Puff Pastry, Shaping

Cooking Recipes Catalogue

Rich, buttery puff pastry has almost as many uses as it does crispy, paper-thin layers. Although deliciously fragile to bite into, it is surprisingly sturdy to work with and very versatile, whether rolled and sliced, separated into layers and filled, or shaped into a tartlike shell.

Palmiers and napoleons are two puff pastry classics. Palmiers are melt-in-the-mouth cookies named after the palm leaves they are thought to resemble. They are formed out of a rectangle of dough that has been sprinkled with sugar or a cinnamon-sugar blend, then rolled tightly into pinwheels. Sliced and baked for cookies, they’re superb with after-dinner coffee or tea. Or sandwich them with a rich filling and offer as a show-stopping dessert. Multilayered napoleons are filled with luscious pastry cream and fruit or sweet preserves. The smooth glaze on the topmost layer can be accented with a simple, easily accomplished pattern of chocolate chevrons.

A final tip: Always cut puff pastry straight down and with a very sharp knife. This keeps the layers separate so the dough will rise uniformly to its maximum height.

Shaping Palmiers
Roll the puff pastry into a 14x10-inch rectangle. Sprinkle evenly with the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Lightly press into the dough with your fingertips. Roll up one short side like a jelly roll to the center of the rectangle. Roll the other short side the same way.

Slicing Palmiers
Turn the pastry over so that the rolled sides touch the cutting board. With a sharp, thin-bladed knife, cut the roll crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Don’t press down as you cut, or the pieces will lose their shape and unroll.

Making Napoleons
Cut squares from rolled-out dough and bake until puffed and golden. Set on a rack to cool. With a fork, gently pry apart the baked pastry into 3 layers. Set aside for filling.

Spreading the Glaze
Fill napoleons as directed in recipe. Spread the glaze over the top layer of pastry with a small frosting spatula, leaving a little of the pastry uncovered.