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by Heather Harris Brady

Okay, here we go with finishing these babies up! Brace yourself, this post is going to be a long one. There are a few things to think about in advance – 1) what type of filling you want and 2) if/how you want to cover the outside of each one.

Filling – I’m using two layers, one lemon curd and one apricot preserves plus some Italian buttercream, because I love it. You can use any type of thick jam or jelly. The thicker the better, because that’s what’s going to glue your layers together when it comes to the outside coating. If you’re going to skip the outside coating (by far the easiest thing!) you can use either jam or buttercream between your layers.

Coating – I tried several different poured fondant recipes and couldn’t find one that was successful enough to share. By that then I was running short on time so I defaulted to chocolate couverture. If I had more time I would have made a batch of ganache for the coating.

If you decide not to use buttercream you can skip the following recipe and go straight to the assembly section below. If you haven’t had true Italian buttercream all I can say is it’s the most luxurious, smooth, rich frosting imaginable. There are lots of recipes out there, but they are all basically the same. Dede Wilson’s from her Wedding Cake Book has always been my go-to. While it’s possible to do this in a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, a stand mixer really makes it easy.

Italian Meringue Buttercream, Makes enough to generously frost one 8″ double-layer cake or 24 cupcakes

  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 16 pieces
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 t. cider vinegar
  • 2 t. high-quality vanilla
  • 1 t. almond extract

Put the egg whites in the mixing bowl and beat to soft peaks. Beat in the 1/3 c. sugar a tablespoon at a time, and whip to stiff peaks. Set aside while you make the syrup.

Combine the water, vinegar and granulated sugar in a heavy saucepan. Stir gently to dissolve the sugar and cook over medium heat to the soft-ball stage, about 235 on a candy thermometer.

When it starts to look syrupy and the bubbles struggle a bit to get to the surface you’re almost there.

When you hit the temperature turn your mixer on high and drizzle the hot syrup directly into the beaten egg whites. You have to be quick and decisive about this. This egg whites will foam up as you beat them together.

Beat until the sides of the bowl are close to room temperature. Then start to add the butter, a few pieces at a time.

It will make your egg whites turn a little soupy but that’s okay! Keep going. When you get all the butter in it will magically come together. (You’re making an emulsion, like mayonnaise.) When it comes together, beat in your flavorings.

Set the buttercream aside until you’re ready to use it.


ASSEMBLY

8 oz. marzipan

Get out your almond cake from the previous recipe.

Decide how many layers you want, and plan your cutting. I’m doing four layers – with lemon curd, buttercream, and apricot in between. (This was a little tall, you might want to stop at three cake layers.) I cut it in half, and then in half again.

I stacked these to create two cake “sandwiches”, one with lemon curd in the middle and one with apricot in the middle. I spread buttercream on top of one, stacked the other on top, and covered the whole thing in buttercream. Put it in the refrigerator to set the icing. (If you’re making petit fours with uncovered sides leave them uniced.)

Divide your marzipan in half and roll it to fit the top of your cake.

Trim it to fit. Turn the cake over and do the same for the bottom. Chill again, as long as you can spare. I also weighted my cake, to make sure the layers would stick together. When you’re ready to finish them get a sharp knife and cut your brick of cake into your desired sizes and shapes.

Keep your knife clean and dip it in hot water for clean cuts.

To finish with couverture melt your chocolate until smooth. Dip the bottom of each cake first and let it set up.

Then grasp each one by the bottom, and dip the uncovered portion. Work fast – especially if you have buttercream between the layers!

I made some little rolled roses with extra marzipan and put one on each cake. The good news is, after all that work, the little cakes are pretty much indestructible once coated in chocolate. Store them in the refrigerator and take them out a few hours before serving. Freeze for longer storage.

Having to resort to chocolate, while delicious, was not the smooth fondant covering I had pictured. I will keep trying to come up with a good reliable poured fondant recipe!

by Heather Harris Brady

Since we’re heading into a big party time of year with graduations and weddings, I thought I’d post something special. These petit fours are big on WOW factor. These tiny cakes are not a recipe to try when you’re feeling rushed, however! Pick a time when you’re feeling extra zen.

We’ll do the cake first, then cover filling and frosting in the next post. You can do this cake ahead of time, freeze it, then finish things up at a later date if that works better for you. This recipe is from Paula Peck’s Art of Fine Baking, and it makes a lovely fine-grained cake that is perfect for stacking. Seasoned bakers will recognize this method as being the same as a classic genoise.

Almond Butter Sponge, Makes one half-sheet

  • ¾ c. sifted flour
  • ¼ c. butter, melted and clarified
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ½ t. vanilla
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 1 t. grated lemon rind
  • ¼ c. almond paste

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease half-sheet pan and line it with parchment.

Combine the whole eggs, one egg yolk, sugar, vanilla and lemon rind in the top of a double boiler. Warm gently and carefully to lukewarm.

In a separate bowl cream the almond paste with the remaining egg yolk. I found it easiest to smear the paste out with a spoon and then cream them together. Set this aside.

When the egg mixture feels warm, start to beat it with a hand mixer. Beat at high speed for about five minutes. It will triple in bulk and look like whipped cream.

Pour the almond paste mixture over the top and sprinkle with the flour.

Fold them in, drizzling the butter as you go. Don’t overmix, just fold until there aren’t any streaks of flour.

Spread the batter evenly in the pan without pressing it too much.

Bake about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the cake from the pan and cool on a rack.


Four years ago: Hot Fudge Sauce
Three years ago: Wild Mushrooms Florentine
Two years ago: Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
One year ago: Mexican Sweet Bread (Conchas)


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