What Are Tiny Desserts Called – Perhaps one of the most famous desserts in French confectionery is the petit four. These little candy bites can be eaten in one or two bites. They are usually beautifully decorated, making them very popular for cocktail parties, afternoon teas and brunches.
But where do these tiny pastries come from and how can you make them in your own kitchen? In this article, we talk about the making of petit fours and their rich history.
What Are Tiny Desserts Called
The French name “Petit Four” has nothing to do with the number four. The nickname actually comes from the baking method originally used to make these sweet treats. During the 19th century in France, a stove was little more than a large stone cabinet with a fire underneath. Under these circumstances, temperature control was essentially non-existent. As a result, French bakers only had two “oven settings”: scorching hot and cooling.
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The scorching hot setting was achieved as the coals beneath the stove burned at maximum capacity. This type of cooking was known as the “Grand Four” in French – meaning “big oven” – and was mainly used to cook meat. After the fire under the stone oven was extinguished, much of the heat remained. Consequently, it took a very long time for these furnaces to cool down. This cooling process, with the kiln still containing some latent heat, was known as the “Petit Four” or “little kiln”. The trapped heat was just enough to bake small, individual pastries.
Eventually, the pastry itself took on the name of the type of oven in which it was cooked. As baking equipment and technology advanced, the petit four dessert remained a popular treat throughout France and began to spread around the world. From Parisian patisseries to New York bakeries, petit fours are popular around the world today.
Within the petit fours category, there are a multitude of variations. There are the traditional mini cakes as well as many other small French desserts that fall under the term ‘petit fours’. Here are some of the different types:
These are dry cookies that are baked at a low temperature for a long time. Popular examples include sable beurre, palmiers, duchesses, and macarons. You can also have a jam, ganache or dried fruit filling.
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Tiny tarts that are topped with marzipan and then covered with either fondant or chocolate. This type of petit four is usually intricately decorated with intricate piping. These are often the images that spring to mind when thinking of the traditional petit four.
These petits fours are all small pastries that must be eaten the same day they are made, as they degrade significantly in quality the longer they are left to rest. Examples include sponge cakes like madeleines and financiers, and cream-filled pastries like eclairs and tarts. They tend to be moist, hence the need for same-day consumption.
Desserts in this category consist of fresh or dried fruit dipped in a sweet topping such as chocolate or boiled sugar. Examples are chocolate covered strawberries or candied citrus fruits.
As for what you do when you bake your own petit fours…well, the possibilities are endless. You can decorate your petit fours in an unusual and elaborate way, or follow the example of Georges Auguste Escoffier and “above all keep it simple”.
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Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 13×9-inch baking pan and set aside. Combine 3 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Put it aside too.
Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, in a bowl, beat 1 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup softened butter on medium speed. Scrape the bowl occasionally until the mixture becomes creamy. Add 6 egg whites, 1 at a time, beating well after each one. Add 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract and mix well. Then add the flour mixture, alternating with 1 cup milk, beating on low speed after each addition until combined.
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Once the batter is mixed, pour it into your previously prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes (check the center with a toothpick to see if it comes out clean). Carefully remove the cake from the mold and let cool completely. To create the perfect petit fours, trim the edges of the cake and cut into 48 separate 1 and 1/2 inch square pieces.
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To make the glaze, combine 3 cups sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, and 1 and 1/2 cups water in a 3 quart saucepan. Cook on the stovetop over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for 12-14 minutes or until the mixture is fully cooked. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Then cover the pot and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to 110°F for about 1 hour. Once cool, stir in 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon almond extract, and 3 drops food coloring to taste. Traditionally, petit fours are glazed with bright pastel tones like green, lavender, and pink.
Lay your cooling rack on wax paper. Then take each small piece of cake and place it on a fork, drizzle the frosting over the top and sides. Leave the cake slices on the wire rack until the frosting is set. Add additional toppings if you like!
Alternatively, instead of icing, you can use different types of jams and fruit spreads or melted white chocolate. You can add toppings like fruit slices or coconut flakes, drizzle caramel on top – experiment to your heart’s content!
So there you have it: everything you need to know about the Petit Four. Would you like to learn more about the history of certain French dishes or how to prepare them yourself? Join one of our convenient online courses, specifically tailored for the passionate home cook or baker.
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And if you are ready to take your education even further? Browse the undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, including one specializing in Baking and Pastry Arts.
1Our Boulder, CO campus is the only accredited institution in the United States to offer both full online graduate and undergraduate programs with cooking classes and hands-on industry internships. We are accredited by ACCET – A Partnership for Quality®️. ACCET is listed by the US Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency. 2https://chefspencil.com/13-best-culinary-schools-in-the-world *This information may not reflect the experience of all students. Results and outcomes may be based on multiple factors such as geographic region or past experience. Copyright © 2023 Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts Home Gourmet and Escoffier Online International Culinary Academy dba Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts – Chicago. All rights reserved. The real life of every party has to be the mini dessert tray. Just watch everyone’s faces as these sweet desserts appear and count the number of smiles you see.
These mini desserts are adorable. From mini hamburgers to other types of cookies and cakes, you can serve delicious desserts to your guests. Because they’re small, everyone can try a few different ones. Even if you’re watching calories, miniature desserts can help you be confident you’re consuming fewer calories.
One of the great things about mini desserts is that you can enjoy a variety of very different desserts on one plate and not feel like you’ve just eaten an entire bakery.
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Small desserts are ideal for any occasion or gathering with many guests. And unlike other foods like appetizers and entrees, you can never have too many bite-sized desserts (we think it actually is somewhere).
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They look like tasty sliders, and some (better lubed) guests might actually think they’re the real deal!
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But as soon as you bite into one of these delicious treats, you’ll know right away that you’re sampling sweet paradise.
And if you’re not a big fan of coconut, you can substitute green frosting with a leaf tip on your frosting bag.
Mini cakes are one of the funnest mini dessert ideas out there. Let’s be honest, we all have our favorite cakes, and the idea of feeling like a giant while munching on these adorable mini lemon meringue cakes has to come to mind.
Nothing beats the creamy, tart and sweet taste of lemon curd, embraced by a soft crust and topped with heavenly meringue.
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The contrast of acidity and sweetness is like lemonade in a cake, but the meringue, with its sweet egg flavor, takes this dessert to another level.
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