Gaze into the window of a boulangerie in the north of France and there’s a chance that you’ll spot some palets de dames. Gaze into a number of boulangerie windows, though, and you might notice that the palets look very different. They’re a pleasing little treat that’s somewhere between a cake and a biscuit but sometimes they have a smooth covering of fondant icing, sometimes no icing at all and sometimes they contain currants or candied peel. Well, my version has a coating of apricot jam and a thin, lemony icing. I don’t really know if that’s authentic but it’s a recreation of the first palets that I ever came across while wandering around the Baie de Somme.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Baie de Somme, then I’d describe it as an area of spectacularly large and rapid tides, seabirds, seals, fine seafood, salicorne (samphire), salt marsh lamb and some excellent baking among many other things. Happily for me, it’s also not all that far from the south of England.
Incidentally, they’re called palets de dames because ‘jeu de dames’ is French for the game of draughts (or checkers, if you’re not British). I've only ever seen white icing being used, though, so it might be a one-sided game.
For the palets:
130 g unsalted butter, softened
130 g icing sugar, sifted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
150 g plain flour, sifted
75 g ground almonds
For the icing:
225 g icing sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 or 5 tbsp water
Preheat the oven to 170°C. Beat the butter briefly, then add the icing sugar and continue beating until light in colour and very smooth. Gradually add the eggs while continuing to beat the mixture. Stir in the flour, followed by the ground almonds. The flour and ground almonds need to be thoroughly combined, but don’t overwork the mixture at this stage.
Line a couple of oven trays with baking parchment or silicone sheets. If you want a regular and nicely rounded finish on the palets then you could pipe the mixture onto the baking trays in neat circles. That’s what a true patissière would do, I'm sure. On the other hand, if you don’t mind a touch of irregularity, then simply spoon small piles of the mixture onto the lined trays and flatten them a little with the back of the spoon. The amount here will make around 16 decent sized palets but you could make them smaller if you wished. Space the palets out to allow them to spread while baking.
Bake in the preheated oven for around 10 minutes. The palets should feel fairly springy to the touch, should have a light golden colour around the edge but should remain pale in the centre. Cool on a wire rack.
Once cool, spread the tops with some apricot jam. This will be easier if the jam is warmed a little first, but allow the jam to cool before adding the icing. Prepare the icing by mixing together the icing sugar, the lemon juice and enough water to produce a fairly thin but not too watery icing. Spread the icing over the palets, being careful to avoid disturbing the apricot jam layer too much. Allow the icing to set before enjoying with your favourite beverage. Store in an airtight container.
Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked and this month's challenge, hosted by Lavender and Lovage, is for French treats. So that's completely within my comfort zone and I can't resist entering this little effort.