A world offered on a plate, made of sweet one-bite delicacies, little nibbles of pleasure delicately prepared.
Preparing these little treats allowed me to revisit the memory and experience of the kid playing with some pâte à modeler (modeling paste), or feel like a painter playfully chosing colors to put on his canvas. It felt sweet. You can have one, two, three, many more, they are so small that it does not matter how many you eat, after all! We call them mignardises, from the word “miniature”, or petits fours. They are the quintessence of the perfect sweet food for a buffet at a party. And buffets are fun, aren’t they?
My most memorable buffet story happened in fact many years ago, centuries it seems to me by now, when my brother B. got married. As typical of things happening in a small village, my father — who was le maire du village (the village mayor) at the time — and my mum wanted to organize a big wedding for B. In France, what this usually means is that the whole village and people from surrounding villages as well are invited for l’apéritif, that long qui-n’en finit-pas event preceding an even longer dinner, where a smaller crowd is invited. I still remember the number of guests, 300 people or more. The question as to how we were going to feed all those hungry and thirsty mouths seemed to only occur once the invitations were sent. And we obviously needed a solution quickly. My parents could have thought of using a caterer but instead, my mum proudly decided that she was going to take care of it and prepare the food. With my help, she and I started the whole project of making and baking amuse-bouches and petits-fours of all sorts, weeks ahead of time. “On en compte 3 à 5 par personne,” I remember her telling me (count 3 to 5 pieces per person). 5 x 300 = 1500. We would need that many. When we started, the first batches we made kept me amused and enthusiastic. As the number grew however, my enthusiasm decreased, and when the last ones finally came, I was just so pleased to be done with it! Fini ! Before D-Day arrived, I was even persuaded that we were going to have plenty of leftovers since instead of making 1500 as estimated by our calculation, we decided to make a few hundreds more. Au cas où ! (Just in case) On the day of the wedding, we were ready. Lines of trays full of colorful savory and sweet mini-bites of different shapes were nicely arranged on tables in the kitchen. With in my hands a tray full of these homemade petits-fours, I was walking amongst the crowd assembled in the large communal room rented for the event, thinking about the amount of leftovers we were going to have for the following day. We made far too many, I was thinking. But soon enough, I started to realize that the petits-fours were way more successful than I had anticipated. I remember des invités (guests) whom I did not even know so well stop me to grab a few more while they still had their mouth full with one or two. How can they do this?, I thought. Greedy! Within an hour, les mignardises were all gone. Disparues ! No need to add that for a few years afterwards, my desire to make any types of petits-fours and mignardises had vanished. I had to take the time to recuperate.
Back to 2006, many years later, I have finally found a good excuse to plunge myself back into the experience of making heaps of petits-fours. I do not think that I need to introduce anyone to the Sugar High Friday event, which I love so much. Could there be a better way to challenge anyone willing to try new things in the complex realm of sweets? For someone like me, not really much of a fancy pâtissière but always trying to improve mes points faibles (weaknesses), occasions like this are perfect. And this month turns out to be a lucky one for me. Indeed, hosted by Jeanne from Cook Sister, this month’s theme is nothing else but mini bites or mignardises. If you have followed me in my cooking adventures, you already knew that I am particularly fond of any type of small, one-bite-sized food.
For the occasion, I decided to make petits fours made with a pâte brisée aux amandes (sweet pastry crust with a base of almond ), and a crème au citron vert (a lime cream on top). The edges of the pastry shells were decorated with dark chocolate and the lime filling topped with an array of colorful fresh seasonal fruit. I made far less than for my brother’s wedding, of course, since I did not have the same crowd to feed at home. Still, before I realized it, they were gone in no time. Petits-fours just have this effect on people, a je-ne-sais-quoi.
Coating the tartlet shell edges with dark chocolate
Almond Sweet Crust
- 5 1/3 oz pastry flour
- 1 oz almond flour
- 1.5 oz confectioner’s sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 3.5 oz butter, at room temperature
- 1 egg
For the lime filling
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- 2 3/4 oz butter
- 2 eggs
- 3/4 cup fine cane sugar
For the garnish
- 1 3/4 oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa min.)
- Fruits, such as fresh plum, pomegranate, berries
For the almond sweet crust
- Work the butter in a stand mixer, with hook attachment until softer, and add the salt, almond flour, confectioner’s sugar and flour.
- When the dough is crumbly, add the egg and mix rapidly, making sure not to overwork the dough.
- Make a ball and cover it in plastic wrap. Place it in the fridge for 1 hour minimum before using it.
- Roll the dough and garnish mini molds with it.
- Preheat your oven at 350 F.
- Prick the bottom of the tartles with a fork and prebake the tartlets for 10 mns (bottom covered with foil paper or parchment paper with a weight on top, such as beans or rice).
- Remove the small pieces of paper and continue to cook for 3 mns. Remove them from the oven and unmold on a cooling rack to let them cool down.
For the lime cream
- Mix all the ingredients in a heat-resistant bowl and place it on top of a pot of simmering water, to cook using the bain-marie technique. Mix until the cream thickens, then remove. Let cool down and cover the cream before placing it in the fridge until it is cold.
For the chocolate and fruit garnish
- Melt the chocolate using the bain-marie technique and place in a hollow plate. Dip the edges of the tartlets in the melted chocolate and let cool down until the chocolate hardens.
- Garnish the tartlet shells with the lime cream and decorate with freshly cut fruit, such as plums, pomegranate seeds, and some stripes of chocolate if you want (use a fork and rapidly move the fork above the tartlets.)
- Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
Pâte sablée aux amandes
- 150 g de farine
- 30 g de poudre d’amandes
- 40 g de sucre glace
- 1 pincée de sel
- 100 g de beurre à température ambiante
- 1 oeuf
Pour la garniture au citron vert
- 120 ml de jus de citron vert
- 80 g de beurre
- 2 oeufs
- 150 g de sucre fin en poudre
Pour la décoration
- 50 g de chocolat noir (70% min.)
- Fruits frais tels que des prunes, grenade, fruits rouges
Pour la pâte sablée aux amandes
- Mélangez le beurre dans un pétrin à crochet, ajoutez le sel, puis la poudre d’amandes, le sucre glace et la farine.
- Quand vous obtenez des grumeaux, ajoutez l’oeuf et mélangez rapidement, sans trop travailler la pâte.
- Rassemblez-la en boule et enveloppez-la dans du film alimentaire. Mettez au frais 1 heure minimum avant de vous en servir.
- Étalez la pâte et garnissez-en des moules à petits fours.
- Préchauffez votre four à 180 C.
- Piquez le fond des tartelettes et faites-les précuire a blanc pendant 10 mns (avec papier aluminium et des grains de riz par exemple).
- Enlevez le papier et continuez la cuisson 3 mns. Sortez du four et démoulez sur une grille pour les laisser refroidir.
Pour la crème au citron vert
- Mélangez les ingrédients dans un bol et faites prendre au bain-marie, sans cesser de remuer. Une fois que la crème épaissit, laissez-la refroidir avant de la mettre au frigo.
Pour la décoration au chocolat et aux fruits
- Faites fondre le chocolat noir au bain-marie et trempez les bords des tartes dans le chocolat. Laissez refroidir.
- Garnissez les tartes de crème au citron vert et décorez avec du chocolat fondu (utilisez une fourchette que vous plongez dans le chocolat pour faire la décoration.)
- Décorez avec des fruits de votre choix, grenade, myrtilles, prunes.
- Saupoudrez de sucre glace.