot better!

Well, folks... later this afternoon, my husband grabbed my camera and I saw him photographing the garden cart full of what I had trimmed away.

I just uploaded my photos to edit and look what he photographed!

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeek! A black widow spider!

There's that unmistakable hour glass. While deaths from black widows are very rare, I hear they can cause a very nasty bite. Either way, I don't want to test either theory!

Look again, at the photo I took of my garden cart! See it in the left corner? How did I miss that?!

I'm not afraid of mice and most spiders. But I would have definitely squealed in fear and run away fast!

I think I feel safer with a chef's knife and a hot stove than I do digging around where these critters dwell.

My husband-- my hero.

It's back to work tomorrow, so I'll blog when I can. I didn't bake this weekend. Let's just say that my tomato project turned out to be a lot more labor intensive than I banked on.

Wishing all of you a great week,

Little Miss Muffet, who is not sitting on her tuffet

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