The mini dessert: Experimenting with small treats

Sometimes you just want a little taste of a delicious treat to satisfy your sweet tooth without filling you up. That’s the concept behind miniature desserts, which are becoming an increasingly popular trend in the U.S. The growing interest in bite-size confections is rooted in cafe gourmand, a style that that calls for serving an array of small desserts alongside a cup of espresso. This way of enjoying various confections originated in Paris restaurants before spreading across Europe and then over the Atlantic.

Mini desserts are on their way to becoming a full-blown phenomenon, inspiring pastry chefs and caterers who want to offer guests an intriguing selection of options. For anyone studying the baking and pastry arts, developing a repertoire of tiny treats is a must. Try some classic approaches to scaled-down indulgence, and then experiment with your own ideas for concentrating amazing flavor into a tiny package.

Crafting classic petits fours

“Petits fours are an old favorite that leave plenty of room for customization.”

Petits fours are an old favorite that leave plenty of room for customization. The tiny confections come in nearly endless varieties, but Anne Thornton suggested a recipe that’s sure to satisfy guests with a combination of big flavors and colors.

Use an electric mixer with a paddle attachment to beat together a pound of almond paste and a cup of sugar at medium speed. Add almond paste and butter, beating into a fluffy mixture. Beat six eggs into the almond paste mixture, adding them one at a time. Then, complete the batter with salt and flour.

Brush melted butter onto three rimmed baking sheets before lining them with parchment paper and adding more butter on top. Pour the batter out onto the sheets, dividing evenly and using a spatula to smooth out the top. Tap the sheet on the counter to eliminate any pockets of air before placing in an oven set to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning about halfway through. Watch for the batter to set and, after testing with a toothpick, transfer the cakes to wire racks to cool.

Turn out one layer of cake onto a fresh baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread on raspberry jam before placing a second layer on top. Add more raspberry jam and then the third layer of cake. Set a baking sheet on top, weighing it down with cans, and chill for at least an hour.

Cut the cake into one-inch squares, and set the squares on a wire rack. Top with royal icing in colors like green and lavender. Put on the finishing touches with decorative dragees and allow about half an hour for the icing to set.

A selection of small cookies and treats.Offering a variety of small desserts is a great way to invite guests to dig in.

Making a mini-millefeuille

Chef Nicolas Chevrieux, who creates pastries for Maison Kayser USA, provided Bon Appetit with directions for a snack-sized version of a mille-feuille This tiny take on the custard slice starts with the painstaking process of preparing puff pastry. First, work together flour, butter and salt in a large bowl with your hands. Form a well to pour in ice water and lemon juice, mixing until they incorporate.

Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for two hours. Set the dough on a lightly floured surface, placing more butter in the middle. Fold the dough over the butter and place in the refrigerator. After repeating this process five times, form four squares of dough and refrigerate them another hour. Then the puff pastry is ready to go into a 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

Make pastry cream using milk, vanilla bean, egg, sugar and cornstarch. Spread the cream onto two strips of pastry, and build up three layers of pastry and cream. Add a dusting of powdered sugar and chill for an hour before serving.

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