Palm Trees and Ivory Tusks
In French, the word “palmier” means palm tree. So in a game of word association, people might imagine sandy beaches and beautiful islands, piña coladas and sunshine. For me, it’s puff pastry and sugar. Instead of tropical birds, I’m seeing elephants. Elephant ears, to be more precise.
A flat pastry often seen in the windows of French pastry shops, the palmier is a popular treat for an afternoon snack, especially good when your sugar levels are low. The puff pastry is rolled from both sides into two concentric circles, hence its name from such a characteristic shape. You can find them packaged in miniature size too, in either specialty shops or supermarkets. Different flavors abound, even savory versions are found more and more these days, and across the world at that.
That said, for me, a palmier is just one thing. It’s the enormous, razor-thin, crispy, sugary delight in the window of la Bonbonnière de Buci, on rue de Buci in Paris’ 6th arrondissement. It’s unthinkable for me to pass through Paris without a quick stop at Ladurée (for a macaron or two, bien sur!), and just as rare that I don’t grab a palmier from rue de Buci. For such a small street, it certainly has an amazing amount of high quality food shops, one after another. Several terraces to sit outside and sip a café, a couple of panini stands (I’ve been going to the same guy since 1999!), Amorino’s gelato, an upscale florist, fish stand, and Taschen bookstore to name a few. Buci News is just off the street too, to fill up on magazines and fun little paper goods. I have walked this street an innumerable amount of times, and watched the price of my palmier go up over the past 10 years, and even the size of these elephant ears get a tad smaller. Those are but minor details. No sweet tooth will be left unsatisfied after this colossal treat – totally worth the 3 Euros.
The palmier is incredibly thin, and the layers of sugar on the top and the bottom make for a caramelized shell, with a light and fresh buttery pastry inside. The outer layers are nice and crisp, with a border of hardened sugar as a bonus, golden and shiny. Layer by layer, you arrive at the two small circles in the middle, still crunchy but a bit more chewy and moist. Unless of course, you go for the center right away, leaving the crispy sugary bits for the end.