Monday, December 14, 2009

caramel-glazed cardamom palmiers

baked palmiers
if not for the fact that
alice medrich is already
wildly successful,
amazingly accomplished and,
let's face it - doesn't know i exist,
you might think she pays me
to sing her praises.
but she doesn't.
she doesn't need me.
her recipes are just that good.

i've told you before that i came
across this book, when i was
reviewing it. when i was writing
reviews, my rule was always 3 recipes
minimum - and in those days,
i was so busy testing that i didn't have
any time for baking for fun. so typically,
i made the recipes, tried to find people
to give the baked goods to, wrote the
reviews and then, sadly, kind of forgot
about the books.

but these days,
i make, bake and write about
what i want, whenever i want.
and lately, when an opportunity pops
up to bake, i seem to want to make
everything in pure dessert.
i've decided not to fight it.

knowing that we had a chanukah party
to attend yesterday,
i decided originally to make marshmallows,
thinking they would serve double duty:
a great hostess gift slash dish to serve
and i could enter them into the latest

but then - and for this, i blame fatigue,
plus the frustration that my dvr cut
off the last 15 minutes of the glee finale -
i had a dumb moment.
a moment so stupid that i keep replaying
it in my mind, thinking, what was i thinking?

i know marshmallows are sticky.
i know. every time i make them, i'm
unbelievably fascinated by the fact that they
stick to everything in sight, but as soon as you
give them a confectioners' sugar dunk,
they're amazingly easy to handle.
yet still, i unmolded the carefully crafted,
finally firm marshmallow directly onto
a cutting board - no confectioners' sugar
to soften the fall.
there was anger, there were tears and a
lot of sticky fingers and knives as i
worked to remove the marshmallow
from its unapologetic prison.
and when i finally freed them,
they were mangled on one side.
i was embarrassed for them.
still, they were yummy and their
tops, straight and smooth.
you can find the recipe here.
marshmallow square, unmolded
but, needless to say,
i needed something new to bring.
and, while normally i would
research up a storm, i didn't have
the patience or time, so instead,
i turned to pure dessert,
which hasn't failed me yet.

i chose - and honestly, i don't
know what i was thinking -
caramel-glazed cardamom palmiers,
cookies that involve a food processor
dough, 4 hours of chilling,
rolling into a rectangle (eek),
folding into a straight line (eek, again),
chilling again, slicing, baking,
sprinkling with sugar and baking again.

but, now that i'm safely on the other side
(read: cookies made, plated and delivered),
i can honestly say: it wasn't that bad.
and it was worth it.
cardamom pod
sure, we had a few moments along the way.
ground cardamom is expensive
and after i saw the price,
i just flat out refused to spring for it.
larry, who is always looking for an excuse
to use the gifts we received
off our wedding registry,
jumped at the opportunity for us to
use the spice grinder on the pods we had at home.
i don't think he realized that it involved
toasting, cracking and removing
the tiny little seeds from the pods,
all before grinding.
but, on the plus side,
i've learned that a home
that smells like freshly ground cardamom
is lovely this time of year.
hard-earned cardamom seeds
and yes, i kind of regretted that i made
the dough so late in the day, meaning
that when we came home from a saturday
sushi date night, i had to roll up my sleeves,
cross my fingers and start rolling
cardamom-infused sugar into the dough.
but this cream cheese mixture was a dream to
work with. instead of cracking or sticking,
the dough easily smoothed itself into
the 8 x 24 rectangle it was intended for.
rolled dough
i carefully folded the dough to form the
elephant ear logs, wrapped them in
waxed paper and gave it until morning
to slice and bake
(giving me the opportunity
to pretend that i simply
bought the dough this way
and didn't actually have to clear everything
off my counter to roll something
24-inches long).
but of course, when the dough came
out of the fridge in the morning,
it had chilled itself into a worm-like shape
instead of the flat rectangle i swear i
put in last night.
i gently pressed and pulled it down.
then, i pretended it was perfect.

regardless, the log cut beautifully into slices
and i was able to fit almost all of them
onto two baking sheets. the only real
problem that i had with the recipe came next:

after baking, the recipe instructs you to
sprinkle with more cardamom-infused sugar
that has been combined with salt.
you rebake them until they caramelize,
then let them cool. while the instructions
said this should only take 3 to 5 minutes
and that they should be watched closely
to prevent burning, at 5 minutes, the sugar
hadn't even started to crackle.

after 2 minutes more,
i removed the tray from the bottom third
of the oven and kept the top one in,
letting those cookies reach a
slightly more golden hue.
after they were out,
i put the second baking sheet back in.
i still feel like they never fully caramelized,
instead staying sugary, which is not such
a bad alternative. just not what alice or i
were going for.
but, as is always the disclamier,
this may just be my old oven.
or, it may be that the logs of dough
were never meant to be chilled overnight
and that by doing so, i dissolved most of
sugar that would have helped to glaze the cookies.
sugared, not caramelized, palmier
but they smelled
what can only be described as perfect,
and tasted very festive
(possibly more appropriate
for christmas than for chanukah?
it does not matter. these cookies
would be great year round.
i will not discrimate.).

and larry, who quite enjoyed the cookies,
just conceded that they were worth
every single devilish cardamom seed
that tripped its way along the counter
instead of landing in the bowl on
the first try. that's high praise.
another cardamom pod

you may have noticed the the last problem i had -
it was really a constant.
i was so focused
on proper execution, that i forgot
to take pictures at critical points,
like when i made the dough,
or rolled it out,
or started to fold it,
or later, when i plated them.
oops - i'm sorry.

cut unbaked palmiers
caramel-glazed cardamom palmiers
recipe adapted from pure dessert
when i make cookie or pie dough, i always follow the same rules: i cube the cold butter (or in this case, cold butter and cold cream cheese), then place them back in the fridge until i'm ready to mix. i find this much better than leaving it on the counter to accidentally soften while i measure flour or cubing it after the dry ingredients have been combined (i'm too impatient for that). this dough really is easy to work with and delicious - i'd love to try it smeared with jam and rolled up rugelach-style.

cream cheese dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 package (8 ounces) cold cream cheese, cubed

in bowl of food processor, pulse together flour, sugar and salt to combine. add butter; pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. add the cream cheese to the bowl; pulse 30 seconds, or until the dough begins to clump together. divide dough in half; shape both pieces into 2 square disks. wrap and chill 4 hours, or until firm.

cardamom sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (after this experience, i can say, freshly ground is a nice touch)
2 large pinches salt (not kosher)

in bowl, combine sugar and cardamom. transfer 2 tablespoons to separate small bowl and add the salt to this bowl. set salted bowl aside.

let chilled dough rest on counter 15-20 minutes, or until slightly softened. (note: the recipe called for this to be done one disk at a time, but i took them both out at once and didn't regret it.)

sprinkle the work surface liberally with cardamom sugar (keep in mind, you will need half the sugar mixture for the other piece of dough.). place the dough on top of the sugar and sprinkle with more of the sugar mixture. roll dough into an 8-inch x 24-inch rectangle, no more than 1/8-inch thick, turning the dough frequently and resprinkling the dough and counter with the sugar mixture, as necessary.

mark the center of the rectangle with a small indentation. starting at the short end, fold dough inward, about 2 1/2 inches. without stretching or pulling, loosely fold dough over two more times, stopping 1/4" before indentation. repeat on opposite side. fold one side of the dough over the other. the strip should be about 2 1/2-inches x 8-inches. using rolling pin, gently roll dough into a 9-inch log. sprinkle top and bottom with sugar.

loosely wrap with waxed paper (alice cautions to not use plastic wrap). place on flat space in fridge; chill at least 30 minutes.

repeat rolling, folding and wrapping with remaining disk of dough and cardamom sugar.

arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of oven; heat oven to 375˚f.

remove one log of dough from fridge. using a sharp knife, cut dough into 1/3-inch slices. arrange 1 1/2-inches apart on ungreased or aluminum foil-lined baking sheets. repeat with remaining log of dough.

bake 8-10 minutes, or until bottoms of cookies are golden brown, rotating pans from top to bottom and front to back, halfway through. remove pans from ovens, flip cookies. sprinkle each cookie with a pinch or two of the salted cardamom sugar.

bake 3-5 minutes more, or until the cookies are a deep golden brown, watching carefully to ensure they don't burn. if necessary, rotate pans and remove the cookies that caramelize first.

transfer cookies to rack; cool completely.

and there's more.
i know that there are still a small few
of you who have not decided upon
your holiday cookies yet
and so, i wanted to get these
palmiers out right away.
some other cookies to consider
from this past year:

also, every year i make many
loaves of the
the first recipe i ever
made from pure dessert
and the second recipe i posted on this blog.

and there's another option, too.
i just started seeing meyer lemons
popping up again. there's still time
to preserve them, put them in their
own jars, add a bow and give
out to friends and family.

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