We all do it. There is really no point in attempting denial. Pretty much everyone is guilty as charged.
I challenge anyone to pretend that they have not, at some time or another, shirked a bit of Holiday responsibility. Nothing serious I’m sure, but maybe it was a case of promising to bring a gift for a Secret Santa (less than $25, please), and in your last minute haste you spent a whopping $27.99 at the store on the way.
Or maybe you went so far as to reach back into the closet, pull out that untouched gift Aunt Meg and Uncle Stan gave you last year, snipned off the tag and presented it as your own contribution to the festivities. Regifting never hurt anyone, has it?
Or maybe you had promised to bring a home baked treat along for the annual neighbourhood open house, and somewhere in the purchasing, packing and pandemonium of pre-holiday prep, it completely slipped your mind. So you’re faced with a dilemma - head to the party empty handed or stop over at a local bakery on the way and hope nobody notices the price tag on the box.
I was in a similar predicament this morning. I had said, weeks ago, that I would be thrilled to participate in a cookie swap. I could already imagine the smell of baking butter and sugar wafting through the house; I envisioned cookie perfection, rows upon rows of gorgeous treats all waiting to be enjoyed. I poured over recipe books and magazines, scoured baking supply stores for sanding sugar and dried egg whites.
And then I got distracted. I’m not sure by what exactly, all I know is that it was suddenly the morning of the 27th, and my cookie jar had nary a crumb. Old Mother Hubbard has my sympathies.
Not willing to give up so easily (and with the bakery not opening for another three hours), I looked to my frequent saviour - the freezer. Armed with the last sheet of puff pastry, I improvised a holiday variation on an old classic, palmiers. Flaky and crisp, and glazed with a combination of reduced jam and cinnamon sugar, these cookies belie how easy they are to make. A quick roll and 12 minutes in the oven later, you are left with a tray worthy of any cookie-swap.
Happy holidays, indeed.
1/2 cup strawberry jam
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (or more, if desired)
1 inch piece of lemon zest (optional)
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (or more, if desired)
1 sheet puff pastry, defrosted as per package instructions
Preheat oven to 450º F (230º C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the jam, lemon juice and lemon zest (if using). Heat until the jam is melted but before it reaches a full boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for about 2 minutes. Using a small spoon, push the jam through a fine-meshed sieve, discarding any seeds and the lemon zest. I advise some care here, as the jam will still be rather warmå. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon and salt. Spread one half of the mixture over your work surface and lay the puff pastry in the middle. Sprinkle the remaining sugar on top, and begin rolling. Turn and flip the pastry frequently, pushing the cinnamon sugar into the pastry - you want an even coating. Roll until you have a 13” by 13” square.
With a small offset spatula or butter knife and working quickly , spread the jam over the puff pastry. The jam should be in a thin layer, reaching all the way to the edges of the dough.
Fold the side of the dough halfway to the centre. Fold again, so that the two folded sides now meet in the centre. Fold one half over the other as though you are closing a book and the sides are now stacked on top of each other. Place pastry log on one of the prepared baking sheets and chill for 10 minutes in the freezer.
Remove from the freezer and slice the log into 3/4 inch slices. Place slices, cut side up back onto baking sheets and chill for an additional 5 minutes.
Bake cookies for approximately 6 minutes until the filling is bubbling and glazed and the pastry is starting to turn golden. Flip the cookies with a spatula and bake for additional 5 minutes, until caramelised and puffed. Wait a minute or so, then transfer to a baking rack to cool.
Makes about 24 cookies.
• You can use whatever variety of jam or jelly you would like for this recipe. Reducing a clear juice (for example, cranberry) would also make a suitable filling. The jam may be omitted all together, and a coloured sanding sugar added instead for a colourful spiral design.
• The palmiers are quite delicate when they come out of the oven. For flipping and transferring to a wire rack, always use a spatula larger than the cookie to maintain its shape. A light spray of cooking oil on the spatula may also assist in transferring.
• The cut palmiers can be individually frozen on a cookie sheet, then transferred to a plastic freezer bag for storage. They should keep for approximately 2 weeks and do not need to be defrosted before baking. Cooking time may need adjustment, though.