Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Palets de Dames

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.
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.
Palets De Dames
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
     Apricot jam

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.

Tea Time Treats is a blogging challenge created by 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.

13 comments:

  1. This is a brilliant entry Phil and the little biscuits look delicious.
    We pass through this part of France to our little cottage several times a year and always mean to stop and explore. But we just want to get "there" as fast as possible and then on the way home we just want to whizz through and get the journey over with. One day, when we have more time, we will stop and look around and I will remember to look out for the little biscuits.

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    1. It might not be the obvious area to go to in France, but if you're keen on nature (especially birds) or moody walks along deserted beaches, then it's definitely worth a visit. And there's good local food to be had too, of course.

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  2. Lovely post. I have not noticed those in the boulangerie here, but then I try to keep my eyes averted from all the goodies on the side as I can see the scales tipping while I look at them :-) Take care Diane

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  3. what a fun little french fancy... I knew you'd love this challenge... I though it something to do with ladies bits but i'm suitably impressed by the game of draughts...

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  4. wow those cookies look so yummy!

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  5. Simple, elegant and delicious! And interesting to read the etymology too, thanks!

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  6. They look fabulous. I love the idea of spreading them thinly with apricot jam before spreading over the icing, what a great recipe.

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  7. These look great. Love them plain too.
    Have stayed in the Baie de Somme area a few times - lovely lamb and seafood, as you said.

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    1. It's not a particularly well known area but I agree that the lamb and seafood are lovely. And then there's the gâteau battu. But that's a story for another day, perhaps.

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  8. They look light and tangy Phil, lovely!

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  9. another lovely treat Phil, and your photos are so inviting - and I'd love to visit Bai de Somme!! : )

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  10. Ahhh, an obscure French bake - excellent. Your pictures and descriptions make me want to take the next boat over to France - I haven't visited in many a long year.

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  11. Ah, one of my favourite French bakes and anything that has almonds and lemon in it usually has my undivided attention! A wonderful entry for Tea Time Treats thanks Phil. Karen PS: Lovely photos too.

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