Sweets & Confectionery


As a child, I had a voracious appetite for squishy and gummy lollies.  Fruity, sugary, chewy.  Any type.  There was no discrimination in my book.  My little hand was happy to place any amount of sugar into my mouth.  So much so I am sure I had a stash lollies hidden away in my childhood bedroom.  I had quite a sweet tooth.  (Still do…)

I could almost guarantee that every kids party I attended as a child included a mix of lollies.  Sitting back reflecting on those parties, I could imagine even if I was not close friends with the birthday girl/boy, I was happy enough to attend the little gathering just to graze the sweet food table.

So summoning up a little nostalgia for my next kids party month installment, I include a selection of homemade lollies.  The choices probably reflect personal bias, as these are some of my ultimate sugar ladened sweets.

When the time really comes for me to whip up a selection of party lollies for baby Mélanger, I am sure her little friends will be happy with fluffy marshmallow and fruity jellies.  But I would question how well a group of pint sized people would enjoy the subtle rose flavour of Turkish Delight.  Though remembering parents often attend these celebrations, the slightly more sophisticated flavour of this sweet may appeal?

Either way, the beauty of this sugary trio is that they only take about 60 minutes to put together.  And once done, you end up with over 150 pieces combined.  Surely enough to satisfy the collective sweet tooth of even the largest party crowd?

{ Turkish Delight } Adapted from Australian Women’s Weekly

I was originally planning to make Claire Clark’s Turkish Delight recipe.  It was the only hard copy I had on hand of a more authentic version which is made without gelatin.  But when push came to shove, I knew I needed an hour to make Claire’s recipe, so opted for the short cut version here.  You do get what you pay for, so to speak.  This recipe produces a Turkish Delight that is not as soft as what you get when spending an hour stirring over the stove, but it is a pretty good substitute.

* Ingredients *
45g gelatin
60ml water
660g caster sugar
500ml water, extra
110g cornflour
2 tablespoons glucose
1 teaspoon rosewater
Pink food colouring
110g icing sugar, sifted

* Directions *
Grease a deep 20cm square cake pan.  Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small jug, stand jug in a saucepan of simmering water.  Stir until gelatin dissolves.  Combine caster sugar and 3/4 cup of the extra water in a saucepan, stir without boiling until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil without stirring until syrup reaches 116C.  Simmer for 5 minutes without stirring.  Remove pan from heat.  Meanwhile, place cornflour in another medium saucepan, and gradually blendin remaining extra water.  Bring to a boil, stirring until mixture thickens.  Gradually stir hot sugar syrup, gelatin mixture and glucose into cornflour mixture.  Bring to a boil, stirring.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and whisk in rosewater, and tint.  Strain mixtures through sieve into cake pan.  Allow to stand uncovered overnight.  Turn onto board dusted with icing sugar, and cut with knife into cubes.  Roll pieces into remaining icing sugar.  Store for up to two weeks in airtight container.

Makes 48 pieces

{  Pink Marshmallow } Adapted from Claire Clark, Indulge

* Ingredients *
350g caster sugar
150ml glucose
4 teaspoons gelatin
250ml water
2 medium egg whites
200g icing sugar
Pink food colouring, optional

* Directions *
Grease a 30x20cm baking tray, then line with parchment.  Grease well.  Put the sugar and glucose into a pan and stir well.  Place over allow heat and stir until melted.  Stop mixing, and turn up the heat until the sugar reaches 118C.  As soon as the sugar has started, start to prepare the other ingredients.  Put the water and gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes.  Then add the egg whites and star the machine on medium speed.  Whisk until egg whites form soft peaks.  When the sugar has reached the correct temperature, turn down the machine and pour in the hot sugar into the whites.  Beat again for 2 minutes, then increase to high and beat for about 10-15 minutes.  Towards the end, add the food colouring if desired.  Spoon the mixture int the prepared ray, and leave to set uncovered overnight.  Cut the mixture into cubes using a knife dipped into warm water.  Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and toss the cut marshmallow in it to coat.  Leave on tray for a few ours to form a skin.

Makes 80 pieces

{ Raspberry & Strawberry Pâte de Fruit } Adapted from Claire Clark, Indulge

* Ingredients *
350g strawberries, cleaned and hulled
350g raspberries, cleaned
500g sugar
70ml glucose
150ml water
45g liquid pectin
1 teaspoon lemon juice
100g granulated sugar

* Directions *
Lightly grease a 20cm square baking tin, and line with cling film.  Put the berries in a food processor then pass through a sieve.  Weigh the fruit, you will need 500g finished weight.  Stire 50g of the sguar into the puree.  In a large suacepan, mix the remaining sguar with the glucose and water.  Bring to the boil stirring only until the sugar and gluocse have dissolved.  Boil without stirring until the sugar reaches 130C.  In a small bowl, mix the puree with the pctin.  Once the syrup as reached the termpature, add teh puree and stir to combine.  The termpatuer will drop. Bring it back to 103C.  Do not stir.  Add the lemon juice and continue to cook until 106C.  Stir the fruit mixture once or twice just berfore you put it into the tin.  Leve to cool and set overnight at room termpuatre, uncovered.  Cut the jellies into cutes and place into a bowl of granulated sguar to coat.  Leave on a tray to dry for an hour.  The jellies will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 weeks.

Makes 40-50 jellies

 

 

 

There has been a hint of spring in the air recently.

Fresh, warm breezes have been welcomed into our home.  Every single window has been opened wide to capture the full warmth of the sun.  The bright blue, sunny sky has charmed smiles from all of us.

The recent explosion of sunshine and happiness was reason enough for me to celebrate with a generous bowl of cool, homemade ice-cream.

For quite some time I have wanted to incorporate avocado into a sweet dessert.   I was inspired by the avocado milkshake, apparently one of the most popular drinks in Southeast Asia, in Pichet Ong’s, The Sweet Spot.

I took the basic ingredients that Ong includes in his recipe (avocado, whole milk, lime juice, condensed milk and salt), adapted the quantities to my taste and then continued the preparation to make ice cream.

This ice cream is sinfully sweet, yet surprisingly, pairs well with the sweet nuttiness of a crisp sesame brittle.

{ Avocado ‘milkshake’ ice cream & sesame brittle }

Avocado ‘milkshake’ ice cream Recipe inspired by Pichet Ong’s, Avocado Milk Shake from The Sweet Spot

* Ingredients *
200g avocado flesh (approx. ¾ avocado – I used a Shepard avocado)
395g condensed milk (1 tin)
250ml whole milk
2 tablespoon lemon juice
Pinch salt

* Directions *
Place all the ingredients into a food processor, and blend until thoroughly combined.  Transfer to a jug/bowl and refrigerate overnight.  The following day, churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Transfer to a container, and freeze for a further 1-2 hours to firm up the texture.

Sesame brittle Recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

* Ingredients *
40g sesame seeds (I used half white and black)
60g white sugar
30g water

* Directions *
Sprinkle the sesame seeds in a single layer over a silpat sheet on a baking tray.  Set aside.  In a small saucepan, place the sugar and water and stir until clear.  Place over a medium heat and, without stirring, cook until syrup comes to a boil.  Wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush if necessary.  Continue to cook until it reaches 165C/325F.  At this stage, gently pour the caramel over the prepared sesame seeds.  With an offset spatula, evenly spread the caramel across the sesame seeds.  Allow to cool.

Separately, I have received a few gentle requests for an update on baby Mélanger.  I have not included any photographs of her on my blog all year (shame on me!).  She is, if you can believe it, only a couple of weeks away from 11 months!  So here is a little sequence from earlier this week.

I have started experimenting with some muffins (looking at low fat and low sugar options) for baby Mélanger.  Here is the result of one of my recent trials.  This muffin included blueberry, which she had never eaten before.

I think she likes them, no?

Okay, sure, all right.  I know this theme has showcased only a very small sampling of recipes from the Ladurée Sucre cookbook, but hopefully as you have all since rushed out to claim a precious copy of your very own, you are continuing your own sampling at home?

I do have to admit, as much as I adore all things Ladurée (and oh how I do!), my baking enjoyment comes from being somewhat more fluid in the kitchen.  Being a little experimental – and not being worried if my plans do not always come of.  I find it harder to follow a selection of recipes strictly from one book.  Hmmmm, not sure what that says about me?

In saying that though, my very-greatly-loved-copy of this cookbook sits with a sticky note on practically every second page.  So needless to say this sweet Ladurée journey will certainly not be my last.  Those sticky notes will be tackled, all in good time.  But just not all at once.

Until then, here is a round up of my small, but well loved selection of adapted recipes from the Ladurée Sucre cookbook.

 

{ Ladurée :: Orange flower & almond kugelhopf } I had high expectations of this recipe (and every recipe in this treasure of a book, in fact), but my expectations were blown away.  This kugelhopf recipe is simply superb.  But I am not surprised.  It is Ladurée, after all, no?  { Read more here … }

 

{ Ladurée :: Hot chocolate & vanilla marshmallows } When there is a chill in the air, is there really anything more comforting that nursing a mug of warm chocolate (really should be called chocolate sauce), and some bitesized cubes of homemade vanilla marshmallow.  I think not!  { Read more here … }

 

{ Ladurée :: Hazelnut and chocolate macarons } These Ladurée inspired macarons were sensational.  Every element exaggerated.  The shell was excessively delicate and fragile and gave away to a thick and beautifully chewy centre.  This flavour is not in the Ladurée book but is a tribute to one of my favourite things in life.  Nutella.  { Read more here … }

 

{ Ladurée :: Brandy rice pudding } Sultanas have been soaked in brandy to add a depth of flavour to this simple rice pudding.  With or without the brandy addition, the pudding is very rich — hence the small serving size.  As such, it seems such a delicate dessert, even though it is a very straightforward recipe.  { Read more here … }

It seemed like even before I presented the plate of freshly cut homemade marshmallow, I was impatiently asking, “so what do you think of these little vanilla clouds of pure sweetness and light?”

I am grinning from ear to ear as plain and simple vanilla marshmallow is one of my favourite sweets of all time.  I am convinced it will be a hit.

But there was a pause.  And, even more disturbingly, an unexpected response.

“Hmmmmm, I am not really a fan of marshmallow, truth be told.”

Ummm, hello?  Not a fan?

Can you believe I did not know my husband was not a fan of the marshmallow?  I was shocked.  Dumbfounded.  How can you not like the marshmallow?  I shake my head.

“Oh well, not a complete disaster”, I concluded.  “More for me!” or so I thought.  Turns out, Mr Mélanger is partial to the marshmallow with a spot of hot chocolate.

I recall the heart-stopping hot chocolate I wolfed down in Paris at Angelina’s.  While in somewhat of a happy daydream, I remembered a recipe for chocolat chaud in the Ladurée Sucre cookbook.  So, with a smile, it was back to the kitchen for me.

A few moments later, I was nursing a mug of warm chocolate gold (really should be called chocolate sauce), and some bitesized cubes of homemade vanilla marshmallow.

Heaven.

{ Vanilla marshmallows } adapted from Ladurée Sucre cookbook

*  Ingredients *
14g powdered gelatin
1 tbs vanilla extract
100ml water
350g caster sugar
50g glucose syrup
4 egg whites
75g icing sugar
75g potato starch

* Directions *
Line a 20cm cake tin with foil and set aside.  In a small saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin powder over 50ml of the water along with the vanilla extract.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes.  Then over a low heat, mix until the gelatin has dissolved completely.   In a separate saucepan, place the remaining water, 300g of the sugar and syrup.  Bring mixture to 270F/130C.  Whisk in the warmed liquid gelatin mixture into the sugar syrup.   Separately, start to beat the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl.  Once they are frothy, add the 50g of sugar.  Once the cooked sugar is ready, add little by little into the egg white continuing to whip to obtain a meringue.  Pour the mixture into the prepared tin.  Allow to cool completely and harden overnight.  The following day, prepare the icing sugar and potato starch for coating.  Dust a little onto a work surface.  Loosen the marshmallow from the tin and place on the prepared surface.  Cut the marshmallow (a pizza cutter works well), into your desired size and shape.  Roll the cut marshmallow into the remaining icing sugar and potato starch mixture.

{ Hot Chocolate } from Ladurée Sucre cookbook

*  Ingredients *
1 litre whole milk, cold
150ml water
100g caster sugar
235g bitter chocolate

* Directions *
In a saucepan, bring the milk, water and sugar to a boil.  Chop the chocolate into small pieces.  Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate.  Whip hot chocolate with an immersion hand blender directly in saucepan (off heat).

Braids, scrolls, tarts, slices, buns. You choose.  Take one recipe of basic sweet bread dough and make your own creation.  Spicy, fruity, or plain, but always sweet, soft and rich.

I was hoping to showcase 6 different variations from my 1 basic sweet dough recipe for Sweet Dough month.

There were in fact 6 different treats produced in the Mélanger kitchen.  The item not published was a cinnamon-y Finnish treat that just did not make it to ‘photography stage’.  No prizes for guessing why! Time was against me this month to reproduce it, so I will wait for for another Finnish inspired baking month to create it again.  I only started to scratch the surface of Finnish baking last May.

Here is a round up of the recipes I created from 1 single sweet bread dough.  I find bread dough is very versatile, as I hoped to demonstrate this month.  If you want even more doughy inspiration for your own bread, I have also included a selection of some of my other favourite sweet bread treats!

this month

Hot cross braid small{ Hot cross braid } There is no bun, there is no cross, but this braid has all the requisite flavours of Easter.  Those heady flavours of cinnamon and allspice, combined with the citrusy and sweet overtones of the fruit and peel that make hot cross buns such a firm favourite this time of year.  { Read more here … }

Chocolate pecan maple scrolls small{ Chocolate pecan & maple scrolls } Soft, rich and sweet bread is layered with chocolate, pecans and drizzled with maple syrup.  Straight out of the oven it is hard to resist not pulling them apart and enjoying straight away.  Fill with your own flavour combination to personalise your own scrolls.  { Read more here … }

Pear and ginger tarts small{ Pear & ginger crème fraîche tarts } A simple dough.  Some homemade crème fraîche.  And a few slices of spiced pears.  Easy.  In a few short steps you have a sweet little fruit tart, and a nice twist on the usual pastry versions.  { Read more here … }

Mini doughnuts with dulce de leche small{ Mini doughnuts with homemade dulce de leche } Mini balls of fried yeasty goodness.  The distinct aroma of the cinnamon sugar on the warm doughnut.  The unbeatable taste of that just cooked doughnut.  These fluffy yeast style doughnuts are a lovely reminder of old fashioned doughnut shop confections.  { Read more here … }

Raspberry and lemon frangipane slice small{ Raspberry lemon frangipane slice } The sweet bread dough base is much lighter than its tart dough or biscuit base counterparts, making it a more delicate sweet indulgence.  The flavours of raspberry and lemon are a classic.  The subtle almond flavoured frangipane helps retains a level of richness and moistness.  The arrangement altogether, is one very easy to eat treat.   { Read more here … }

Related recipes

brioche small{ Gingerbread Brioche }  Brioche is a specialty of the Normandy region of France.  This gingerbread brioche is simply perfect with salted butter, or extra special served as French toast. Spicy, light, buttery, rich and soft all wrapped up together.   { Read more here … }

Blueberry buns small{ Mustikkapiiraat :: Blueberry filled buns } These buns are a snap to make and smell wonderful coming out of the oven.  You may clap your hands in delight (as I did) when seeing the gooey berry drizzle running down the side of a bun or two.  It will be hard to wait for them to cool slightly so you can devour them.  { Read more here … }

baba small{ Baba au rhum } This dessert, introduced into France by way of Alsace-Lorraine, traditionally shaped like a Champagne cork, is a rich, yeast bread, baked in a cylindrical mould.  It is liberally (emphasis on liberally) soaked in a sweet rum syrup.  { Read more here … }

brioche{ Brioche Tart with Caramelised Fruits } A rich egg bread is filled with creamy custard, topped with a tangy sabayon sauce, and served with caramel poached fruits.  Watch for the volcanic-like reaction during the sauce process when adding the wine to the caramel.  A great sweet weekend breakfast alternative to the typical pancake or waffle options. { Read more here … }

pulla small{ Pulla :: Finnish cardamom bread } Pulla was the first item I baked for my (now) husband.  After much searching for the perfect recipe, I took the plunge with my Beatrice Ojakangas baking bible.  When I was told the bread tasted, “just like my mummo used to make”, I knew I had chosen well.   { Read more here … }

fruit buns small{ Fruit buns } My very first baking competition.  With much practise, I was overjoyed that one of my entries into the Royal Queensland Show (Ekka) Cooking Competition, won a place.  I could not believe it.  I felt like a five year old child excited when I saw my ribbon and certificate.  { Read more here … }

Mini doughnuts single

I was about 10 years of age, if I had to guess.  An age where, back then at least, the idea of playing shop was a terribly appealing one.  In this case, it was a real grown up version.

It would start with a Saturday morning ritual.  An outing.  A trip to the local shops.  For my mother, it was a highly practical affair.  Secure groceries for the week ahead before the stores closed at noon.  For me, it was the promise of something sweet.

I vaguely remember her being an older lady.  Happy.  Friendly.  And always eager to share her fresh, sweet treats.  I am not sure how I managed to find myself on the other side of that kiosk counter, but one day there I was, helping this charming older lady.  She managed a tiny doughnut shop.  As a child, it was a sugar ladened wonderland.  There were brightly iced doughnuts.  Cream and jam filled doughnuts.  And warm, fresh cinnamon doughnuts. 

The doughnut lady would take care of all the iced and filled doughnuts, plus cook the plain doughnuts ready for cinnamon sugar dusting.  That was where I came in.  As the freshly cooked doughnuts fell onto the rotating cooler, my little hands would grab on to the sugaring stick.  Gently navigating the centre of each doughnut, it was not long before I was quickly picking up half a dozen piping hot doughnut with ease.  With the requisite number of doughnuts ready to go, I would then move my little self towards the large, shallow pan of cinnamon sugar.  The best part was to come.  Gently rolling the doughnuts from back to front in the sugar pan.  Ensuring an even coating.  The last step was to transfer a full stick of doughnuts, into a long, narrow plain white glycerin bag.

Come noon-time, as the shops prepared to close, my reward for my sugaring help was a handful of doughnuts, which were not sold that day.  Happily munching, I left with my mother, and young dreams of having my own doughnut shop one day.

I have never made doughnuts, and the moment my hand started to turn these little balls of fried yeasty goodness into cinnamon sugar, the memory came flooding back.  The action of the sugar coating.  The distinct aroma of the cinnamon sugar on the warm doughnut.  The unbeatable taste of that just cooked doughnut.

These fluffy yeast style doughnuts were a fun twist on Sweet Dough month, and a lovely reminder of old fashioned doughnut shop confections.

Mini doughnuts set

{ Basic sweet dough recipe } Original recipe by Julia @ Mélanger

This recipe takes around four hours from beginning to end.  You will need to plan accordingly but the taste will be worth the effort.  

As delicious as these little doughnuts would be with a simple sprinkling of cinnamon-sugar, I paired with some homemade dulce de leche.  Again, using the recommended technique from my Chilean friend, Ms Contreras.

* Ingredients *
1 cup milk
¼ cup water (110F/45C)
3.5g / ½ package dried yeast
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4½ to 5 cups of plain, all purpose flour
¼ cup / ½ stick of butter, melted
Glaze:
1 egg, lightly beaten

* Directions *
Warm the milk in a saucepan until bubbles appear around the edge.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to 110F/45C.  In the meantime, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes.   Stir in the milk, sugar, salt, beaten eggs, and 1 cup of the flour.  Beat the mixture until smooth.  Add 2 more cups of flour and continue to beat.  Continue until the dough is glossy.  Add the melted butter and stir well.  Add a further 1 ½ cups of flour and continue to beat well.  Stir in the remaining ½ cup of flour bit by bit until the dough is stiff – you may not need to add it all.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, cover and let rest for 15 minutes.  Then knead the dough lightly until it is smooth and glossy.  Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, lightly spraying the top of the dough with oil to prevent drying.  Allow to double in size, about 1½ to 2 hours.  Punch down, and let rise again until almost doubled, about 1 hour.  Turn out onto a floured surface.  You should have roughly have between 2.4-2.6lb / 1.1-1.2kg of dough in total.  The quantity of dough should be sufficient for three small loaves.  Once you have shaped your final dough, let rise for 20-30 minutes.  In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Brush lightly with egg and then bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on size.

{ Mini doughnut variation }

1. 1/2 batch of above dough recipe will yield approximately 25 doughnut holes.
2. Add 2 teaspoons of cinnamon into the dough with the milk, sugar, salt, beaten eggs, and 1 cup of the flour.
3. After the second rise, divide the dough into 25 equal portions (about 0.8oz or a 20-25g a piece). 
4. Allow-to proof for 20 minutes.
5. Heat up a small saucepan of neutral flavoured oil (vegetable, canola) to 370F / 190C.  Cook 4-6 doughnut holes at a time for 1-2 minutes, turning as you cook to ensure they are evenly browned.
6. Allow to drain on absorbent paper.  Once slightly cooled, toss in cinnamon sugar.

:: Yeastspotting ::
I am submitting these mini doughnuts with homemade dulce de leche to Yeastspotting.

In my head, I title this post, “When expectations fail to deliver.”

As I look back on my Petits fours month, I realise what a busy month this has been.  To say that life has been demanding, is a slight understatement.

This month, there has been little time for baking, photographing and writing, almost non-existent time for reading my favourite blogs, and absolutely no time for future baking planning.  This month I am frustrated in how few sweet treats I have shared.

Due to time constraints, I disappointingly was also unable to participate in my favourite baking group, Daring BakersInterestingly, the only other time I was unable to participate, was the month of my wedding and honeymoon last September.  Yes indeed, things have been busy.

I did manage to experiment, however, with a few new recipes this month.  Some successful (French macarons, Nougat and Opéra cake), and some, not so successful (Pâte de fruits).  I conquered my fear of the French meringue version of macarons, managed success in producing a whisper light sponge in my chocolate-coffee explosion, and learned more about pectin than I bargained for.

The goal this month was to explore some new ideas, and find perhaps a handful of ideas for my own Petits fours plate.  It would be unreasonable not to find macarons on my plate.  But what else?  Fortunately, in my round up, I can delve into my archives for other examples to draw on.

So here is my Top 10 list of favourite Petits fours. What would get your vote?

Triple chocolate macarons small

{ Triple Chocolate Macarons } Chocolate is my ultimate weakness in the world.  Thus, in honour of the chocolate macaron, I create a triple chocolate macaron treat.  A chocolate macaron shell, filled with a bittersweet chocolate ganache, and a healthy dusting of cocoa to finish.  { Read more … }



madeleines small

{ Lemon Glazed Madeleines } Madeleines are my favourite sweet petit French treat – behind macarons, of course!  The recipe is courtesy of David Lebovitz.  I followed it to the letter and was easily able to produce some tasty little shelly treats.  The simplicity and elegance of these little cakes is just so charming.  { Read more … }


chocolate madeleines small { Chocolate Madeleines } If chocolate is my ultimate weakness, and Madeleines high up on my list of favourites, it would be scandalous not to include this variation.  The original recipe is for a Orange Blossom Honey Madeleine, with variations for lemon, pistachio and chocolate to cater for a variety of palates and tastes.  { Read more … }


Opera cake small

{ Opéra Cake } The sublime partnership of chocolate and coffee on display.  An elegant almond sponge cake (Joconde sponge), is alternately layered with coffee buttercream and chocolate ganache, then finished with a generous layer of chocolate glaze.  { Read more … }


chocolate chunk macaroons small

{ Chocolate Chunk Coconut Macaroons } These little hay-stacked cookies are a simple little biscuit perfect for a sweet indulgence any time of day.  They are simple and quick to make.  The perfect Petits fours to whip up at a moment’s notice.  { Read more … }


Nougat small

{ Pistachio & Cranberry Nougat } This chewy sweet is the ultimate in personalisation.  Choose your favourite nuts and fruit to create your own flavour combination.  Prepare ahead, and cut into mouth sized pieces for a simple, yet individual Petits fours selection.  { Read more … }


eclair

{ Mini Chocolate Éclairs } Mini choux pastry treats are a favourite Petits fours option.  A vanilla pastry cream filling and a simple ganache to finish keeps this simple, and quick to prepare. { Read more … }


strawberry

{ Strawberry & Pistachio Tart } Mini tartlets are a popular Petits fours choice.  This tart will not disappoint.  The pâte sablée pastry has a delicate crisp and crumbly texture.  The sweet, buttery-ness of the pastry pairs well with the slightly sharp and tangy crème fraiche filling.  A hint of summer bursts through with a perfect finish of strawberries on top.  { Read more … }


calisson small

{ Calisson d’Aix } A tiny diamond shaped sweet, made with ground almonds and candied fruits and finished with white royal icing.  The addition of orange flavoured liqueur to the almond candied fruit mixture, is simply festive. They are very simple to make, and a perfect make-ahead sweet.  { Read more … }



Tuiles small{ Tuiles } Traditionally, tuiles are thin, crisp almond cookies that are gently moulded over a rolling pin or arched form while they are still warm. Once set, their shape resembles the curved French roofing tiles for which they are named.  These little tuiles are the perfect accompaniment to sherbet, ice cream and fruit desserts.   { Read more … }


Sometimes things do not turn out the way you expect.  In those cases, it is always advantageous to have a Plan B up your sleeve.

As part of petits fours month, I was going to feature a berry-licious pâte de fruits.  Bite sized squares of jellied fruit, that pack a big punch.  In consultation with my reference books for the month, and The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts, in particular, I was all ready to puree, boil and set.

But one ingredient was going to trip me up.  Pectin.  The humble pectin, as it turns out, is not so humble.  Simply grabbing jam pectin from my local grocery store, figuring it would be up for the job, was my big mistake.

I was blissfully unaware of the sheer range of pectin available.  Now, after the fact, although not a pectin expert by any means, I have quickly discovered my pectin of choice should have been yellow pectin, or pectin jaune.  There is a special pectin for making jellied product.  (Though no mention of this is in the fundamental pastry book written by the French Culinary Institute.)

If you are interested, and fluent in French, you can see the breakdown of different pectin for a range of common sweets and confectioneries.  Or here to see all the variations between apple and citrus pectin.  To a novice, it was initially daunting to review the detail.

However, pouring over chemical compositions, trying to make head and tail of the once seemingly simple subject of pectin, I was swiftly taken back (almost 20 years!) to my university days when I was a biochemistry student.

Trading my crystal violet stained lab coat for an apron, and the outlook of sandstone buildings for my leafy views from my kitchen, this pectin mistake was turning out to be an adventure.

Good news is, the failed pâte de fruits was not beyond salvage.  In fact, given that jam strength pectin was used, it made for a very thick, berry conserve.  This conserve was my Plan B.  And I must say, with fresh homemade bread hot out of the oven ready to be eaten, a very good Plan B indeed.

Jam and bread

{ Plan B  :: Homemade berry conserve with freshly baked French epi bread }

Nougat single

An ever expanding list of recipes for testing and experimentation, seems to be a staple ingredient of most passionate bakers and cooks.  You may recognise the scene.  Cookbooks and magazines piled high (and in every available space), heavily labeled with must-tries.  Online bookmarks overfilling with endless websites and blog pages tagged for future reference.  Folders brimming with an eclectic mix of articles, food stories and notes inspiring a never-ending set of ideas.

Underpinning this endless inspiration, is the constant niggling that there never is enough time to bake (or cook) everything you want.  The quick math tallying up all the recipes on your list quickly reveals a massive disconnect against the available time.

Like many, for me, baking is limited to the weekend – albeit on odd occasion, I do whip up a simple, quick, weeknight dessert, upon Mr Mélanger’s request.  So each month, as I focus on a theme of recipes, ideas or sweet dishes, I essentially prioritise my always-growing-and-I-feel-I-will-never-put-a-dent-in list of must-try recipes.

Not ever being one to ‘wing it’ as such, I am quite systematic in my approach to my monthly themes.  A self-selected set of criteria determines what recipes are in, and what recipes are out.

Does the recipe explore a new style or origin of a dish?
Does the recipe help perfect a new technique?
Does the recipe celebrate a new season or holiday?
Does the recipe share the essence of one of my favourite recipes?
Does the recipe inspire me?

If it ticks all the boxes, it is typically in.  If it only ticks a few boxes, it is on the short list.

You may think this is quite a clinical approach.  Perhaps.  But for me, to put a list of recipes and ideas together, that will push your technique, help you learn something new, or put a new spin on a favourite, is so rewarding.  Particularly when you achieve an outcome at the end of the month.  (Also knowing you are chipping away at your ever growing list, is quite satisfying, too!)

This post is focused on nougat.  It ticked many of the boxes above.  It explored a new style of petits fours, the focus for the month.  It included a technique I wished to perfect. But most importantly, it ticked the last box.

I was inspired by nougat.  Well, a particular nougat recipe.

Nougat set

Last year, I celebrated my wedding day during Rosh Hashanah.  Being very familiar with this Jewish new year celebration, particularly from my time living in Boston, there was no better sign for me that my marriage was off to a great start.

During the lead up to my wedding day, I remember many of my favourite blogs showcasing a sweet selection of desserts in celebration of Rosh Hashanah.  One of my daily, must-read blogs, MyKugelhopf, strayed from the traditional fruit or honey cake.   Kerrin @MyKugelhopf explored a sweet twist indeed on the Jewish new year with fig and pistachio nougatC’est parfait! The combination of fruit and honey in this chewy, white confection, rolled together all the key flavours of the holiday in an unexpected way.

Since my wedding day, it has indeed been a sweet, happy new year for me and Mr Mélanger.  To commemorate, here is my own nougat effort.  Not only a perfect, bite-sized petits fours choice, but a wish for more sweet days ahead.

{ Pistachio and cranberry nougat }

Recipe adapted from The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts (by the French Culinary Institute), and Fig and pistachio nougat recipe from MyKugelhopf.

* Ingredients *
45g egg whites, room temperature
200g pistachios
140g cranberries
140g honey
120g light corn syrup or glucose syrup
300g sugar
Cornflour / cornstarch for dusting

* Directions *
Preheat oven to 93C or 200F.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper.  Add the pistachios and gently roast for about 10-15 minutes or until nicely coloured.  While roasting, prepare the base.  Place the egg white in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Combine the honey and sugar in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan with the syrup plus 40ml of water.  Begin whipping the egg whites while the honey-sugar mixture comes to a boil.  When the mixture reaches 139C/266F pour it over the whipping egg whites.  When the meringue begins to stiffen, stop the mixer. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with the paddle attachment.  With the speed on low, add the nuts and dried fruit.  Place a silicone liner on a clean, flat work surface.  Dust with cornflour.  Pour the hot nougat out onto the liner.  Dust the top with more cornflour.  Place a second liner over the nougat and roll out to 1.3 cm (1/2 in) thick.  Allow to cool and then cut into 2.5cm (1 in) squares.  Serve or store, airtight, at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Makes 15-25 squares.

Petits fours month

Should every budding amateur patisserie chef have a signature petits fours plate? After a recent injection of inspiration, I enthusiastically say, yes.

Petits fours are dainty biscuits, tiny decorated cakes, and miniature confections traditionally served with dessert or with coffee at the end of the meal. They are also popular at luncheons and high teas, and growing in popularity. These small treats are designed to be light and nibbled in almost one mouthful.

Dry (sec) and fresh (frais), the selection of petits fours seems limited only by imagination. Madeleines, tuiles, friands, macarons, langues de chat, palmiers, truffles are a selection of petits fours sec, and mini choux éclairs, glacé fruits, iced or glazed cakes, tartlets some examples of petits fours frais.

Small, however, does not equal simple. Petits fours are delicate and often fiddly, and demand much patience. According to the French Culinary Institute, it is estimated that one quarter to one third of a pastry kitchen’s time is dedicated to preparing petits fours. That fact alone impressed me enough to investigate them further — and quickly conclude they were more than worthy of a full month of sweet study and hungry exploration on Mélanger.

What prompted all this interest initially? My inspiration was delivered on a white plate at Aria Brisbane at the end of the meal.

Aria dessert and petits fours

{ Images ::  Rich Valrhona chocolate délice with chocolate sorbet – Aria’s signature chocolate dessert – selection of truffles and Turkish delight petits fours @ Aria Brisbane }

After happily grazing on an amuse bouche of soy marinated tuna with daikon cucumber and truffle vinaigrette, then a starter of twice cooked Bangalow sweet pork belly with apple puree and black pudding, a main course of roasted lamb rack with cumin, labna and egg plant, and a dessert of rich Valrhona chocolate délice with chocolate sorbet (Aria’s signature chocolate dessert), the table was presented with coffee and petits fours – a selection of truffles and Turkish delight.

With satisfied, full bellies around the entire table, it did not take long for hands to reach, not so shyly, into the small treats.

Aria book and Matt Preston

{ Images :: Matt Preston’s book, Cravat-a-licious and Julia & Matt Preston @ book launch at Aria Brisbane }

The entire restaurant was there to celebrate the launch of Matt Preston’s book, Cravat-a-licious. Matt Preston’s larger than life personality left an indelible mark, but for me, so did the final course.

So this month, I will investigate a range of my own petits fours. I hope you enjoy the small taste I will showcase. Perhaps it will include a new favourite for you, too?

Do you already have a repertoire of miniature delights that you fall back on time and time again? Please share!

A small handful of cookbooks in my collection have dedicated sections on petits fours. I will be heavily referencing the following this month:

The Roux Brothers on Patisserie, Michel and Albert Roux
Indulge, Claire Clark
The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts, The French Culinary Institute
Ripailles, Stéphane Reynaud
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 2, Simone Beck & Julia Child

Thank you to Vogue Entertaining and Travel and News Magazine for my invitation to join the book launch at Aria Brisbane – and a big thank you for not being mortified at the table (and in fact being fully encouraging!) as I whipped out my camera to take snaps of Matt Preston and the dishes throughout the meal.

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