History of Petit Fours
Petit four, which simply means “small oven,” is the exact name of those miniature cakes you place on trays at parties and on the table at fancy dinners. They are present as mini-cakes made with cream and fruits. The ability of chefs and caterers to create new and special types of petit fours is unlimited. They can work as appetizers and as a complete meal, depending on the circumstances.
If you’re not sure why appetizers would be called small ovens, here is your answer. In 19th century France, there were no gas ovens. The bakery oven was the only type of oven during that time. It was a huge hut made of stone, under which a fire was lit. These types of ovens took a long time to start up, got very hot for some time, and then took a long time to die. Also, it didn’t actually have a knob that could be turned to modify the heat. In fact, it only had two settings.
The first stage was the great four big furnace, where the fire was at its strongest. This setting was used when roasts, wild boar, pork, beef ribs, vegetable platters, and potatoes were baked.
The second scenario was the petit four, when the fire began to die down and the heat to weaken. This setting was used when individual cakes and bite-size appetizers could be baked to serve with tea. This is how novelty foods became petit fours after the way they were prepared.
Petite Fours Recipe (from landolakes)
1 package white cake mix (18 1/2 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
3 cups of sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups of water
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon almond or vanilla extract
3 drops of food coloring
Candy flowers, if you like
Glaze flowers, if desired
Heat oven to 350 ° F. Grease and flour 2 (8-inch) square baking pans. Set aside.
Prepare cake mix according to package directions, adding 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract to water. Evenly divide the cake batter between the prepared pans. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes; remove from pans. Let cool completely. Trim edges of cake; Cut each cake into 24 pieces (1 1/2 x 1 inch).
Combine sugar, cream of tartar, and water in 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a full boil (12 to 14 minutes). Cover; boil 3 minutes. Discover; Continue cooking until the candy thermometer reaches (228 ° F to 234 ° F) or a small amount of the mixture that is poured into ice water forms a smooth 2-inch thread (15 to 20 minutes). Remove from heat; cool to 110 ° F. or until bottom of pan is slightly warm to the touch (do not stir) (1 hour). Add powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon of almond extract, and food coloring.
Place the rack on a baking sheet. Place cake pieces cut side up on wire rack. Gently spread the frosting over the edges of the cake pieces with a small spatula or spoon. Spoon about 1 tablespoon on top of each cake and drizzle down the sides. Repeat, covering each piece twice, if necessary. (If the icing becomes too thick, reheat to a fine, easy-to-spray consistency (2 to 3 minutes)). Remove frosting from baking sheet; reuse, if necessary. Decorate each petit four with caramel blossoms or frosting, if desired.