A first love
Petit fours have been a love of mine since I first began my career in pastries. The classic iced petit four is what first caught my eye — composed of three thin almond cake layers, buttercream, jam and topped with marzipan. Cut into 1” squares, these bite-sized little treats are then glazed with fondant icing.
Classically adorned with piped buttercream rose buds — and for more elaborate decor, chocolate filigree piping graces the tops of each one with a dot of raspberry and mango glaze inside the delicate loops. Both are a classic look for weddings and baby showers. Always a favorite of mine any time of year.
A whole new world
It wasn’t until I started working with French Pastry Chefs Jacquy Pfeiffer & Sebastien Canonne, MOF back in 1998 that my eyes were opened to a whole new world of petit fours. I had no idea that there were so many different varieties and textures and styles. It was instant love at first sight … and bite!
The different classifications of petit fours:
- Petit Four Glacé (glazed)
- Petit Four Sec (dry/cookie)
- Petit Four Saleé (salted/hors d’oeuvres)
Petit Four Glacé
Includes the iced tea cakes I mentioned above. In addition, it also includes mini eclairs, layer cakes like opera cake and dacquoise layer cake, little tartlets like lemon meringue, fruit tarts or apricot baked in almond cream. And don’t forget about mousses and chiboust, curds and creams.
All of these little sweets are finished with a kind of glaze whether a clear glaze, fondant icing, buttercream, ganache or miroir. The varieties are endless which is what make them so desirable. Textures, colors, shapes, flavors are all important attributes of a petit four. When they are displayed in collections of these varieties, they look extraordinary on a buffet or on a tiered centerpiece.
Petit Four Sec
Are mini cookies that are equally eye pleasing as they are addictive. Crisp, thin, sandwiched, nutty, chocolatey, iced and even dried out meringues are all characteristics of a petit four sec. Currently the most popular are the French macarons.
Note the single “o” in the spelling of macaron. Double “oo”s are for the chewy coconut haystacks we call Coconut Macaroon. Also, a lovely petit four sec. But don’t get them confused with the French Macarons, which are made with meringue and almond flour.
Petit Four Salé
These I only know from my very early days as a culinary student at The Culinary Institute of America. Small bite-sized appetizers are the easiest ways to describe these fun little finger foods. They can be as eye-catching as the petit four glacé, but these little guys are usually not created by the pastry chef. These are almost always made in the main kitchen or in the garde manger kitchen.
Petit Fours Recipe
Almond (Paste) Genoise Sheets
Almond Paste 225 grams (approximately 1 Cup)
Unsalted Butter 120 gm (approximately ½ Cup)
Sugar 180 gm (approximately 1 Cup)
Egg Yolks 120 gm (approximately ½ Cup)
Eggs 600 gm (approximately 12 eggs)
Flour 375 gm (approximately 3 Cups)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Spray a cookie sheet (with sides) with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper
- Mix the almond paste and sugar in a Kitchen Aid fitted with a paddle. Mix together until it looks sandy.
- Slowly add the yolks & eggs.
- Whip on high speed until light and fluffy. Slightly heat the bowl with the torch while whipping, or remove from Kitchen Aid and whisk over a hot water bath until warmed.
- Melt the butter; temper some of the batter into the butter. Then gently fold this into the rest of the batter.
- Spread evenly onto the lined cookie sheet.
- Bake @ 350F. For 13 – 15 minutes. Check for doneness.
- Slide a knife around the edge of the pan.
- Flip the cake out of the pan and remove the parchment paper.
- Cut the cake in half longwise. Spread a thin layer of apricot or raspberry jam on one of the layers.
- Stack the cake together. Spread buttercream on the top and freeze until solid.
- Cut into 1” cubes.
- Dip the cake cubes into flat icing or melted chocolate. (Flat icing is made with whisking a tablespoon of milk into powdered sugar until it is a thick icing, but not too fluid. It’s best if flavored with a teaspoon of almond extract for this application.)
Decorate and enjoy!
Printable version of this recipe
Images courtesy of Pastry Chef Keli Marks
Classic petit four image courtesy of Pixabay.com
Pastry Chef Keli Marks is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY. She received a full year education at the French Pastry School in Chicago, IL in exchange for being the very first assistant to Jacquy Pfeiffer & Sebastien Canonne, MOF when they opened the school in 1996.
Keli has been on the Food Network on three separate occasions: Sugar Rush, Romance Novel Cake Challenge and The Holiday Baking Championships. In addition, she was on the Chicago chapter’s board for Les Dames d’Escoffier from 2009 – 2011 and was a guest pastry chef at the famed James Beard House in NYC in 2013.
As the pastry chef owner of Bakery 28, she incorporates local ingredients from farmers within the Carolinas and promises to only use natural ingredients.
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