Monday, November 16, 2015

Baking Now Tour: Petit Fours

Welcome to the Baking Now Tour! I'm excited to be a part of a conversation of favorite holiday treats. In case you're unfamiliar with Baking Now, a new tour stop features a cherished recipe each Tuesday until Christmas. Guests also have a chance to win an ebelskiver pan! My friend Beth over at More Than Oregano organized the tour and has all the details (including how to enter the contest).

I have a love of baking that started with my grandma and mom, two fantastic bakers who eschewed store bought baked goods. Homemade dessert was a part of every meal. I didn't really eat commercial confections until I started visiting the homes of my friends. And, to my young way of thinking, I thought my friends were SO LUCKY! Oreos were the bomb!

Growing up we made a handful of Christmas cookies, most of which were offered on party buffets. Desserts at our sit-down meals were cakes and pies. The recipe below is a combination of cake, pie and cookie: white cake, filled with lemon curd all in a bit-sized package. My no-nonsense grandma would've found these Petit Fours fancy, and I know she would've loved them!

I usually begin my holiday baking in late October. In addition to seeking out cookies that are unique, I need cookies that freeze well. I like being able to pull them from the freezer, fill a box and give to clients, friends and family. Frozen cookies also make entertaining easy - I have dessert ready to go should guests drop in.

These Petit Fours are the perfect two-bite after dinner sweet. The cake has a fine, tender crumb, reminiscent of a traditional white wedding cake. If you don't like white cake, substitute your favorite cake flavor (any 9-inch, two layer recipe will work).

I filled the cakes with lemon curd which is best made a day in advance. If you don't want to make curd, feel free to use commercially prepared or your favorite cake filling, jam, fondant, etc. This method can yield a variety of flavor combinations (I especially like chocolate cakes with peanut butter filling for Ohio State tailgates).

Happy Holidays y'all! Wishing you a bountiful table surrounded by people you love.

Make the lemon filling. I use a makeshift double boiler: place
a pot on the stove. Fill with 2-3 inches of water.

Place a bowl on top of the pot. Make sure the pot doesn't sit in the water.

Combine filing ingredients in the bowl. Cook
and stir over medium heat for 15 minutes.

The curd is ready when it coats a spoon. Resist the urge to
continue cooking as the curd will continue to thicken as it cools.

Cover and chill in refrigerator overnight. The filling will become very thick.

Make the cake. Begin by greasing a 12"x17" baking sheet. Line with
parchment paper, leaving an overhang. Grease paper.

Cream together butter, shortening, baking powder, sugar, salt and extracts until fluffy.

Add egg whites, flour and milk. Batter will be creamy and light.

Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake & cool.

Using paper overhang, lift cooled cake from pan.

Slice in half, making two 12" x 8.5" halves. Spread lemon filling on one half.

Stack other half of cake on top of filling.Trim cake to 
even edges. I usually remove 1/2 inch from each side.

Cut cake into 1.5" x 1.5" squares.

Make fondant: Melt chocolate. Combine with
powdered sugar, corn syrup, hot water and vanilla.

To coat, place cake on fork. Use a spoon to drizzle fondant over cake. 
Set covered cake on cooling rack to dry. If fondant becomes 
thick, place bowl over a pot of simmering water to warm.

If desired, decorate dipped cakes with colored sugar or piping icing.

Allow fondant to dry. Serve or place in freezer and consume within three months.

Lemon Filling
Makes 1 1/2 cups
This tangy filling pairs well with white cakes, but is also great served with fresh berries. Resist the urge to cook more than 15 minutes. While the curd will seem loose, it thickens as it cools. It's finished when it coats the back of a spoon.

4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup lemon juice
zest of 3 lemons
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces
Combine all the ingredients in a double boiler. Cook and stir for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, place in a bowl and place plastic wrap coated with cooking spray directly on curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate overnight.

Makes 26-30 finished petit fours

8 Tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 3/4 cups superfine sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
5 large egg whites
2 3/4 cups cake flour
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12"x17" rimmed baking sheet. Fit with parchment paper leaving overhang on sides. Grease the parchment paper. 

In a large mixing bowl cream together butter, shortening, baking powder, sugar, salt and extracts until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir one-third of the flour into mixture, then half the milk, another third of the flour, remaining milk and remaining flour. Scrape the bottom and sides of bowl occasionally.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 23-25 minutes. Cool completely. Lift cake out of pan using parchment paper. Set aside.

Poured Fondant
2 cup white chocolate chips
8 cups (2 lb.) confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp hot water
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Melt the white chocolate in the microwave, stirring until smooth. Sift sugar into a large bowl. Add the corn syrup and hot water to sugar, stirring until smooth. Stir in melted chocolate and vanilla to the sugar mixture. If the mixture is too thick to pour, reheat it briefly over a pot of simmering water. The mixture pours smoothly at about 100°F.

Cut cake in half to make two 12" x 8.5". Spread 1 1/2 cups filling evenly over one of the pieces. Place the second cake half on top. Trim edges. Cut cake into 1 1/2" strips. Cut each strip into 1 1/2" wide pieces.

Using a fork, dip bottom of each cake into warm fondant. Using a spoon, drizzle additional fondant over top and sides to encase cake. Set petit four on a cooling rack. Decorate if desired. Let fondant completely set up. Serve or place in freezer and consume within three months.

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