Sugar and Spice...

I'm not sure what it is about Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats To Bake And Share this year, but it seems to be holding some sort of strange power over my imagination. I've already baked two new recipes from it in the last few weeks, and yet despite the pile of other cookie recipe books sitting on my counter at the moment, I can't stop turning to Martha for inspiration. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it is the holidays, a time that invites ever more spectacular feats of baking with which to impress your friends and family. Nothing says over-the-top and fussy like Martha Stewart.

This time, it was a recipe for Gingersnap Palmiers that caught my fancy. The concept of the recipe seemed deceptively simple: dust puff pastry with a layer of sugar and spices, roll up, bake, and glaze. I was so excited by this impressive, yet seemingly easy dessert that I bought the ingredients and set my mind on serving them at my cookie exchange. It wasn't until I was ready to make the cookies that I carefully read the instructions and discovered the mess that I had gotten myself into. The recipe was rife with annoying sessions of freezing, thawing, and re-freezing the dough. The instructions themselves seemed poorly conceptualized, with steps that were virtually impossible given their sequencing. I ended up improvising several techniques to cope with the failed directions, but my results weren't everything I imagined they would be.

Instead of crisp and buttery like a typical palmier, these were seriously soft and sticky (a result of all the molasses in the glaze). During the baking process, they came mostly uncoiled, a condition which I had to try to rectify when the palmiers were fresh out of the oven, and still very warm. I had added a great deal of additional spices to Martha's suggestions, which made for a spicy, complex flavor that was quite enjoyable, but
given all the hassle of preparation, I didn't find them to be worth the effort. Sometimes, my reach exceeds my grasp, even with Martha Stewart on my side.

Gingersnap Palmiers
adapted from Martha Stewart

1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1/4 c. unsulfured molasses
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
1/4 c. water
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamon
1 package puff pastry, thawed

1. Bring brown sugar, molasses, ginger, and water to a simmer in a saucepan, whisking until sugar has dissolved. Simmer until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour syrup into a bowl; let cool.
2. Whisk granulated sugar, salt and spices in a bowl. Lightly sprinkle some sugar mixture over a clean work surface; place puff pastry on top. Brush generously with syrup. Sprinkle generously with some sugar mixture; press into pastry with a rolling pin. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll from both long sides, meeting in the center; brush with syrup to seal. Sprinkle generously with sugar mixture. Wrap in plastic; freeze until firm, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
3. Cut each piece of frozen dough crosswise into 1/2 inch slices, seam side down. Dip in sugar mixture. Space 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Flatten with your palm. Freeze 30 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 425. Bake 10 minutes. Flip, and brush with syrup. Reduce oven temperature to 400. Bake until darkened, 10 minutes more. Let cool completely on wire racks.

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