Tuesday, November 12, 2013

All-Occasion Petit Fours Recipe

Has it really been two months since I posted?

I have been without a computer since we moved -- and without internet for extended periods -- so that has made blogging pretty much impossible. Borrowed laptops have allowed me to accomplish a few tasks, but I have missed being in touch with so many of you! I am back today to share recipes from The Petit Four Cookbook by Brooks Coulson Nguyen, owner of Dragonfly Cakes Bakery in Sausalito, Calif. Stay tuned for assembly tips from Brooks and a cookbook giveaway in my next post.

All-Occasion Petit Fours

These elegant and classic petit fours can be used for any occasion — perfect for a wedding shower, baby shower or tea party, yet simple enough to accompany an afternoon card game. Or let them be the star of an evening affair. This confection will elevate any event.

Vanilla Petit Fours:
Vanilla Sponge Cake
Vanilla Soaking Syrup
Vanilla Buttercream
White, Pink and Lavender Dipping Chocolate
White, Green and Lavender Decorating Chocolate

Vanilla Sponge Cake (Dragonfly Cakes’ signature recipe)
Yield: 3 thin sheets of 9"x13" cake, about 24 petit fours

Butter, for greasing the sheet pans
9 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
8 large egg yolks
3 1⁄4 cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease three 9"x13" sheet pans and line with parchment paper. Then grease the parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, combine egg whites and sugar. Whip on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer egg whites to a separate bowl.

3. Without cleaning bowl or wire whip, beat egg yolks on high speed until light yellow and creamy, about 5 minutes.

4. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir to combine. Using a spatula, gently fold egg whites into egg yolks until no streaks of white remain. Then gently fold in dry ingredients. Slowly add oil and water, and fold gently to combine. Add vanilla last, and fold to combine.

5. Divide mixture among sheet pans, and spread it thin. Bake until golden brown, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool completely. Store in refrigerator up to 1 week, wrapped in plastic wrap.

Vanilla Soaking Syrup
Yield: 3⁄4 cup

3⁄4 cup Simple Syrup (see below)
3⁄4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. In a small bowl, stir together simple syrup and vanilla to combine.

2. Store in an airtight container in 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 water to a boil over high heat.

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

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

Vanilla Buttercream
Yield: 2½ cups

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2⁄3 cups Custard (see below)
1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, whip butter on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With machine running, add custard and vanilla. Beat until mixture increases in volume, about 4 minutes.

2. Store buttercream in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks in an airtight container. If stored in refrigerator, warm to room temperature before whipping again in stand mixer on high speed for 2 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy. If it isn’t at room temperature, buttercream will be very watery.

Custard (Dragonfly Cakes’ signature recipe)
Yield: 6 cups

1⁄4 cup cornstarch
1 1⁄2 plus 1⁄3 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 cups whole milk

1. In a medium heatproof bowl, combine cornstarch and 1⁄3 cup of sugar, stirring to combine.

2. In a medium, heavy pot, add remaining 1 1⁄2 cups sugar and milk. Stir to combine, and bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. When gentle bubbles form in milk mixture, use a heatproof measuring cup to transfer 1⁄2 cup of the warm milk into the cornstarch mixture. Using a whisk, combine the cornstarch and milk until smooth.

3. Continue heating the milk mixture, stirring occasionally, until it comes to a boil. (Watch carefully, so the milk doesn’t boil over.) When the milk comes to a boil, whisk in the cornstarch mixture to combine.

4. Keep the pot over medium-high heat, continue to whisk, and cook until the custard is thick, about 5 minutes.

5. When custard has thickened, remove from heat. Pour custard onto a rimmed half-sheet pan and let cool. Transfer to a container, and refrigerate. Use to make buttercream within 1 or 2 days before custard begins to get watery.

Yield: 2 cups

1 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup Almond Paste (pasted below)
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 sugar and almond paste on medium speed for 3 minutes, until almond paste has broken up and resembles dry sand.

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

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

Almond Paste
Yield: 3½ cups

11⁄2 cups blanched almonds (slivered or whole)
11⁄2 cups confectioners sugar
3⁄4 cup Simple Syrup, or as needed

1. In the bowl of a food processor, grind almonds until they become a smooth, fine powder, about 1 minute.

2. Add confectioners sugar into food processor, and purée mixture until it is the texture of cornmeal, about 1 minute.

3. With the food processor running, pour simple syrup through the feeder tube into almond mixture, adding only enough simple syrup to turn mixture into a paste.

4. Transfer almond paste to a container, and store in refrigerator for up to 1 month.

White Dipping Chocolate
Yield: 2 cups

16 ounces white coating chocolate
1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. Add water to the bottom of a double boiler. Over medium-heat, bring water to a low simmer. (The water should not reach the top part of the double boiler.) Add coating chocolate into 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 oil as needed to be sure the chocolate is fluid but not too thin, or it won’t coat the petit fours completely.

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

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

[Tip: Use 1 drop of oil-based candy color to create most colors of dipping chocolate, and 2 drops for blue.]

White Decorating Chocolate
Yield: 1 cup

8 ounces white coating chocolate
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

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

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

3. Add oil to melted chocolate, continuing to stir until oil is completely incorporated and coating chocolate is fluid. If using, stir in desired oil-based color.

4. To pipe, use a teaspoon to transfer chocolate to a small parchment paper cone or piping pastry bag. If using a paper cone, start by using scissors to snip a small hole at tip, only increasing hole size if chocolate does not flow smoothly from cone.

5. If chocolate cools and becomes difficult to work with, microwave in 10-second increments in cone, stirring between intervals, until warmed. Chocolate must be fluid (approximately 100 degrees, or warm to the touch) to be used for decorating.

[Tip: Use oil-based candy color to create different colors, adding 1 drop for most shades and 2 drops for red.]

Assemble and Decorate
1. Follow directions (here) to assemble vanilla petit fours. Using petit four cutters, make petit fours into squares, or any other shapes you desire, like rectangles or hearts. Place cut shapes on a sheet tray or in an airtight container and store in freezer.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Prepare White Dipping Chocolate, Pink Dipping Chocolate, and Lavender Dipping Chocolate. Transfer each batch of chocolate into individual heatproof bowls for dipping, about 6 inches across and 5 inches deep. Using a kitchen fork, individually dip petit fours into chocolates; try to dip an even number in each color. Use one fork to dip petit fours, marzipan side up. Tap fork on side of dipping container until excess dipping chocolate drains off. Use a second fork to push dipped petit fours onto parchment paper. Wait until chocolate hardens, 3 to 5 minutes. Once dry, cut excess chocolate off of bottom of petit fours. Put each petit four in a small candy cup. Store in refrigerator until ready to decorate. If you are decorating cakes on a different day, store in an airtight container so they don’t absorb the flavors of the refrigerator.

3. Remove petit fours from refrigerator and place onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Prepare batches of Lavender Decorating Chocolate, White Decorating Chocolate, and Green Decorating Chocolate. Transfer chocolate into individual piping bags or paper cones. Pipe decorations onto petit fours, making designs like dots, swirls, and stripes. Let petit fours set for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve immediately, or transfer petit fours to an airtight container and refrigerate until serving.

Congratulations to Faith Hope and Cherrytea, who won a copy of the latest book from the editors of Teatime, Afternoon Tea. Look for more tea-themed giveaways in the weeks to come!

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