For those that don’t know, these are Elephant Ear cookies, or French Palmier cookies as they are more formally known. But these crispy, buttery, elegant cookies are a childhood favorite and ones I love to make during the holidays. Made with puff pasty (also known as pâte feuilletée), these rich cookies dusted lightly with sugar and cinnamon are worthy of your time in the kitchen.
The main baking technique to master here is the pastry, but don’t be intimidated, it’s not as complicated as you think. When making puff pasty from scratch, the butter is placed inside the dough which gets repeatedly folded and rolled out before baking. This is the “labor intensive” part of the pastry people are fearful of, but honestly, it’s just folding and rolling. The gaps that form between the layers left by the butter melting are pushed (or leavened) by the water turning into steam during the baking process. Puff pastry is one of my favorite doughs and one I use for sweet and savory recipes, such as my sausage Boxing Day Rolls.
When time allows, I prefer (and enjoy) to make my own puff pasty from scratch, so I have included a simple fool-proof recipe below. This fantastic recipe is not mine, it’s from fellow blogger Christina Lane who’s blog is called “Dessert For Two“. The best part about this recipe, it only takes 15 minutes to make! I have used this recipe several times and love it. But, if you need a shortcut, something we all need during the holidays, I get it. Trhankfully, there are great commercial puff pastry available for you to use.
My favorite go-to commercial brand of puff pastry is Dufour and it’s readily available in the freezer section of grocery stores such as Whole Foods or Safeway. If you can’t locate it, or don’t like the price tag for this specialty dough, Pepperidge Farm also makes puff pasty sheets that would just fine in this recipe as well.
I used to get Elephant Ears as a kid at a small bakery in The West Village, on Bleeker Street, right around the corner from where I lived. Made fresh each day, Elephant Ears were always prominently displayed in the storefront window. They were typically next to the stunning croquembouche (another favorite of mine) and they called to me whenever I passed by. A simple, not-so-sweet cookie sprinkled with a cinnamon-sugar coating never disappointed. Seriously, what’s not to love?
Despite the simplicity of these cookies, I never actually made these classic cookies from scratch until culinary school. What’s important to remember about these tasty cookies is they are best had freshly made. Chances are, if you’ve had them before, that’s not how you’ve had them. Trust me, it’s a real game changer.
Process-wise, these lovely cookies could not be easier to make. The cookie recipe itself in uncomplicated and straightforward with just a few basic ingredients. I tried to provide clear instruction on how to fold up the dough to get these cookies to look like elephant ears, but if it’s not so clear or you want a visual, be sure to check out her short video on how to make the perfect elephant ears within minutes.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 10 tablespoons good quality cold butter, cubbed
- 1/3 cup ice cold water
- Step 1 In a medium bowl, add the flour and salt. Mix well. Add the butter to the flour. Using a pastry blender or two knives, “cut the butter” into the dough. It will be very crumbly, and you’re done when the butter is in uniform pieces all about the size of peas.
- Step 2 Make a hole in the center of the dough and pour in all of the water. Using a fork, stir to combine the dough.
- Step 3 Flour a cutting board, and place the dough on it. Using your hands, shape it into a rough square. You will still see chunks of butter and it will seem too dry, but do not add extra water. The dough will come together with each roll.
- Step 4 Lightly flour the rolling pin, and roll the dough out in front of you into a rectangle about 10″ long.
- Step 5 Fold the bottom third of the dough over the middle of the dough. Fold the upper third of the dough on top of the middle like folding a letter. Rotate the dough one-quarter turn, and repeat the above process. Use flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.
- Step 6 Next, roll out, fold, and turn the dough at least 6 more times. Note: This is what makes puff pasty so flaky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour, or overnight.
- 2 sheets puff pastry, homemade or store-bought (defrosted)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
- pinch of salt
- 3/4-1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Step 2 In a small bowl add half the sugar and salt, mix well. Next, pour the sugar mixture onto a clean work surface and spread out so it’s roughly the size of the puff pastry. Unfold the puff pastry and place on top of the sugar mixture.
- Step 3 In a second small bowl add the remaining sugar and cinnamon, mix well to incorporate. Spread the sugar-cinnamon mixture out evenly on the pastry.
- Step 4 Using a rolling pin, gently roll the dough into a 13-inch square, pressing the sugar into the dough from the top and bottom as you go.
- Step 5 Fold the sides of the square towards the center of the dough so they go halfway towards the middle of the dough. Fold them again so the two folds meet exactly at the middle of the dough. Then fold one half over the other half as if closing a book. You should now have 6 layers.
- Step 6 Using a slicing knife, slice the dough into 3/8-inch slices and place on the prepared baking sheets cut side up.
- Step 7 Place in the oven and bake for about 6-7 minutes until caramelized on the bottom and brown in top. Using a spatula, carefully flip the cookies and bake for an additional 4-5 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool before serving.
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