A few weeks ago, I became completely enamoured with the idea of making my own petits fours after I came across this post by the creative Vegan YumYum. I love these miniature, bite-sized sweets...can we say tea party time?
This photo, and the next, courtesy of Zarafa
I didn't want to mess around with these dainty little things, until I felt up for the challenge. The delicate layering, cutting and dipping looked truly intimidating. Plus, I wasn't sure what I'd do with thirty odd petits fours besides eat them myself, or pack them for D's lunch, so I thought it best to wait for an occasion.
I needed some practice with dipping too, and since there weren't any petits fours to dip at work, I practiced on buckeyes - dozens upon dozens of them because that's all people seemed to want to buy this week. Suffice it to say, I make really, really excellent buckeyes now (I would go so far as stating that I could be the next buckeye dipping champion). I considered myself ready for the challenge, and this week there happened to be an occasion, and I decided that Ken (and Z) could benefit from a box of sweets.
They turned out well in the end, although they were the source of an afternoon's frustration dotted with lots of profanity and several text messages to D ("I suck at this!" "I hate this glaze!" "Why didn't I just bake a cake??"). This was definitely a humbling exercise which made me appreciate the fine art of dipping. I'm just glad I had enough pieces to choose from to make up a presentable box (and no, I'm not showing you the fugly evidence) for Mr. Ken, who is moving to Texas this week.
OK, I know you're all dying to run off and make your own now. Here's a quick How-to, and please also check out the links I refer to.
How to Make Your Own Petits Fours:
1. First, do a little reading: I highly recommend VeganYumYum's blog post as well as this Baking911 page. Decide what flavour you'd like to make, and choose an appropriate pound, sponge or genoise cake recipe. These cakes all have a fine, dense crumb that will make for easier cutting. Bake either in a jelly roll pan that won't warp, or split the batter up among some square pans to bake thinnish layers. I used the chocolate cake recipe from the Confetti Cakes book and divided the batter in two 8" square pans lined with parchment.
2. Choose (and make, if necessary) your filling. It can be buttercream, ganache, jam, whatever. I decided on chocolate buttercream so it would be more visible between the layers.
3. Cool the cakes (I find it easier to cut when it's been refridgerated a couple hours) and then carefully slice into 1/4" thick layers. I'm not kidding you, this part is kind of hard. If you have a cake leveler, now's a good time to use it. Alternatively, you can just use a large serrated knife and run it along the outside of the cake to mark the cutting line, and then continue sawing around until you reach the middle. Carefully lift the layers with a spatula and your hands, or a piece of cardboard, and rest it on a cutting board. I got four layers out of mine.
4. Fill the cake carefully, layering cake, filling, cake, filling, until your overall cake is just under 1.5" high. You can brush it with a glaze, or syrup, or add a thin layer of rolled marzipan at this point (I used some raspberry syrup with marsala since I like a boozy cake). Now, chill the cake for an hour so it will be easier to cut. You're more than half way there!
5. While your cake is chilling, prepare the icing. This can either be a glace icing, poured fondant (I think those two are different), a very liquid chocolate ganache, or just plain melted chocolate, which I wish I'd decided to use, since I am very proficient with that from the buckeyes. Anyhow, I decided to use the chocolate glaze recipe from Baking911, with added corn syrup for shine.
6. Cut the cakes into little 1.5" cubes like so. Eat the scraps. I told you this was an enjoyable process. Time to get out a grill rack, a dipping fork, and a spoon or little spatula.
7. This is when the cursing potentially begins, if you have high expectations like me and don't like messing up. I don't have any photos of the dipping process, because I was too covered in chocolate to get the camera, but here is a helpful step-by-step tutorial from the Callebaut Chocolate people that shows how to dip things in chocolate (you may need to register, but it's free so don't worry). The Callebaut people tell you to plunge it straight down and lift. Now, my ganache with the corn syrup was super viscose, and I soon found out the plunge method wasn't going to work, so I ended up just using a spatula to scoop up the ganache and let it dribble it over top, then shake off the extra. I kind of wish I'd made my glaze more liquid, but whatever. As Vegan YumYum suggests, dip the ugly ones first, because you're going to get better by the end and you'll have saved the prettiest cubes for last. Carefully transfer your dipped cubes to the drip rack and leave it alone to set. Try not to touch them to test if they're set. It's kind of like waiting for nail polish to dry...don't get marks on them!
8. Now it's time for a little more decorating! In other words, covering up the ugly bits. My ganache was beautifully shiny, but not without airbubbles. If anyone has any suggestions for removing air bubbles, I would be very grateful for your advice. To cover up some of the uneven surfaces, I melted some white chocolate in a ziploc back, cut a tiny hole and drizzled the petits fours and topped them with a raspberry for cuteness. You can dress yours up any way you want! The more pro you get at this, the less deco-concealing you'll have to do.
And ta-da! You're all done. Now sit back and enjoy your handiwork.