The Institute of Culinary Education is one of the largest culinary schools in the world, offering both professional and recreational programs in New York City. Here, Chef Jenny McCoy of their School of Pastry & Baking Arts gives PEOPLE her recipe for Pink Palmiers.
This Valentine’s Day, you can do better than chocolate-dipped strawberries. Impress your sweetheart with a foolproof recipe for romance: a heart-shaped pastry that’s easier to make than it looks. At the Institute of Culinary Education, we’ve reinvented the palmier—or “elephant ear”—with homemade pink sugar for an extra D.I.Y. twist.
Makes about 18 cookies
1 cup sugar
Red food coloring
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1. Place one cup of sugar in a bowl and add a few drops of food coloring. Wearing gloves, rub the food coloring into the sugar using your hands. Continue to add food coloring until you have reached the desired intensity of color.
2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place puff pastry on cutting board horizontally.
3. Brush the entire surface with a thin layer of egg white. Sprinkle with an even layer of sugar. Fold the left and the right sides of the dough inwards so they meet in the center. Press the dough lightly to adhere the two layers together. Repeat this process.
4. Brush the surface of the dough with egg white again, and sprinkle with sugar. Fold the left column of pastry dough onto the right, like a book. Brush the entire outside surface of the folded dough with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.
5. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into ¼-inch slices. Lay the slices on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving 2- to 3-inches of space in between each cookie. Pinch the bottom and gently spread the top portions of the cookie to create a heart shape. Cover with parchment paper and another baking sheet to ensure the cookies stay flat while baking.
6. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cookies are light golden brown. Remove the top baking sheet and parchment paper and cool until just warm, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to completely cool.
Pro Tips for total success:
1. Be sure to buy all-butter frozen puff pastry. It may be a bit more expensive, but it’s well worth the flavor and light, flaky texture.
2. Frozen puff pastry thaws quickly, so remove it from the freezer about 10 minutes before you are ready to assemble the cookies. Folding it while still cold makes it easier to handle.
3. Brushing egg white over your dough ensures the sugar stays in place during folding.
4. Spice things up by adding ground cinnamon or a vanilla bean to your pink sugar.
5. Transfer your cookies to a cooling rack while they are still a bit warm. If you let them cool entirely, the caramelized sugar will cause the cookies to stick to the paper.
6. This is a great make-ahead cookie recipe. Simply assemble the cookies, slice, shape and freeze. They can go directly from the freezer into the oven when you are ready to bake.