Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Petit Fours, or Why Do I Get Myself Into These Situations?
Have you ever heard yourself say something, and as your mouth is rambling on, your brain is saying, "Shut up, you fool! What is wrong with you?!"? Well, recently my church had a tea party for the ladies, and they asked if I could bring something. Sure, no problem. I'll go think about it and get back with you. So I had pretty much decided to bring muffins, because I really just wanted to make something easy, and the next week, I heard myself asking the lady in charge, "Is anyone bringing petit fours?" Her face lit up. And my brain was shrieking at me to shut up.
Petit fours are evil. I had never successfully made petit fours. When I was 12 or 13, I made some for my best friend, who was coming to my house for a sleep over. While they weren't wretched, they definitely left something to be desired. (Alex, if you're out there, I'm sorry I served you soggy petit fours in the 8th grade. And I'm sorry I flaked out and lost your address. E-mail me and we'll catch up. And I'll try to make up for the petit fours.)
I tried again a few years ago and it was an unmitigated disaster. Seriously. It was months before I recovered. So I don't know why I volunteered to make petit fours for the ladies at church. Most of whom are really good cooks.
While I know that you are supposed to make petit fours with genoise, I decided that, given my history, I wasn't going to waste the effort or the ingredients. So I used a doctored cake mix. It's easy, and I don't feel as bad if I have to throw it out. Then I searched the internets for a poured fondant recipe, and I found one here: petit fours icing.
I baked the cake in a half sheet pan, then leveled it at 1" high. I used some small fondant cutters to cut the cake into shapes. I used a circle, a heart, a flower, a wonky flower and an oval. While the oval was pretty, it was structurally unsound. Just so you know. Then, because the cutters were taking too long, I cut about 1/2 of the cake into little squares (well, they were four-sided shapes at least) with a sharp-ish knife.
Aren't they cute? The cutters were less deep than the cake, so to avoid mangling the cake, I used skewers to push the cutters down all the way. Hey, it worked.
Once the cakes were all cut, I started making the fondant. I boiled some sugar, water and cream of tartar in a sauce pan to soft ball stage.
And let the sugar syrup cool to 110 degrees (F). Next, I slowly added the powdered sugar and burned up the motor in my hand mixer. Again. There was smoke and the smell of burning electronics and everything! I swear, I have burned out at least six hand mixers at this point.
By then the mixture was so thick I was afraid to put it in my KitchenAid, lest I burn that up, too. So I had to use elbow grease. And lots of it. I added the flavorings and coloring last of all, and here's what I had:
That's some thick frosting. Another couple cups of powdered sugar and you could roll that stuff out. Anyhow, you have to thin down the icing with hot water to pouring consistency. And, eventually, it looked like this:
Ain't it purty?
Like all icings, consistency is the key. Too thick and it makes a mess. Too thin, and it just runs off the cake without covering it. This was about perfect. I imagine I could have added a second coat, since the sides of the cakes weren't completely smooth because of the way I cut them, but I ran out of time and icing. No biggie, though.
They came out ok. (Pay no attention to the empty spot in the top left corner. Quality control.) And then, since they were for a tea party, and because tea parties are fancy, I piped a little rosebud and a leaf on each one.
I used almond flavoring in the cake and the icing, since people seem to like that kind of thing. Personally, I'm not crazy about almond flavor. And I bought candy melts at the store, just in case there was an incident, and I ended up having to make cake balls instead. But, I'm happy to say that I did not have to resort to my back-up plan!
And just because I had leftover cake, I made cake balls anyway. And I took them to work. Because I really don't like cake balls, either. And then I forgot to take a picture until they were almost gone. Go me!
So that was my big adventure for the weekend.