Indulge in these sweet, buttery, crispy elephant ear cookies with a hint of citrusy zest. Just 4 ingredients – store-bought puff pastry, sugar and fresh lemon and orange zest – ready in about 30 minutes.
This is one of those easier-than-you-think recipes, perfect for a sweet tooth craving or an addition to a special-occasion dessert tray. I like to make these elegant cookies for Valentine’s Day since they look like little hearts.
First, let’s get the names of these classic French cookies out of the way. There are many – French palmier cookies, palm leaf cookies, French hearts, pig’s ears, elephant ears and elephant ear pastries.
Some elephant ears are deep fried. These are not. Instead, the puff pastry is rolled out with sugar and zest, folded several times, cut, then baked in the oven until golden brown, caramelized and flaky.
There are lots of recipes on the internet and they’re all pretty much the same with some minor tweaks. So why make this recipe?
- We add a delicious flavor twist to the cookie recipe with citrus zest.
- The recipe has clear step by step instructions and tips for success.
- And, as always, we have a few variations to make the recipe your own.
Ingredients – tailored to your taste
Puff pastry: Make sure you are buying puff pastry dough – it is not the same thing as phyllo dough. Try to get a box with two pre-rolled sheets (you will only need one sheet for this recipe). It’s fine if you can’t – you’ll just have to roll out the dough yourself. If possible, buy a kind that says ‘made with butter’ or ‘ butter puff pastry ‘ for a richer taste.
Variations to consider
- Omit the citrus zest or use all lemon zest or all orange zest
- Add a 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon to the sugar mixture (with or without the zest)
- Add some cardamon spice or nutmeg to the sugar mixture
Step by step instructions
The pictures show how to fold the dough and cut it. Detailed recipe instructions are in the recipe card below.
Work with cold dough. It’s much easier to work with. Don’t let it sit on the counter for too long. If the dough sticks, sprinkle a little flour on the work surface.
Create a caramelized finish: I sprinkle some leftover citrus sugar on the Elephant Ears pastries before I baked them, adding a nice caramelized finish.
Don’t overbake: The elephant ears cookies you see in the pictures are slightly over baked (distracted by a phone call!) They should be a lighter golden brown. Overbaking will make them too hard and crunchy. The timing will depend on how thick you slice the dough, so just watch carefully in the last few minutes.
Don’t burn your fingers: The caramelized sugar will be extremely hot right out of the oven.
Puff pastry is a light and flaky pastry make from butter, salt, water and flour. It alternates layers of butter and dough (which is why it tastes so good). Several brands use butter alternatives. If you can, find one that says ‘made with butter’ for a richer taste. Find puff pastry in the frozen section in grocery stores.
Puff pastry will take about 30-50 minutes to defrost on the counter but don’t let it sit there too long. Working with cold dough is much easier so it’s best to thaw puff pastry overnight in the fridge if you can.
Making a recipe for homemade puff pastry is labor-intensive and time-consuming. I always go for store-bought because it works so well.
Buy puff pastry that is pre-rolled into two sheets if you can – you will only have to stretch the dough to make it a little bigger. You will only need one sheet for the recipe. Store the other sheet in plastic wrap in the freezer.
Make these ahead and store them at room temperature for up to 3 days in an airtight container. They also freeze well.
Other puff pastry dessert recipes
- puff pastry tart with apples (30 minutes)
- easy peach tarte tatin (for beginners)
- mini cinnamon puff pastry rolls
If you like this recipe, please leave a 5 star rating 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟in the recipe card below. And if you REALLY like it, consider a review in the comments. Thanks very much!
Elephant Ear Cookies (Palmiers) with Zest
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- zest of 1 large lemon
- zest of 1 large orange
- pinch salt
- 1 sheet, frozen puff pastry, thawed about 7-8 ounces/200 grams
- HEAT OVEN to 425F/218C.
- PREPARE CITRUS SUGAR: Mix together sugar, lemon zest, orange zest and salt in a small bowl.
- ROLL DOUGH: If the dough is not pre-rolled into single pastry sheets, roll half of it (7-8 ounces) into a 13 x 13 inches (33x33cm) square and about 1/8 inch (3mm) thick. The pre-rolled sheets will just need to be stretched or rolled a bit larger.Spread half of the sugar mixture on a cutting board or flat surface lined with parchment paper. Lay the rolled dough flat over the sugar. Sprinkle the other half of the sugar mixture on top of the dough. Use rolling pin to press or embed the sugar into the dough. It's ok to have sugar left on the sides. You will use it to add a final sprinkle to the cut up dough.
- FOLD AND CUT DOUGH: 1. Fold one side of dough to the middle. Fold the opposite side of dough to the middle. 2. Fold the first side again to the middle, doubling it. Then the opposite side. 3. Now fold one double-folded side on top of the other. You now have one roll with 6 layers of dough. 4. Using a sharp knife, slice the roll every 1/3 -1/2 inch (9-13mm), ending up with about 25 slices. Place on two parchment-lined pans, cut side facing up and 2 inches (5cm) apart (they will spread). For heart shapes, fan out the tops of the "ears". 5. Press down slightly on each palmier with the palm of your hand do the pastries stay intact when baked. Add a small sprinkle of leftover citrus sugar on each palmier if you want some extra caramelization.
- BAKE: Bake the cookies for 9 minutes, flip over, then bake another 5-6 minutes or until golden brown. Be careful not to touch the hot sugar. The timing will depend on how thick you cut the dough slices. Don't let them get too dark or they will be too hard/crunchy. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely before serving.
- Puff pastry comes frozen in a block or two pre-rolled single sheets, each 10 x 10 inch square (25 x 25 cm) about 1/8 inch (3mm) thick. Make sure you are buying puff pastry dough – it is not the same thing as phyllo dough. Try to get a box with two pre-rolled sheets (you will only need one sheet for this recipe). It’s fine if you can’t – you’ll just have to roll out the dough yourself. If possible, buy a kind that says ‘made with butter’ or ‘ butter puff pastry ‘ for a richer taste.
- Recipe variations to try
- omit the citrus zest or use all lemon zest or all orange zest
- add a 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to the sugar mixture (with or without the zest)
- add some cardamon spice or nutmeg to the sugar mixture.
- Make Ahead: Store in an airtight container for 2-3 days at room temperature. Or freeze for 2 months. Crisp up the elephant ear cookies in a medium hot oven for a few minutes if you like.