Petit Fours

Country of origin: France

Petit fours, petit fours, what’s not to love? Yes, they are cutes-y, and a pain to make, but you can eat ten and not feel bad. Really though, if you haven’t had dessert and want something little and sugary with coffee, these hit the spot.

I can’t wait to build up a catalogue of petit fours, but to start with, I made mini boat-shaped fruit tarts, chocolate eclairs, cream puffs and chocolate macarons.

The pastry for the tarts was from LadurĂ©e’s Sucre book, and the pastry cream from Annie Rigg’s Macarons book. Each tart was topped with a teeny slice of strawberry, a blueberry and a raspberry. Of course, these would have been delicious with grapes, banana slices, orange segments or kiwis as well. I didn’t glaze them.

The chocolate macarons gave me a lot of trouble, I rushed and put them in the oven when they were slightly tacky and did I pay! A whole tray of shells completely cracked. Lesson learned! I also found that they had a slightly oily look about them, and apparently, according to this excellent trouble-shooting site, it may be due to oily almonds. They suggest drying out the ground almonds in the oven before use. The macarons that I could salvage were sandwiched together with the same chocolate pastry cream used to fill the mini eclairs.

The eclairs were choux pastry and I found a new way of cooking them, following the Laduree’s recipe: Cooking at 350 F/177 C for ten minutes, but then opening the oven door a crack and letting them bake for another twenty minutes, to allow the steam to escape.

After the choux pastry has come out of the oven, cool a bit and then using a pastry tip, make a hole in the bottom. You can fill eclairs with fresh cream, but I used pastry cream (recipe from Macarons) and added some chopped dark chocolate to taste.

Topping the mini eclairs with melted chocolate fondant was really tricky and I need to practice more to get a clean finish. I made fondant with icing/powdered sugar and water, quite thick, and then added some cocoa powder until I was happy with the colour. I then heated it up in the microwave in ten-second blasts to get it soft and runny enough to run off a teaspoon onto the teeny filled eclairs. I had some spare choux pastry left, so piped some little buns, and filled these with sweetened whipped cream.