Petit four is the name given to a miniature cake, which can be made in a rich variation of flavors and creative decorations. Petit fours are considered very simple to make desserts and are regarded elegant little delicacies perfect to be served in buffets and parties. Petit fours recipes can be broadly classified into two categories – Petit fours glacés (iced version) and petit fours secs (dry version). The dry version of these delicious desserts includes baked meringues, puff pastries, dainty biscuits and macaroons. The glacés variety on the other hand, includes decorated petit four pastries that are usually iced, such as, tiny fondant cakes, glace iced pastries, tartlets and small éclairs. In a typically French patisserie, petit four is the name mostly used for referring to buttery, hard biscuits while the assorted small pastries are called mignardises. Petits fours salés are yet another variety of these small delicacies which are savory or salty in taste. However, these bite sized savories are usually relished as appetizers instead of desserts like the rest of the petit fours recipes and are best enjoyed in buffets and cocktail parties. In French, the name “petit four” means “small oven.”
History of Petit Four
Petit four recipes were inspired by a fancy cookie “careme” during the 18th century, and the name petit four was later introduced, inspired by the small brick ovens, in which these cakes used were baked at a very low temperature.
Ingredients Used and Popular Methods of Preparation of Petit Fours Recipes
The traditional petit fours recipes require ingredients which include milk, eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder and butter.. This batter created is spread on the jelly roll pan and baked until completely done. Once the petit four is completely baked, it is cut into rectangles, triangles or squares.
The pound cake petit fours recipes are also quite popular, where a pound cake is laid on its side and cut lengthwise into four strips, which could be in the shape of rectangles, squares or triangles. Now, a petit four frosting is prepared with sugar, cream of tartar, water, food essence and food coloring. The frosting is made by boiling all the ingredients together to a syrupy consistency in a saucepan, which is cooled and to it, confectioner’s sugar is added slowly while sifting over it and continuous stirring of the mixture. When the icing becomes enough thick to coat a spoon, food coloring and essence is added as desired. After that, this frosting is poured over the petit four slices, allowing the icing to drip down the sides of these cakes.
One of the most popular of these cakes is the one that is made with frosting with ganache or rolled fondant. These delicious desserts can be decorated with coffee beans, sugared flowers, dragees, candied fruits or nuts. White or dark chocolate drizzled petit four desserts are quite common. Often these cakes come with a filling, which is created by slicing the cakes into halves and layering their bottom half with a teaspoon of jelly, lemon curd or jam, after which, the tops are placed back on these halves and the petit four cakes are frosted.
Serving and Eating Petit Four
Traditionally, petit four recipes are created and served during occasions. The petit four cakes come in infinite variety of flavors, decorations and shapes, which makes them a perfect entrée for tea parties, elegant luncheons and bridal showers. These delicacies are best enjoyed at the end of a several course meal or during a buffet meal, accompanied by a dessert cocktail or any such beverage which includes tea, coffee, dessert wine or liqueur. Some of the petit four varieties are also served with afternoon tea. Again, there are certain kinds of petit fours, which are best tasted in accompaniment of a frozen sweet dessert like ice cream or sorbet.
Popular Variations in Petit Fours Recipes
Petit four cakes can be made in different variations in the same or different cuisines. One of the most well known amongst them is this Austrian dessert called Punschkrapferl or Punschkrapfen, which bears a strong similarity to the petit four. This classical Austrian pastry is a rum soaked square cake which comes with a filling of cake crumbs, apricot jam and nougat chocolate. In Vienna, these Austrian pastries are somewhat smashed with a red exterior and brown interior. The French fancy, which is also called Fondant Fancy, is a British sponge cake which comes with icing and resembles the petit four cakes strongly. French fancies are cube shaped sponge cakes with a topping of hemispherical buttercream icing, while the entire petit four is covered with fondant and colorful drizzle icings, generally seen in chocolate, pink and lemon.
Health and Nutrition Facts of Petit Four
As is evident from the ingredients of petit fours recipes and their making, these desserts are very rich in fats and carbohydrates, which undoubtedly render them as foods with very high caloric index that can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of several cardiovascular diseases on regular consumption.