All of last week at school was dedicated to petits fours. Most Americans think of petits fours as highly decorated small cakes, when in fact, almost any dessert items can be made into a petit four. The basic definition is a one-bite pastry that is usually 1-inch square of space. We divide petits fours into several categories: petit four sec, petit four frais, petit four glace, and petit four prestige. Sec means dry in French, so these are cookies that have a longer shelf life, usually 5 to 7 days. A chocolate chip cookie would be considered a petit four sec, for example. Frais means fresh, so these are the petits fours with the shortest shelf life, typically only one day. Glace means enrobed, and these are the cakes that you probably think of when you have heard the word petit four in the past. They are enrobed to seal the petit four so it is air tight, which extends the shelf life to two to three days. There are three options for enrobing: icing fondant, tempered chocolate, or royal icing. Finally, petits fours prestiges are for when you are really trying to wow someone and show off your skills. They involve three to four homemade components plus décor. Almost any pastry or cake can be made into a petit four prestige.
I’ve really loved this past week because each student has several projects, and we are working independently to complete them in time for our petits fours buffet on Wednesday. We have to make 24 of each of our items. I have found that I really like managing my schedule and making up my prep list each morning; it is also extremely gratifying to cross things off that prep list when I’ve completed a task! My projects for the week are: oatmeal cookies and coconut macaroons, both of which fall into the petit four sec category, frangipane tart and strawberry shortcakes, both of which fall into the petit four frais category, a Citrön tart, which is considered a petit four glace, and for my petit four prestige, I chose to take the fan torte cake and scale it down to 1-inch. Additionally, we have to desguises, which means disguise, a dozen pieces of fruit by dipping it in hard crack sugar and make a showpiece using an egg shaped mold.
My production has gone smoothly and most of my items are completed and frozen. I have to enrobe my Citrön tart tomorrow and bake off biscuits for my shortcakes and macerate the fruit last minute on Wednesday, but other than that, I am mostly done. For my showpiece, I decided to use pastillage, which is the same medium I used for my Chanel showpiece, and have turned it into a birdcage. I am almost done with it and will post pictures from our petits fours buffet on Wednesday.
In the meantime, we had a mock buffet last Tuesday for our petits fours secs products so we could learn how to line the table with our product. Below is a preview of what is to come on Wednesday!