Savoriesnsweets’ Blog

Archive for the ‘Cookies’ Category

The past few months have been monumental in my life.  I have gone through two major life changes at once and I’ve found myself having to do a lot of adjusting.  First thing’s first–I’m newly married! Yup, my grad student boyfriend proposed and became my fiance and then my husband.  We eloped in Vermont in a lovely fancy-schmancy bed and breakfast in Stowe.  It was a gorgeous, picturesque ceremony and we loved every minute of it!

After we came back from our elopement, we packed up my remaining belongings into my little car and drove to Illinois.  So now I’m adjusting to married life and life in the mid-west.  For a native New Yorker, this is a HUGE change!  I’m fortunate in the sense that I’ve managed to find a nice job in a local bakery so I’m able to work on developing speed as a baker & cake decorator.

I do hope to regularly post again but my recent life changes have kept me from really keeping up with my writing.  I have managed to keep up with my cake decorating skills since I did have an occasion to make another tiered cake.  This time, the cake was for my husband, his family & friends as we celebrated our wedding at big bash thrown by his parents.  This cake was a three tiered chocolate stout cake with amaretto mocha butercream.  It was covered with chocolate fondant and decorated with gumpaste roses, carnations and foliage.  It was a lot of work but it was a HUGE hit! I also made some mini-wedding cake cookies that were treats for the guests to take home.  And now that I’m working in a bakery I get to make special cakes (and cookies) for many people on a daily basis!  I’ve had many new developments in the past few months, but they’ve all been very sweet!

Oh and of course, here’s some shots of my cake & cookies.

chocolate stout cake

Usually for Valentine’s Day I like to make a red velvet cake or red velvet cupcakes.  This year I decided to try something different.  While I was figuring out what to get my honey I thought he’d also like something sweet.  Since we’re both making an effort to be a bit healthier this year I thought cakes or cookies wouldn’t be the best idea so I decided to try something different–chocolate raspberry truffles and chocolate blackberry truffles.  Since he loves both berries I figured he’d enjoy this treat and the chocolate makes it appropriately decadent for Valentine’s Day.

I started by searching for a good recipe for the truffles.  Luckily, I found one here, but I did make a few changes. Of course the most major change was that I included blackberries as well as raspberries.  Also, instead of coating them in cocoa powder, I opted instead to give each berry an additional coating of just melted chocolate and then I streaked them with white chocolate.  I used a mixture of Valhrona 71% dark and Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate.  I also had some white chocolate that I used to streak the truffles when I was done.  The results were delicious and decadent!

Another fun treat for Valentine’s Day were Erotic Cookies!  I attended a workshop hosted by Pastry Chef Danielle Moore all about decorating erotic cookies.  Many of the cookies were very adult in nature which made them all the more fun!!  And once they were decorated they really came to life!  I really enjoyed this workshop since it was my first time decorating cookies with fondant.  And of course, yummy cookies are always a great treat!

My holiday baking is gearing up and I’m getting more and more excited for Christmas.  Although I’m still unemployed, I’m already much happier than I was last year.  I don’t have a job that makes me miserable.  My family is reasonably healthy.  And I am still able to create some delicious holiday treats!  While I do miss baking for my students like I have done in recent years past, I am looking forward to having more treats to share with my family and friends.

I always make a lot of the same kinds of things.  I love chocolate chip and snickerdoodles, so of course, I make at least one batch of each of these.  I also make and decorate sugar cookies.  Even though the decorating takes a bit of time it’s super festive and lovely!  But I’ve decided to start trying out something different.  Recently, I assisted with a vegan baking class and it got me to thinking about alternative baking.  While I’m not great at coming up with vegan or gluten-free desserts, I think my most recent kitchen experiment definitely fits into the gluten-free category.  If you want to make it vegan, use vegan shortening and vegan marshmallows for the filling.  These cookies also capture some nice flavors of the season with ginger, cinnamon, clove and maple.

Gluten-Free Ginger Sandwich Cookies

Yield: 4 sandwich cookies

  • 200 grams almond meal/almond flour (I weighed this in grams because I wanted to try to be accurate while making these. It should be about 2 cups.)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • pinch fine salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon maple sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup marshmallow fluff
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple sugar
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup
  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment.
  2. In large bowl, combine almond flour, ginger, cinnamon, clove, salt, and maple sugar.
  3. Add maple syrup and mix thoroughly until you form a dough.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a parchment lined surface.  Pat down the dough to form a disk.  Top with another piece of parchment and roll dough out to 1/4 inch thickness.
  5. Use round pastry cutters to cut out cookie rounds and place them on the parchment lined sheet pan.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the pan after half the time has elapsed.  Bake until light golden brown.
  7. Meanwhile,  make cookie filling by combining marshmallow fluff, shortening, maple sugar and maple syrup in bowl and whisking vigorously until combined.
  8. To assemble, spread about 1 teaspoon of filling onto a cookie and top with another.

When I first tried the cookie out of the oven, it didn’t have much flavor and I wasn’t a fan of the texture.  However, once I made the sandwiches, I really tasted the ginger, maple and cinnamon in the cookie.  It may not be the best gluten-free cookie out there, but I think it’s pretty good for a first try!

Gluten-Free Ginger Cookies

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

THE DARING COOKS OCTOBER 2009 CHALLENGE: MACAROONS

These were my first batch I made with the recipe that was given. For these I used almond flour I made by blanching almonds and grinding them with sugar. I filled them with green butter cream and added orange zest for flavor. They were sweet and citrusey!

Orange Flavored Macarons

PA110802

My next batch were made using some almond meal I bought at my local Trader Joe’s. I didn’t know if there was a difference between almond meal and almond flour and in terms of taste, there didn’t seem to be. However, they didn’t look very appealing. I flavored these with vanilla bean and filled these with buttercream.

Vanilla Macarons

Since I was disappointed about my results, I tried again with almond flour. This time, I tried for chocolate mararons by adding 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder while sifting. I filled these with an espresso buttercream.  Even though I had to try this recipe twice, each time was an adventure, resulting in different products.  My first batch, while not very pretty, were still tasty.  However, the chocolate macarons were much better. If I were to do this again, I would DEFINITELY use almond flour and not the almond meal I had tried.  Although, I don’t know if I’d use this exact recipe.  I may try one of the others in one of the suggested links.  This was a fun challenge and I’m looking forward to November’s challenge!

Chocolate Macarons with Espresso Buttercream

PA220837

In the United States, the term “macaroon” generally refers to a cookie made primarily of coconut. But European macaroons are based on either ground almonds or almond paste, combined with sugar and egg whites. The texture can run from chewy, crunchy or a combination of the two. Frequently, two macaroons are sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or jam, which can cause the cookies to become more chewy. The flavor possibilities and combinations are nigh endless, allowing infinitely customizable permutations.

Famed purveyors of the French macaroon include the legendary Ladurée (http://www.laduree.fr/index_en.htm) and Pierre Hermé (http://www.pierreherme.com/index.cgi?cwsid=7450phAC194316ph5211130) in Paris, Paulette Macarons (http://www.paulettemacarons.com/) and Jin Patisserie (http://www.jinpatisserie.com/) in Los Angeles, and La Maison du Chocolat worldwide (http://www.lamaisonduchocolat.com/en/index.php#/home/undefined/1). This is by no means a complete listing of patisseries and bakeries that sell macaroons. If you want to check if any bakeries near you sell French macaroons, here’s a good place to start: http://www.seriouseats.com/2007/10/where-to-find-macarons-new-york-city-….

French macaroons are notorious for being difficult to master. Type in “macaroon,” “French macaroon” or “macaron” in your search engine of choice, and you will be inundated not only with bakeries offering these tasty little cookies, but scores and even hundreds of blogs all attempting to find the perfect recipe, the perfect technique. Which one is right? Which captures the perfect essence of macaroons? The answer is all of them and none of them. Macaroons are highly subjective, the subject of passionate, almost Talmudic study and debate. Chewy? Crisp? Age your egg whites? Ground the nuts or use nut meal or nut flour? Cooked sugar syrup, or confectioners’ sugar? In the words of a therapist, what do you think is the ideal macaroon? The answer lies within you.

Will French macaroon supplant the cupcake as the next sweet trend? There’s no way to know. I couldn’t have predicted the resurgence of leggings, yet here they are.

Recipe Source: I’ve tried many, many recipes, and have discovered that my favorite macaroon recipe comes from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern. They have given me the most consistent results and so, for everyone’s delectation, I present to you an adaptation of Ms. Fleming’s recipe.

Posting Date: Posting date is October 27, 2009.

Note: Macaroon making is somewhat labor intensive, yet simultaneously less difficult than you think it will be. One thing you must do is have your egg whites at room temperature. This ensures they beat up properly, as texture is an integral component to macaroons. You will be piping the batter onto parchment paper or nonstick liners, and some home bakers use stencils to make sure their macaroons are uniform in size. It’s your choice.

Be aware that you are beating your egg whites first to soft peaks. Soft peaks means that the peaks of the meringue curl over when you lift up the beaters. After you add the granulated sugar to the soft peak meringue, you will beat the mixture to stiff peaks, which, true to their name, stand straight up. Be careful not to overbeat your eggs.

You will also be folding the nut flour into the meringue. As with most recipes when you combine something with beaten egg whites, be gentle in your mixing to keep the egg whites light.

Some recipes call for drying the piped macaroons on the counter prior to baking for 30 minutes to an hour. This recipe stipulates that you bake the macaroons at a low temperature for 5 minutes, then take them out of the oven, raising the temperature, and baking them for an additional 7 to 8 minutes. Drying is necessary to get the trademark “feet” on your macaroons. Experiment to find the best technique for you.

If you plan on using parchment paper rather than nonstick pan liners, be careful when removing the macaroons from the paper, as they can stick and are very delicate. Some recipes suggest lifting up a corner of the paper and letting a drop of water fall onto the hot baking sheet, thus producing steam, which helps the macaroons release.

Variations allowed: Fleming’s recipe calls for almond flour, but you can grind the nuts yourself if you are feeling ambitious or can’t get a hold of almond flour. (It is available at many online sources, however.) If you do grind the nuts yourself, be sure to add at least a cup of the powdered sugar with the nuts before grinding. This keeps them from turning into almond butter. Grind the nuts as fine as possible in your food processor. Maida Heatter suggests grinding nuts for at least 60 seconds, or longer than you think you need. They need to be extremely fine—powdery, in fact, like flour. If using almonds, try and hunt down blanched or skinned almonds. This helps with the texture and color. You might also consider toasting your nuts ahead of time and rubbing off the skins in some clean toweling.

If you’d like to use a different nut besides almonds, you are welcome to substitute them. Hazelnuts or pecans are good substitutes, but feel free to experiment with others. Our own Helen, of Tartlette fame, suggests that if you do want to use a different nut other than almonds, to have half almond, half other nut, as almonds are drier than other nuts and help again with that all-important texture. If you have a nut allergy, you can make nutless meringue cookies sandwiched with a filling, but it would be great if you could attempt to obtain the size and shape of standard macaroons.

Flavor variations are, as I said, infinite. In Fleming’s original recipe, she calls for adding vanilla bean seeds to the granulated sugar, and folds in the zest of a lemon to make lemon macaroons. You can add cocoa powder, instant coffee or espresso powder, green tea powder, fruit zests. You can tint the batter (Helen again suggests using powdered food coloring to keep from adding too much moisture to the batter). The same goes for fillings—anything goes. Ganache, buttercream, jam, caramel, custard. Here in L.A., there is place called Milk (http://www.themilkshop.com/) that bakes extra large macaroons and makes them into delicious ice cream sandwiches. You must make at least one filling, preferably from scratch, but what that filling will be is entirely up to you.

An important note about coloring and flavoring: liquid food coloring can be used, but be cautious! Use 1-3 drops maximum, otherwise, according to Helen, it increases the moisture in the batter, and that can ruin the macaroons. She suggests one trick: mix the liquid color with the almonds and powdered sugar and to let that air dry for a couple of hours. This reduced the moisture a little bit. If you use more than 3 drops of food coloring, you’re going to have a disaster. That means using fruit puree is out. One way to flavor the macaroons is to use 1-2 teaspoons of citrus zest, 1-2 teaspoons of matcha (green tea powder), or 1-2 teaspoons of herbs or freeze-dried fruit powders. If you want savory macaroons, you can try 1 teaspoon of saffron or other savory dry flavorings. If you want to use powdered color, Helen says that up to 1 tablespoon is a safe amount.

To summarize:

Mandatory:
-Make Claudia Fleming’s recipe for macaroons
-Fill and sandwich the macaroons

Optional:
-Flavor variations and decoration
-If you have a nut allergy, find a good nutless meringue cookie recipe but you must make them into cookie sandwiches with some kind of filling

If you are vegan, I don’t know what you can use as an egg substitute. Suggestions are welcome.

Preparation time: Not taking into account the amount of time it takes for you to bring your egg whites to room temperature, the whole baking process, including making the batter, piping and baking will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half. How long it takes to make your filling is dependent on what you choose to make.

Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.

Equipment required:
• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
• Rubber spatula
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
• Sifter or sieve
• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
• Oven
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)

Ingredients
Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami’s note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.


Now that I’m done with culinary school I’ve moved onto the next phase of my education which is my externship.  Since I don’t think the restaurant life is for me, I decided to do my externship at a magazine. Before I was a teacher and before I was a grad student I was a technical writer.  A part of me has always been a writer. I kept journals as a kid and when blogging became popular, I did get into blogging.  I was never a fan of writing when I was forced to, so I hated English class, but I still loved writing whenever I could.  I’ve realized that my externship is my dream job in many ways.  I get to be surrounded by food all the time and I get to research different food products and brainstorm recipes.  I also get to edit recipes and eventually I’ll be writing my own!  This is a great gig and I wish it were my new full time job!

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to figure out how I can develop skills as a pastry chef. I know the two best ways would be to go back to school for pastry and to work in a pastry kitchen.  Unfortunately, going back to school is not an option as I’ve already got a mountain of student loans and still no idea how I’m paying them off.  *sigh*  Working in a pastry kitchen is more feasible.  If I can not find a full time job doing what I’m doing now for my externship, I may decide to look for opportunities in a pastry kitchen.  Ideally, I’d like to learn all that I can!  I want to make cookies, cupcakes, simple cakes, beautiful, artful, tired cakes, candy, petites fours, custards and everything that’s sweet under the sun.  I also want to explore confections that come from different culinary traditions.  A lot of what I currently know is either American, Italian or French in origin, but I’d love to learn how to make Japanese sweets (like mochi!) as well as Indian and Spanish/Latin American sweets.

So while thinking all about this, I thought while I was externing the best way to expand my horizons and skill set was to go back to the beginning. When I was a kid and just learning to cook I used my mom’s cookbook.  Back then all I really would make from the book were chocolate chip cookies and the occasional attempt at bread.  I remember loving all my delicious attempts! Even if my cookies were a bit too crunchy (i.e. burnt on the bottom) they were still edible and delectable since the flavors still came through.  These recipes are probably the easiest to follow and therefore are a guaranteed hit to produce great results.  Which book am I talking about?  The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook, 1980 edition! I now have two copies of this book, one that’s tattered, worn and has pages falling out and another that I use for reference.  So while I extern, I will make a journey through this book, making different treats I never made before and hopefully, learning some things along the way!

My first attempt was to make Fudgey Brownies, Shortbread, Chocolate Chip Cookies,  Soft Molassess Cookies and Double Chocolate Cookies. I’ve made different brownie recipes before, but this one was simple and quick and very delicious with the addition of crushed hazelnuts!  I’ve never really made shortbread before. I’ve only seen it done while staging a class.  I followed the recipe almost exactly.  At the end, it instructs you to sprinkle granulated sugar over the dough before baking.  Instead, I used Demarara sugar.  I thought this would offer a nice caramelized color as well as a nice crunch in contrast to the soft shortbread dough. I think it worked!

Shortbread

Shortbread

While making the chocolate chip cookies, I decided to try to edit the recipe.  This is the one recipe I’d always go to as a kid and when I was older whenever I wanted chocolate chip cookies.  I also used to make these cookies a lot when I was still teaching and my school had an event which required baked goods.   I made two batches of these , one that was to be orange chocolate chip and another that was to be amaretto chocolate chip.  The first change for these cookies actually were the chips.  I didn’t have any on hand, but I did have a few bars of Valrhona Noir Amer 71% on hand so I just chopped these up and used them instead of chocolate chips.  The cookies were richer and more intensely chocolate, which I enjoyed.  Other people who tasted them said the chocolate flavor was overpowering.  To make the orange flavor, I merely added some orange zest to the cookie dough.  The orange flavor was present but it was very, very subtle.  I think next time I will add orange juice or extract as well as the zest.  To make the amaretto cookie, I merely substituted the vanilla extract with amaretto. Unfortunately, you don’t really tast much of the amaretto flavor at all in these.  Even though these were good first attempts at tweaking these recipes, I do think I need to work on them a bit more.

Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies

The Soft Molasses Cookies were another recipe in the book that I had never made before.  Since I had all the ingredients on hand, I figured why not try it.  These were another cookie that were quick and easy-to-make.  The recipe was very straightforward and the results were delightful.  The cookie was crisp and chewy at the same time while not being too sweet. The molasses flavor was definitely there and helped contribute to the unique texture of this cookie.

Soft Molassess Cookies

Soft Molassess Cookies

My last cookie of the day were the Double Chocolate Cookies.  These were a soft chocolate cookie topped with a chocolate icing and a pecan for garnish.  The recipe did not say you should candy the pecans, but I did it anyway since I thought it would be a nice touch.  I LOVED this cookie and really, I should have been making this one for years! It’s pretty, light, chocolatey, crunchy and delicious!  I think this one is definitely going to be made a lot more often!

Double Chocolate Cookies

Double Chocolate Cookies


This week was my last official week in culinary school.  I’m glad that my motivation for school really started to decrease when I was almost done instead of when I was just beginning.  Don’t get me wrong–culinary school was a great experience, but I am looking forward to having my evenings back and having more of a regular schedule. I know I’ll be even more glad once I’m gainfully employed again too!  (Of course, I’d prefer to be employed doing food writing or pastry work, but that’s a whole other story.)

Anyway, I decided to basically play hookey from class and take it easy earlier this week. At first I thought I’d just be relaxing at home but then I got a bit antsy and started web surfing and well, I thought it would be cool to make some things.  One of the things I made was this Sweet Corn and Honey Ice Cream I found on Not Eating Out in New York.  It was really easy to make and very delicious!  The honey complements the corn very nicely.  The corn also adds a great texture and crunch to ice cream.  I loved this and I also love that it’s very seasonal so every part of it was delicious!

Sweet Corn and Honey Ice Cream (Pre-Churn)

Sweet Corn and Honey Ice Cream (Pre-Churn)

Earlier in the day, I went to the market to pick up some staples.  While I was there, I noticed they still had nice looking strawberries.  As a farewell to summer I made a strawberry shortcake.  I was very simple with macerated strawberries, whipped cream and a biscuit dough as a cake.  I also topped it with sprinkled powder sugar.  It was a nice, quick, refreshing way to bit adieu to summer.

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry Shortcake

I also decided to make some vanilla bean macarons.  These are the delicious French sandwich cookie that are chewy and crunchy.  They are almost always made with almond flour and powdered sugar.  It’s best to use old egg whites for this as well.  I know it sounds gross but it actually works really well.  I learned how to make these type of macarons when I worked with a pastry chef at my school helping her with a class that was focused on the macarons.  She told us how many chefs do not agree on the way to achieve the best results.  She also told us how some people say it better to let the piped batter sit for a while and develop a “skin” prior to baking.  I did use older egg whites and I did have to let some sit only because I only had so much space in my oven.

Chef also told us a rather disgusting story.  Apparently, in kitchens she had worked in both here and in France, people would save egg whites in large containers and not bother to refrigerate them.  The idea is that the moisture in the egg white would evaporate over time and therefore would make them easier to whip and form a better meringue with their all-protein structure.   She guessed that at the bottom of those containers, some of those egg whites were over 9 months old!  Gross right? But she also said their theory was true!  While she did discourage us from doing that with our egg whites, she did say you should let them sit out side for at least 2-3 hours before making your macarons.  Or you can let them sit out, uncovered, overnight.

Anyway, I used a recipe I got from class to make these.  This recipe for Parisian-Style Macarons is a recipe that I adapted from Christian Godineau Macarons (la Suchesse Anne, Saumur France).

Ingredients:

375 g 10x sugar (confectioner’s sugar)

190 g almond flour

170 g egg whites

56 g granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, scraped (I added this, to make my macarons vanilla)

drops of red food coloring (I also added this for pink macarons)

Method:

  1. Sift almond flour and powdered sugar together.
  2. Whip egg whites on low-medium speed until soft peak; gradually add granulated sugar until medium peak and glossy.  Hand fold dry ingredients into meringue.
  3. Pipe into quarter sized macarons on Silpat with a 1/2″ round tube and bake immediately.  Bake at 350F until cookie lifts up.
    Note:  I did not use a pastry tip.  I just cut my pastry bag and piped them that way.  I also baked my first batch immediately, but my other batches did dry out a bit before baking.  I thought my later batches were better.)

For a filling, I used a simple butter cream that I had in my freezer already. These cookies were sweet, chewy, crispy and delicious!! I DEFINITELY wanna learn to make these in different flavors and colors!

Macarons Fresh out of the oven

Macarons Fresh out of the oven

Buttercream Filled Vanilla Macarons

Buttercream Filled Vanilla Macarons

I did so much work, I can’t count it as a day where I was “playing hookey”!  Maybe I was just exercising my baking muscles at home!  🙂

Today was all about petites fours.  I always thought these were very fancy, very small dessert preparations so I never tried to make them them. They always seemed so hard since they were so small and delicate looking. Now that I learned what they are, I’ve come to realize I’ve been making these for years!  Small cookies, rainbow cookies, mini-cakes can all be considered petites fours.  Technically, the term means “little ovens”.  Any petite four was basically a small item that can be cooked in the oven using residual heat after a long day of cooking other items.  They are meant to be about the size of a quarter and consumed in one bite.

We learned there are three main categories of petites fours.  One is called Sec, which means dry.  These tend to be cookie type preparations, like a butter cookie (think about those cookies from the Italian bakery that are dry, but great dunked into a cup of coffee) or a rainbow cookie.  These are made ahead of time, baked and stored without any decrease in quality. Essentially, there is a staging component to the preparation of these petites fours.

Another variety is called Frais, which means fresh.  These have components that have to be made at the last minute.  For example, a miniaturized version of a fresh fruit tart could be a Frais petites four.  The pate brisee for these should be baked ahead of time.  The pastry cream can be made a day or two before you assemble the final tarts.  The fruit should be the freshest possible and should be cut as close to service as possible.  Assembly of each tart should also take place close to service so that the tart crust remains flaky and delicious.  I strongly suspect that Marshmallows fall into this category, since they do not have a very long shelf-life.

The next variety of petites fours is called Glace, which means glazed.  These are your chocolate dipped strawberries or other chocolate dipped fruit or chocolate truffles.  These also include glazed mini-cakes with jam in the layers.  We were also told that petites fours are technically different from BonBon’s but I don’t quite know how.  (Anyone know about this?)  Once we were enlightened about the variety of different petites fours we went on to make our items of the day:  Spritz Cookies, Macaroons, Biscotti, Butternut Crunch, and Marshmallows.

The biscotti and macaroons were delightful and delicious.  Flavorful, sweet and cute!  I didn’t try the butternut crunch.  It just looked too brittle to me.  I also think they will be more appealing when glazed with chocolate, which we will be doing next week.  The marshmallows were the highlight!  I’ve never made fresh marshmallows and I was excited!  They’re very simple.  We just combined egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, water and gelatin and whisked them over a double boiler.  Once they reached 160 degrees (to ensure the eggs were cooked) we put them in a mixer until thick and fluffy.  They then were put into a mold and allowed to set.  Our class made plain marshmallow, lemon, coffee and lime flavored marshmallows.  The lemon was sweet and tangy.  The lime reminded me of a key-lime pie.  And the coffee had really good coffee flavor and since it was so sweet and creamy I thought I was having a cafe con leche.  I did manage to sneak in some shots while everything was cooling.

Biscotti

Biscotti

Biscotti

Biscotti

Marshmallows

Marshmallows

Coffee Marshmallow

Coffee Marshmallow

Who can argue with cookies, bite-sized cookies and cakes or chocolate dipped anything?  I think I’ve found my niche in petites fours!

We also prepared for our first quiz in pastry.  We were told what questions to expect, so now I just have to figure out the answers.  Here’s an idea of all the things we’re expected to know now that we’re in the pastry world.

  1. What are the folds used for puff pastry and croissants?
    The letter fold or “threefold” fold is used for croissants.  The book fold or “doubleturn” fold is use for puff pastry.
  2. What are 3 things unique about bagels?
    Bagels are poached before baking.  Bagels are bench proofed for 10 minutes.  This is done after the shaping and before poaching.  Bagles are pre-shaped into a log before being shaped into their characteristic ring shape.
  3. Describe the method for making brioche dough.
    This is a two stage method for making dough.  To prepare the levain dissove yeast into luke warm milk.   Combine the yeast and milk mixture with flour.   Cover and ferment this mixture until doubled in size.  The flour is a percentage of the total flour in the dough.  To make the pate, combine butter sugar and salt in a mixing bowl.  In a mixer, cream these components until well blended.  Beat in the eggs and egg yolks one at a time.  It is important to do this slowly or you will break the emulsion.  Add the rest of the flour until it is absorbed then change to a dough hook.  Add the levain and beat until the dough is smooth and elastic.  You should be able to pick up all the dough and see how it stretches to determine if you have gluten. Once it is ready, place the dough in a plastic bag, sprayed with non-stick spray and place in the refrigerator to slowy ferment (retard).  Punch the dough and shape it into brioche a tete or other shapes you desire.
  4. What are the different tart doughs and how are they made?  What fillings are suitable for each dough?
  5. Pate Brisee Pate Sucre
    Dry Ingredients AP Flour, Cake flour, salt, sometimes baking powder AP Salt, Sugar, Baking Powder
    Fat Butter: Should be large pieces that are cold. The cold makes it flaky! You can also use larde, shortening or suet. Butter: This is used to create a homogeneous, mealy mixture.
    Liquid Water, milk, or cream. Egg

    Pate brisee should be blind baked and then filled since it can not tolerate a moist filling. Baking it with a moist filling will cause the crust to become soggy instead of flaky. Pate sucree can be used for sweet or savory preparations. If using for savory do not include the sugar. This is a sturdier dough and can be baked with a moist filling such as a frangipane.

  6. Describe the method and ingredients used for poaching fruit.
  7. Peel, halve and core pears and place in acidulated water to prevent browning.  Place pears in a a sauce pan and add enough wine and water to cover the pears by 1 inch of liquid.   Add sugar and any spices to flavor the pears.  You can use vanilla bean, all spice, or clove. Cut a round of parchment to fit inside the sauce pan and cover the pears with the paper.  This will help to ensure they are kept submerged in the liquid. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a  gentle simmer.  Cook pears until softened.  Cool the pears in their poaching liquid in an ice bath.  The syrup acts as a flavoring agent as well as a preservative.