Recipe: Perfect Elephant Ears (Palmiers)


05 Mar Recipe: Perfect Elephant Ears (Palmiers)

Elephant Ear - TheMessyBaker

These are elephant ears. Or palm ears. Or palmiers. Or French hearts, or butterflies or glasses. No matter what you call them, these sugar-laced puff pastry treats are one of my all time favourites. Like most things worthwhile, they are a labour of love. And I love my father. So I made a batch to welcome him home after a month abroad on a volunteer mission.

But as Murphy would have it, my website went haywire* during the process. I tried to restore the site between rounds of rolling, chilling, slicing and baking. The results? A salvaged blog and a pan of burnt elephant ears. Another senseless waste of pastry.

Burnt elephant ears. A senseless waste of pastry.


Fortunately, only the last pan suffered third-degree singing. There were some for my Dad and plenty of pastry left over for another attempt.

The recipe comes from The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri. If I were allowed to make only one recipe from this book it would be this one. I know. This isn’t the fancy, layered, gooey, booze-filled, berry-bursting  dessert I normally gravitate to. These are a simple, three-ingredient pastry that somehow turns butter, sugar and flour into a million layers of shattery perfection.

Layers of flaky puff pastry in elephant ears


You can use this technique with store bought all-butter puff pastry. Just be sure to buy pastry that lists  butter as the only fat. In order to feel justified in taking this off my Culinary Bucket List, I made these from scratch, using  Malgieri’s Instant Puff Pastry Recipe as the base.

A stack of crispy elephant ears –

For the impatient, please note, there is a lot of waiting required to make good palmiers. Don’t rush the process like I did on my first pan. Resting the sugar-rolled dough is essential. An hour in the fridge and the sugar becomes sticky and latches onto even more sugar when you dip the cut ends. If you don’t rest the dough, the sugar will just slide off. You’ll end up with flaky, not-so-caramelized elephant ears, and that’s not the point of this dessert. To honour the good ingredients, I forced myself to eat the failures. Someone had to.

If you decide to make these from scratch and not commercially prepared puff pastry, save them for a lazy-weekend. The pasty needs to chill for 90 minutes before you can even think about rolling in the sugar. Then you have to chill the sugar-rolled dough another hour. Baking takes only 15 minutes. Eating. Even less time. While the dough rests, put your feet up. Have a tea. Read a book. Some things can’t be rushed — as I have proven once again.

Perfect Elephant Ears
Prep / inactive time: 
Cook / active time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24 cokies
These crisp, caramelized pastries go by many names — elephant ears, palmiers, pig's ears, butterflies, palm leaves and even glasses. Regardless of what you call them, they are addictive. Layers of flakey puff pastry infused with sugar make these irresistible. Bet you can't eat just one.
  • 12 ounces prepared all-butter puff pastry (or ¼ batch of Malgieri's Instant Puff Pastry)
  • ¾ cup sugar for rolling the dough

  1. Line 2 jelly rolls with parchment or foil.
  2. Sprinkle the dough and work surface with about half the sugar and press the dough to soften it, turning it 90 degrees and continuing to press until the dough is soft enough to roll. Keeping the work surface covered with sugar, rolled the dough into an 8 x 12-inch (20 x 30 cm) rectangle.
  3. Trim the edges of the dough to be even, if necessary. Fold in each of the 12-inch (30-cm) sides of the dough a little less than halfway toward the middle, a little more than 1½ (1-cm) inches.
  4. Repeat folding each edge in toward the middle–there should now be about a ½-inch gap between the 2 folded pieces of dough. Fold over along the gap to make a long, narrow rectangle closed on one of the long sides like the spine of the book and opened on the other. Do not stretch the dough in the gap, which will cause the ears to open while they are baking.
  5. Used the palm of your hand to slightly flatten the formed piece of dough. Cut it in half, wrap each half in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Scrape any sugar remaining on the work surface into a bowl to use after the ears are cut.
  6. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375°F (190°C).
  7. Remove one of the pieces of dough from the refrigerator and place it on a cutting board. Use a sharp, thin-bladed knife to cut the ears crosswise into ½-inch (1 cm) thick slices. Dip the cut sides in the reserved sugar and place them cut side down on the prepared pan. If you want to take all of the elephant ears on the same day, cut the 2nd piece of dough and arrange it on another pan, but bake only one pan at a time.
  8. Bake the elephant ears until they have expanded and puffed and the sugar has caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove individual elephant ears as they are finished, as some many burn before others are baked through. Cool the elephant ears on a rack–the "public side" is the one that his baked against the pan.
From The Modern Baker: Time-Saving Techniques for Breads, Tarts, Pies, Cakes and Cookies by Nick Malgieri. Published by DK Publishing 2011

These are always best on the day they are baked, but you can refrigerate or freeze the formed length of dough–some of the sugar will melt, but I have never noticed this is made any difference in the baked pastries. Please resist the temptation to add cinnamon, cocoa, or anything else to the sugar pay. It would ruin the delicacy of the buttery caramel.

Storage: Store leftovers between sheets of waxed paper in a tin or plastic container with a tight fitting lid.

Review in Brief

The Modern Baker by Nick MalgieriTarget Audience:
This book will appeal to bakers of all levels —even beginners. The detailed instructions give lots of guidance, while the sections dedicated to ingredients, equipment and techniques are long enough to deliver essential information but brief enough to get you into the kitchen without much delay. Recipes range from simple picnic-perfect quick breads to delicate pastries you could serve the Queen — should you be lucky enough to have her visit, which I haven’t been (yet). Maybe now that I can make palmiers, she’ll reconsider.

Must Try Recipes: Oh, were do I begin?

  • Lemon and Almond Tuiles: These delicate buttery cookies may be named after the curved clay roofing tiles you see all over in Southern Europe, but they are far from common and far more appetizing.
  • Chocolate Orange Hazelnut Tart: If you need a reason to try this recipe, the book is not for you. For those on a diet, the phrases “ganache” and “hint of rum”  are bound to weaken your will power.
  • Shrimp & Toasted Pumpkin Seed Tart: Malgieri includes an entire section devoted to savouries. This Mexican-inspired tart has a bit of spice and an entire cup of cilantro — my favourite herb.

Biggest delight: Malgieri manages to make even complex pastries easy. While most of these baked goods are created in stages, often with long waiting periods, his streamlined techniques can be adapted to suit a busy schedule, which is good news to frustrated bakers. For instance, The Instant Puff Pastry for the elephant ears can be made in minutes, with only one round of rolling. Make it one day, bake it the next. Thanks to the modern take on old techniques, even croissants aren’t out of the question. All you have to do is plan ahead.

* Since I was forced to reformat everything on the site, I decided to resize the thumbnails (the tiny images you see on previous entries and search results.) My thumbnails used to be square. Do you like the rectangular version? If you have strong feelings either way, let me know. It’s a 2-second fix.

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No Comments
  • cheryl
    Posted at 23:38h, 05 March Reply

    I absolutely LOVE palmiers, perhaps because they’re such a rare indulgence. My friend Denise, who lives in Victoria and was trained at Le Cordon Bleu, makes them from scratch, and I swear I would hop a plane AND a ferry AND go through customs to get my hands on a batch. You Canadians know how to make me come running.

    Brava for knocking these off your bucket list in such spectacular fashion, Charmian. They look really, really good.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 08:02h, 06 March Reply

      I’m just a plane trip away, Cheryl. No ferry needed to get to me. However, the scenery here isn’t as lovely as in Victoria. But then again, few places in the world are a pretty.

      Gotta say, theses weren’t hard to make from scratch. I just had to factor in the resting time. If you come to the Toronto area I’ll make sure we have some on hand for you.

  • torviewtoronto
    Posted at 23:51h, 07 March Reply

    this looks wonderful delicious to snack on lovely post

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:47h, 08 March Reply

      Thanks. I can’t snack on these as I can’t stop myself once I start! They’re for special occasions when company will help me eat them!

  • Babette
    Posted at 15:24h, 10 March Reply

    this is a perfect dessert for me–I don’t go for gooey, but I adore any combo of butter/flour/sugar (preferably butter and sugar held together by the merest bit of flour…can anyone say brown butter shortbreads? Oh, I can. I can.)

    I think this have to go on my list, too.


    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:06h, 13 March Reply

      Browned butter shortbreads? There is such a thing? Oh man! I gotta try these.

      These are really simple and addicting. Turns out my father loves them, so I am going to keep some in the freezer all rolled up and ready to slice. Our cholesterol levels are doomed.

  • Julie
    Posted at 21:28h, 11 March Reply

    LOVE these! they were always my dad’s favourite. Just tried to post it on pinterest (and did), but spellcheck wouldn’t let me say palmiers – had to go with elephant ears! Good thing both apply…

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:08h, 13 March Reply

      Thanks so much for pinning this!! Elephant ears works well, too. These go by so many names it’s impossible to tag them with just one word.

      Funny how dads seem to go for this treat. Mine would have his with tea.

  • Lisa @ Snappy Gourmet
    Posted at 17:16h, 03 April Reply

    I love Nick Malgieri! These look great!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:55h, 05 April Reply

      They are wonderful. And much easier to make than I thought. I just have to be patient, which isn’t my strong point. Hope you enjoy the elephant ears.

  • lynda
    Posted at 13:27h, 13 May Reply

    Oh so thats the secret of the “Little hearts” that they sell here in India!! I always wondered how they made it. Thanks alot for the share!! Will surely try it out and let you know.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 18:44h, 14 May Reply

      Funny how variations of a recipe show up in different cultures. I had no idea there was an Indian version of these. Please keep me posted on your “Little Hearts”.

  • Kevin
    Posted at 20:38h, 18 December Reply

    Hello from the green shores of Ireland. Chief Gordon Ramsay (He has been awarded 13 Michelin stars in total and currently holds 12) turned me onto palmiers with a seasonable recipe for sweet mince palmiers. but for some reason or other I just couldn’t hack it. I followed what Ramsay said thought I’d done everything correctly and my palamiers kept collapsing on me

    It was only after reading your post that I got a real clear description of how to assemble the palmier for baking. My major fault was I was making mine to big, mine were more 3/4inch to 1 inch whereas I now know the ideal size seems to be between 1/4 and 1/2 inch.

    But your post added one additional point that other palmier posts left out, or didn’t make clear, and that was ½-inch gap between the 2 folded pieces of dough

    I’ll not be baking any palmiers tonight but I’m Christmas visiting tomorrow night and I’ll have a go at following your recipe.

    Happy Christmas all
    Armagh City

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 21:26h, 18 December Reply

      Greetings from Canada! Fun how we both love a French pastry. Credit for the gap trick goes to Nick Malgieri. I’ve made these several times and they’ve never failed me. I once tried doing them as pinwheels and they didn’t work as well. I think the air couldn’t get to the centre to bake them evenly.

      You’re right about the sizing of my version. These are two-bite palmiers. However, when I was in France, I had ones that were the size of my hand. I have never attempted any that large since I think they would fail in my oven. I suspect the secret for the homecook is to keep them small.

      I hope the palmiers turn out as you plan. I’d love to hear how the baking went and what others thought of the results. I’m a bit concerned that the flour and butter are different here in Canada, but if you use Gordon Ramsay’s recipe and these folding/cutting instructions, they should turn out just fine.

      Happy Christmas to you, too, Kevin! Enjoy your baking!

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