Skip to main content

Julie Elias's Palets de Dames

A Delicate Treat for the Stylish Lady's Tea

Julie Elias's Das neue Kochbuch was written as a "guidebook through fine cuisine" for the modern, fasionable woman. Her recipes are designed more for entertaining and not everyday eating like the recipes from Rebekka Wolf and Bertha Gumprich. She attempted to introduce to her readers recipes they may have been unfamiliar with, like lobster soufflé and lobster cutlets. She has many recipes that are specifically for hosting soirées like her Bischof Bourguignon, a type of mulled wine cocktail that has the smokey flavor of burned cinnamon and cloves.

The Palets de Dame recipe by Julie Elias
Julie Elias's recipe for Palets de Dames, a traditional tea cookie from the northern France region near Belgium. Das neue Kochbuch. Berlin : Ullstein, c1925. LBI Library, TX 721 E6 N4

Noteworthy are her recipes for delicate cookies and cakes, like Hamburgerschnitten (chocolate and marmalade bar cookies) and madeleines, which seem like the ideal treat for an afternoon gathering of society ladies.

I decided to try her Palets de Dames, a traditional cookie from the northern region of France near the border of Belgium. The name Palets de Dames translates to "ladies' pucks" and they look like the tops of ladies' parasols. In France they often have marmalade and icing on top, but they are sometimes baked with rum and currants, like this recipe from Elias. The French name and dainty look of these cookies make them perfect for an afternoon tea party.

Here is Julie Elias's recipe for Palets de Dames:

"One lets 125 grams of butter melt on the stove and mix bit by bit 124 grams of powdered sugar, two eggs, 150 grams of flour, 80 grams of Corinthians and a liquor glass of rum, most suitably with a whisk. Put small mounds on a buttered sheet and place in a warm oven."
Palets de Dames ready to eat
Palets de Dames, "ladies' pucks", look like the tops of ladies' parasols. Traditionally, they have icing and marmalade on top, or they are made with rum and currents. Private Photo.

In her introduction, Elias encouraged cooks to master techniques as a way to bring out the flavor of dishes while still using simple ingredients. Even baking required honing some skills:

"Baking requires the greatest attention. The work usually succeeds not immediately by the first attempt. Baking is practice. If the product is failure, then one must research the result."

With this heartening motivation, I set out baking my Palets de Dames as "research." I started with the butter, which I softened at room temperature instead of warming on the stove. After creaming the butter, I added sugar and eggs, but I overlooked Julie Elias's directions to add them slowly, one at a time. Fortunately Elias wrote that baking takes practice!

Palets de Dame in preparation
Julie Elias recommends creaming the butter and adding the ingredients one and a time, bit by bit. Private Photo.

Instead of a whisk, as Elias suggested, I chose use an electric mixer, a tool most home cooks may not have had in the 1920s. In her introduction, Elias stressed the knowledge and skills a baker needs to learn, like familiarizing herself with her oven, beating egg whites in a cool location, and mixing the batter well:

"... the more [the batter] is stirred and the longer the dough is worked, the finer and lighter the it will be."

After using the electronic mixer to thoroughly mix the batter, I had a fine and light batter, as recommended by Elias.

The batter for the Palets de Dames
The batter for the Palets de Dames was fine and light. Private Photo.

Working quickly, I spooned them out in small and sticky lumps on parchment (instead of the buttered sheet). After consulting with my three-year-old assistant, I chose to substitute rainbow sprinkles for the Corinthian currents.

Palet de Dame batter
The smooth and sticky batter spooned out on a sheet and ready to bake. These mounds of batter were a little too close to each other and ran into each other in the oven. Private Photo.

For most sophisticated ladies, sprinkles may have made these cookies unsuitable for an afternoon tea with cultured society. But I would note here that Elias seemed to encourage improvisation: "Auch improvisieren können ist die Sache des guten cordon bleu!" ("To improvise the thing of a good cordon bleu!")

Palet de Dame with sprinkles instead of raisins
Instead of rum and currants, my 3-year-old assistant and I chose to add sprinkles. I let my assistant do the hard work! "Auch improvisieren können ist die Sache des guten cordon bleu!" (To improvise is the thing of the good cordon bleu!") Private Photo.

The mounds of first batch I baked ran into each other in the oven. The resulting cookies were stuck together and not dainty round pucks. Having studied the outcome of the first batch, I placed the mounds further apart in the second batch. The resulting "palets" were round and lightly brown, like golden pucks. A success!

Palet de Dame hot from the oven
"Backen ist Übung!" ("Baking is practice!") Our second batch of Palets de Dames came out looking more elegant than the first. Private Photo.