Palmiers (Elephant Ears)

I grew up eating packages of two-bite palmiers we bought at the supermarket*. Also, giant palmiers from the bakery that were the size of my face and which I devoured with bliss, savoring the textural differences between the crusty, caramelized rim, and the doughy, buttery folds in the center of each swirl.

Palmiers — litterally “palm trees”, a.k.a. elephant ears in English — are heart-shaped cookies made by rolling up puff pastry with a generous sprinkling of sugar, slicing that up, and baking until golden brown and caramelized.

When you’re ready to cash in your baker’s bonus, all you need to do is roll out the dough thinly, using sugar to prevent sticking as you normally would flour.

Although you can certainly set out to make palmiers from scratch, they are the most rewarding use for scraps of puff pastry, so they are typically a byproduct of some other baking venture.

Indeed, the batch that is pictured above was prepared with the quick and easy puff pastry leftover from baking the amazing caramelized apple tarte fine I told you about a couple of weeks ago.

It is unthinkable, under any circumstances, to throw out scraps of dough, but that sentiment is especially vivid when you’ve made the puff pastry yourself, however quick and easy the recipe is. The idea then is to stack up any bits and pieces you have to form a rough block, and plop that into the fridge to deal with later.

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March 2014 Desktop Calendar

At the beginning of every month in 2014, I will be offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, with a food-related picture and a calendar of the current month.

As a new feature this year, the desktop calendar is available in two versions: a US-friendly version that features Sunday as the first day of the week, and a French version (shown above) that complies with international standards, featuring Monday as the first day of the week.

Our calendar for March is a picture of the lentil kohlrabi salad I love to make this time of year — it is fresh, crunchy, and filling, which is exactly what we need right now.

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

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February Favorites

A chart by Chasing Delicious's Russell van Kraayenburg, reproduced with permission.

A chart by Chasing Delicious's Russell van Kraayenburg, reproduced with permission.

A few of my favorite finds and reads for February:

~ About the word “just” and whether to prune it from your communications.

~ Paris restaurateurs (finally!) decide to do some recycling (in French).

~ The science behind fonts and how they make you feel.

~ The best temperatures and uses for common cooking oils, one of several gorgeous info-charts by Russell van Kraayenburg — also available as a print for your kitchen!

~ A biochemistry start-up is working to find a plant-based replacement for the eggs that are used in processed foods.

~ My article on five-ingredient desserts is published in the new issue of Vegetarian Times, and in it you’ll find the recipes for my mango pistachio cardamom ice cream, my lemon almond soufflés, my apple and date crisps, and my pear and lavender charlottes. Do give them a try and report back!

~ Chef Peter Nilsson leaves his Parisian Gazzetta to return to Stockholm.

~ Client feedback turned into posters.

~ Dried persimmons, homemade.

~ What career should you really have? (I got “writer”, so I assume the algorithm works okay.)

~ Misunderstanding orange juice as a healthful drink.

~ March 4 is Mardi Gras, and in France the occasion is often celebrated by making crêpes, so whip up a quick batter and enjoy!

Any favorites of your own to share this month?

How To Transport Your Knives

When I went out and got my knives sharpened recently, I had to solve the question of how to transport them safely, and my intuitive idea was to roll them up in a kitchen towel.

When the guy at the shop handed them back to me to take home a week later, I was pleased to hear him say that this was the best method. I also noticed his fold was a lot neater than mine, so I thought I would share it with you.

Naturally, if you’re a traveling cook who has to carry knives around frequently*, it might make sense to buy a special carrying case such as this knife roll, but if you’re only transporting them a few times a year to cook at a friend’s house or to get your blades sharpened, you can definitely save the money and use a simple kitchen towel.

The trick, as you’ll see in the animation below, is to pick one of your thicker kitchen towels, and to fold it so that the tips of the blades push against a double layer of fabric, so they won’t just slice through.

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Caramelized Apple Tarte Fine

Tarte fine caramélisée aux pommes

When I wrote about my enthusiasm for quick and easy puff pastry last week, I promised I would soon share the apple tarte fine I made with it, and that day has come.

A tarte fine — literally, “thin tart” — is a classic type of French tart assembled on a flat disk of puff pastry, with no raised borders. This means it requires no tart pan, a trait that will no doubt appeal to the minimalists and the ill-equipped.

The trick to a perfectly caramelized crust is to butter and sugar the parchment paper you will bake it on.

It is a type of tart I’ve always thought elegant for its understatedness. The filling is typically made up of just fruit, and moderate amounts of it, so as to remain super thin. And every bite is as much about the crust as it is about the filling, which makes it an ideal opportunity to showcase your new puff-pastry-making skills.

And indeed this recipe is a study in simplicity: a thin round of rough puff that caramelizes in the oven — the trick is to butter and sugar the parchment paper you will bake it on — to form a crisp, flaky, buttery frame for a rose-shaped arrangement of thinly sliced apples.

That’s it. Bake and serve.

It does just as well slightly warm or at room temperature, and you could also make it with pears if you wanted to, but the one thing I will advocate for is serving it on its own. No custard, no ice cream, no crème fraîche. Just the solo silhouette of the tarte fine on a plate.

Join the conversation!

Have you made or tasted a tarte fine before? Does the gorgeous simplicity of it appeal to you as much as it does to me?

Caramelized Apple Tarte Fine

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