"The Petit Four Cookbook" by Brooks Coulson Nguyen
Only once in my life have I ever attempted to make petits fours. It was about 20 years ago. The little squares were Pepto Bismol pink, had icing the consistency of wet sand and concrete, and nearly shattered the table when my girlfriends tried to stick a form in them at tea. Suffice it to say, I have not attempted homemade petits fours again, but there's a new book that just might make me willing to give them another try. It's "The Petit Four Cookbook" by Brooks Coulson Nguyen, and I've been diligently studying over the lovely little review copy I recently received!
Nguyen owns the petit four bakery Dragonfly Cakes in Sausalito, Calif. The name petit four means "little oven" in French, and Nguyen says "the cakes were first made during the eighteenth century when French bakers would put them in the oven after baking bread, while the oven was cooling from a high temperature. The rise in popularity of tea in Paris in the late 1800s increased the popularity of petits fours." She says that today, the increasing popularity of tea and teatime has increased America's love for petits fours and other bite-size teatime treats. Technically, the type of petits fours she makes are Petits Fours Glacé, which are iced or decorated and then coated with icing. Just seeing one sliced here makes me want to go eat one!
Making petits fours is time-consuming, Nguyen says, and she recommends making them over two days. She suggests baking the cake and cutting out decorations the first day, then cutting, coating and decorating the cakes on the following day. I was happy to see that you're never advised to slice cake into more than two layers before assembly, and in fact a couple of recipes call for baking cakes in shallow pans so that you don't have to slice them at all before assembly. Now I'm not taking on any new projects this Christmas season, but I do think that mastering the art of making petits fours just may make it onto my "To Do" list in the coming year. If this appeals to you too, you'll find recipes for all sorts of fun flavors of petits fours (Lemon Curd, Gingerbread, Salted Carmel, Pumpkin Cake) in this charming book—and there's even a chapter titled "Tea Time" to enjoy!