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Petit Fours: Because French is always Délicieux!

When I hear Petit Fours I don't usually think of Easter, I think of delicious glacé (glazed) cakes or sec buttery biscuits that makes coffee divine. This year I'm all in for some special treats to welcome the Easter bunny! Expert chef Brooks Nguyen is creating a variety of mini cakes, or mignardises as the French say for every occasion; these Petit Fours symbolize all the joys of Easter and the spring season.

If you like making small pretty things, you should start with these recipes, then expand your Petit Fours world to try the many other categories; the glacé, the sec, the frais (the éclairs) and the déguisés... Plus the famous macaroon that are also Petit Fours, which are sometimes considered sec or frais depending on the filling.

I'm sure you will find extra decoration ideas on Pinterest, but to master making those little French cakes learn the Brook's way!

Easter Petits Fours

Lemon Cake
Yield: 1 (9 x 13-inch) cake, about 18 petits fours

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest
1 1⁄2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice
4 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten
1⁄4 cup sour cream
1 3⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and continue to cream until light in color, about 4 minutes. With the mixer running, add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Add the sour cream, also mixing on high speed until incorporated.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. On low speed, gently fold the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a tooth- pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic, for up to 1 week.

Tip: Meyer lemons are perfect for this cake because their fragrant juice is sweeter and less acidic than that of regular lemons. They're typically available from October through May. If Meyers are unavailable or aren't in season, regular lemons make a fine substitute. You'll need about 1 large lemon to yield the correct amount of zest and juice for this recipe.

Lemon Soaking Syrup
Yield: 1 cup

3⁄4 cup Simple Syrup (below)
1 teaspoon lemon extract
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1. In a small bowl, stir together the simple syrup, lemon extract, and lemon juice to combine.

2. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Simple Syrup
Yield: 4 cups

4 cups water
4 cups granulated sugar

1. In a large, heavy pot, bring the water to a boil over high heat.

2. Stir in the sugar and reduce the heat to medium-high, continuing to stir until the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear, about 4 minutes.

3. Remove from the heat and let cool. Transfer the cooled simple syrup to an airtight container or glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Lemon Curd
Yield: 1 1⁄2 cups

4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3⁄4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. Add water to the bottom of a double boiler. Over high heat, bring the water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar to combine.

3. In a heavy, medium pot, bring the lemon juice to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Pour the juice into the egg mixture, whisking to combine until smooth.

4. Place the lemon mixture on top of the double boiler. Whisking constantly, cook until the mixture is thick, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.

5. Strain the lemon curd through a strainer if available, add the butter, stirring until the butter is melted. Place plastic wrap directly over the lemon curd to prevent a layer of skin from forming.

6. Let the lemon curd cool, and then transfer to the refrigerator. Store for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.

Lemon Cream Cheese Filling
Yield: 6 cups

1 1⁄2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 cup Lemon Curd (above)

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip the cream cheese on high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Make sure the cream cheese is smooth before adding the butter.

2. Add the butter into the bowl and continue to whip on medium-high speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl every 2 to 3 minutes. Continue to whip until butter is incorporated, about 4 minutes. Make sure the cream cheese and butter are smooth and fluffy before adding the sugar.

3. With the machine running on low speed, slowly add the confectioners' sugar, beating until blended. Beat on high for 1 minute. Then add the lemon curd and continue to beat until smooth.

4. Store the filling in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. If stored in the refrigerator, warm to room temperature before whipping again in the stand mix- er on high speed for 2 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. If it isn't at room temperature, the filling will be very watery.

marzipan

Marzipan
Yield: 2 cups

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup Almond Paste (above)
3 teaspoons egg white
1 tablespoon corn syrup, plus more if needed

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the sugar and almond paste on medium speed for 3 minutes, until the almond paste has broken up and resembles dry sand.

2. Decrease the speed to low, add the egg white, and continue to mix for 10 seconds. Add the corn syrup, mixing until a dough forms, about 3 minutes. If the mixture continues to be crumbly, add 2 teaspoons more corn syrup for the dough to adhere.

3. Transfer the marzipan to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Yellow Dipping Chocolate
Yield: 2 cups

16 ounces white coating chocolate
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Tip: Use oil-based candy color to create different colors:
Yellow Dipping Chocolate: Add 1 drop yellow

1. Add water to the bottom of a double boiler. Over medium heat, bring the water to a low simmer. (The water should not reach the top part of the double boiler.) Add the coating chocolate into the top of the double boiler. Stir the chocolate until melted. Make sure to heat it just to the point of melting; if heated too long, it will burn and solidify.

2. Add 1-tablespoon oil, and stir until fully incorporated and there are no oily streaks on the surface. Add up to 1 more tablespoon of oil as needed to be sure the chocolate is fluid but not too thin, or it won't coat the petits fours completely.

3. Transfer the chocolate to a heatproof, microwave-safe bowl, stirring in color, if desired. Begin dipping the frozen, pre-cut petits fours. If chocolate cools and becomes difficult to work with, microwave the mixture in 10-second increments, stirring after each interval, until warmed.

4. After dipping 10 to 12 petits fours, crumbs may begin to accumulate in the chocolate. To prevent excess bumps on the dipped petits fours' sides, warm the coating chocolate, then pour through a mesh strainer to remove excess crumbs.

Pink Modeling Chocolate
Yield: 2 cups

16 ounces coating chocolate wafers
Small drops pink oil-based candy color
3/4 cup corn syrup

Tip: Before measuring the corn syrup, spray your measuring cup with cooking spray so the syrup doesn't stick.

1. Add water to the bottom of a double boiler. Over medium heat, bring the water to a low simmer. (The water should not reach to the top part of the double boiler.)

2. Add the chocolate wafers to the top of the double boiler. Using a heatproof spatula, stir the chocolate until melted. Make sure to heat the chocolate just to the point of melting; if heated too long, it will burn and solidify.

3. Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat. Add the color and stir to fully incorporate. Let cool to around 90°F, as indicated by a candy thermometer.

4. Stir in the corn syrup until incorporated. Transfer the modeling chocolate to a container, and let the mixture set overnight at room temperature. Once the mixture hardens, it can be kneaded and rolled out like a dough.

5. When the modeling chocolate is firm, place on a flat surface dusted with cornstarch, and roll the chocolate out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut into shapes.

6. Wrap leftover modeling chocolate tightly in plastic wrap. It can be stored for 3 months, not in the refrigerator but below 70°F, and should be brought to room temperature and kneaded to be used again.

Lavender Modeling Chocolate
Yield: 2 cups

16 ounces coating chocolate wafers
small drops lavender oil-based candy color
3/4 cup corn syrup

Tip: Before measuring the corn syrup, spray your measuring cup with cooking spray so the syrup doesn't stick.

1. Add water to the bottom of a double boiler. Over medium heat, bring the water to a low simmer. (The water should not reach to the top part of the double boiler.)

2. Add the chocolate wafers to the top of the double boiler. Using a heatproof spatula, stir the chocolate until melted. Make sure to heat the chocolate just to the point of melting; if heated too long, it will burn and solidify.

3. Remove the top of the double boiler from the heat. Add the color and stir to fully incorporate. Let cool to around 90°F, as indicated by a candy thermometer.

4. Stir in the corn syrup until incorporated. Transfer the modeling chocolate to a container or a parchment-lined sheet pan, and let the mixture set overnight at room temperature. Once the mixture hardens, it can be kneaded and rolled out like a dough.

Assemble and Decorate

Marzipan1. Follow the directions to assemble the lemon petits fours. Using petit four cutters, make the raspberry petits fours ovals and the lemon and carrot cake petits fours into squares, or any other shapes you'd like, such as rectangles or hearts. Place in an airtight container and store in the freezer.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Following the directions, prepare the Yellow Dipping Chocolate, transferring chocolate into individual heatproof bowls for dipping, about 6 inches across and 5 inches deep. Use a kitchen fork to dip the petits fours in the chocolate, marzipan side up. Individually dip the lemon petits fours into the yellow chocolate. Tap the fork on the side of the dipping container until the excess dipping chocolate drains off. Use a second fork to push the dipped petits fours onto the parchment paper. Wait until chocolate hardens, 3 to 5 minutes. Once dry, cut the excess chocolate off of the bottom of the petits fours. Put each petit four in a small candy cup. Store in the refrigerator until ready to decorate. If you are decorating the cakes on a different day, store in an airtight container so they don't absorb the flavors of the refrigerator.

3. To make the flower and egg decorations, knead a batch each of Lavender Modeling Chocolate and Pink Modeling Chocolate. Place on a flat surface dusted with cornstarch, and use a rolling pin to roll the chocolate out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Use a paring knife or gum paste cutter to cut flowers from the lavender chocolate and oval eggs from the pink chocolate. Dust off the excess cornstarch.

4. Transfer the lemon petits fours from refrigerator to a parchment paper–lined baking sheet. Following the directions, prepare a batch of Lavender Decorating Chocolate. Transfer the decorating chocolate into a piping bag or paper cone and use drops of chocolate to adhere flowers to the top of the pink petits fours and eggs to the top of the yellow petits fours. Use chocolate to make accent dots on the petits fours or on the flower and egg decorations. Let the petits fours set, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately or transfer the petits fours to an airtight container and refrigerate until serving.

 

 

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