What is puff pastry? Wikipedia starts by defining it as a light, flaky, unleavened pastry containing several layers of fat. Fat, in this case, is the butter. The rolling of butter into the dough creates a flakiness during baking as the water in the butter evaporates.
Puff pastry has a mysticism around it -- it seems like something people would much rather purchase ready-made than attempt for themselves. Well, Puff shows several techniques for making it yourself, as well as how to best choose and handle ready-made puff pastry. With my first puff-pastry experience, I decided to buy the dough (I'll let you know and tell you all about it when I make my first homemade batch). Holmberg recommends a puff pastry dough made with real butter (which seems like a no-brainer, but many are made with things other than butter, like shortening). Ready-made puff pastry is found in the freezer section of the grocery store. Whole Foods and Trader Joe's both have real-butter varieties, which makes a big difference. Butter is better.
I've been making a lot of ice cream and sorbet and I wanted a cookie to go with these frozen treats. Langes de boeuf are quite possibly the best ice cream-pairing cookie I've had. They are also especially good with coffee and espresso. Langes de boeuf, which means 'cow tongue' in French (an unfortunate name for a fabulous cookie) are relatives of the palmier, or an elephant ear cookie, but rolled thin with extra sugar, which caramelizes as the cookies bake. Each bite is a lovely, delicate, crisp, caramel-y, buttery delight. But they are so thin that they are not overwhelming or dominant. See one paired here with The Most-Perfect Blackberry Ice Cream:
Langes de boeuf cookies
adapted from the caramel-laquered wafer recipe in Puff.
1 cup powdered sugar, plus more as needed for dusting
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (9 - 10 ounces)
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1. Sprinkle a clean counter top with powdered sugar. Lay out your puff pastry and dust with more powdered sugar. Roll the puff pastry out, turning and dusting with more powdered sugar frequently. Roll and dust with powdered sugar until the dough measures about 11 inches by 14 inches in size. The dough will start to get sticky as you do this -- keep adding more sugar and coat the rolling pin to help keep things moving.
2. Mix the granulated sugar and salt together. Sprinkle this evenly over the top of the puff pastry.
3. It is time to fold the dough: Fold each short side in so the sides meet in the center, then repeat so that the sides meet again in the center. Lastly, fold one side over on top of the other, like you are closing a book. Don't be surprised if the dough has become moist and sticky: the sugar is pulling the moisture out of the dough. This is what it looks like after your last fold:
4. Wrap the folded dough in plastic wrap and chill for about a half-hour.
5. Heat oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Dust your work area with powdered sugar again. Cut the chilled dough into 1/4" slices (you can freeze some dough to make more cookies at a later point, if you wish):
7. Roll each slice very flat and thin (see photo, below), adding more powdered sugar and turning frequently to keep it from sticking to the counter or rolling pin -- and to add as much sugar as possible to the dough to achieve the caramel-y texture from baking. Unless you are a perfectionist, it's ok if the cookies are different shapes or lopsided. You can adjust slightly for evenness before rolling by opening the folds or pressing with your hand lightly before using the rolling pins.
8. Lay onto the parchment-lined baking sheets, an inch or so apart (they won't expand, but the sugars may spread). Bake for 4- 6 minutes, until browned. Cool on a rack. Enjoy warm or cool, with ice cream or coffee or all by themselves. These are best fresh, but can be stored, sealed for a couple days. They start to lose their crispness after that.
Enjoy! Bon Appetit!