Glazed Chocolate Petit Fours

Ah yes, here we are at Valentine’s Day, once again. Back when I was younger, I remember February 14th as being either a day of great excitement or a total downer (a.k.a Singles Awareness Day). Now that I’m older and somewhat wiser, I’m glad to have developed an enlightened perspective: it’s simply the day that helps florists stay in business before Mother’s Day finally arrives! Gotta love the wisdom that comes with age.

I’ve told my hubby this year that all he needs to do to make me a happy gal is to give me a hand-written love note. No flowers, no baubles, just the a note that I can look back at someday and smile. In return, I’ll present him with these Glazed Chocolate Petit Fours, a gift that we both can benefit from. That’s the thing about V-Day…even if there’s no handsome prince or lovely lady in the picture, you’ve gotta find a way to treat yourself right!
These Glazed Chocolate Petit Fours may look complicated to make, but I take a huge short cut by starting with store-bought pound cake. Pound cake is ideal for making petit fours since the crumb is tight and the vanilla base easily pairs with so many gorgeous flavors, from fruit jams to best-quality cocoa powder to infused booze (framboise and hazelnut liquor are my favorites!).glazed chocolate petit fours 2Since I hate running into problems with tempering chocolate, I like to either use a ganache or chocolate glaze to coat my petit fours. If you like a less-sweet petit four that’s still rich in chocolate taste, I’d definitely suggest going for the second option of a gelatin-based chocolate glaze. As you can see, it dries super glossy and smooth. It’s also easier to work with than regular chocolate is.
Another tip for making petit fours is to make sure you have some mini cupcake liners to serve them in. Creating these little cakes can be a messy affair, especially since the excess coating has to drip off. Cupcake liners help to hide a rough bottom edge so that the cakes look as elegant as possible.

A tart, ruby-red cup of hibiscus tea is my drink of choice when it comes to these Glazed Chocolate Petit Fours. You can also turn up the romance with Wedgwood’s 1870 Golden Rose or T-Project’s I’ll Take You There tea blends. And with that I’d like to wish you a very Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s hoping that it’s one filled with substance, heart, and a healthy dose of chocolate!

Glazed Chocolate Petit Fours

Makes 20 petit fours.

Ingredients:

1 standard pound cake loaf, store-bought is fine

1/4 cup framboise

1/4 cup raspberry jam, seedless and sieved to remove chunky bits

3.5 oz. marzipan

cornstarch, for rolling marzipan

heart-shaped sprinkles

white nonpareils 

{Chocolate Glaze}

1/3 cup water

1 Tbsp+ 2 tsp unflavored gelatin

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup best-quality cocoa powder, sifted

2 tsp vanilla extract

Equipment:

serrated knife

ruler

oval-shaped petit four cutter

work surface

spreading knife

rolling-pin

pastry brush

small bowl

medium pot

wooden spoon

dipping or regular fork

1 small ladle

cooling rack

large sheet pan fitted with parchment paper

kitchen tweezers

small sharp knife or thin cookie spatula

20 mini cupcake liners

Directions:

1.)  Prepare the Pound Cake. On a work surface using a serrated knife, cut the pound cake loaf into horizontal, large slices, about 8 1/2 ” x 4 1/2″ x 3/8″ thick. Now, use the oval petit four cutter to cut out as many ovals as possible from the flat, even cake slices (save the topmost, golden crust of the pound cake for snacking on later). You should be able to punch out 60 ovals from one standard pound cake loaf.

2.)  Flavor and Layer the Cake Slices. Brush each cake oval with a light and even dab of framboise or flavoring liquor. You want the cake to be moist without drenching it. After all the cake ovals are moistened, use a spreading knife to apply a thin, even layer of jam on each oval. Stack the cake ovals up, neatly, 3 to a stack. Place the 20 cake stacks on a large plate and put them in fridge to chill for about 10 minutes.

3.)  Roll and Attach the Marzipan. While the cake stacks are chilling, roll the marzipan to 1/16″, about the thickness of a quarter. If the marzipan is sticky, you can use some cornstarch to dust the work surface and your rolling-pin. Punch out 20 ovals of marzipan with the same oval petit four cutter. Take the cakes out of the fridge, then lay one marzipan piece on each cake stack. Place the cakes back in the fridge to chill.

4.)  Prepare the Chocolate Glaze. In a small bowl, bloom the gelatin powder with the 1/3 cup of water. In a medium pot, heat the sugar, cream, and cocoa powder over low heat. Stir the mixture until it starts to simmer. Shut the heat off, then add the bloomed gelatin and vanilla extract. Continue to mix until the glaze is thick and glossy, without any gelatin lumps.

5.)  First Coating. Take the cakes out of the fridge. Holding a fork over the pot with your left hand, use your right hand to place one cake on the dipping fork. Again, use your right hand to use the small ladle to pour the glaze on over the cake so that it becomes entirely enrobed in the glaze. Let the excess glaze drip off the cake, then transfer it to a cooling rack placed over a large baking sheet fitted with parchment. Repeat this process for the rest of the petit fours.

6.)  Second Coating and Decoration. For best looks and taste, coat each petit four a second time in the glaze using the same fork and ladle method in Step 5. Immediately after each transferring each petit four to the cooling rack, use kitchen tweezers to carefully place the heart-shaped sprinkle and 3 dots on the cakes. The cakes cool fast so if you do not decorate after each coating the sprinkles will not adhere. If the pot of glaze starts to cool and gets too thick, simply put it back on low heat to thin it out again.

7.)  Finish the Petit Fours. After all the petit fours have been double-coated and decorated, let them cool for about 20 minutes before using a sharp knife or thin cookie spatula to release them from the cooling rack. Place them in mini cupcake liners for easy serving. The cakes should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container.

Canadian Bacon Cheese Crisps

Have you ever considered pairing tea with cheese? Think about your last Cucumber and Cream Cheese Tea Sandwich. I’m guessing you can remember the tartness of the cheese, and (if you had it with tea) how the brew brought those flavors to life. Cheese and wine often make ideal partners, but the next time you find yourself in the funky smelling cheese section of your favorite gourmet store, think of the leaves and not the liquor. Tea has a way of highlighting rich cheese flavors, whether sharp, tangy, or just plain stinky!

This simple recipe for cheese crisps is made with any semi-hard or hard cheese. I’ve made these with strong English Cheddar, Swiss Gruyère, and Italian Pecorino Romano all with great results. Today I’m using everyone’s favorite, a nutty Parmigiano-Reggiano, which you can easily buy pre-grated if you find yourself short on time. 
My cutesy embellishment for these crisps is a little heart of lean Canadian Bacon which develops a lovely caramelized finish as it cooks. These crisps take mere minutes to make, but are surprisingly elegant when paired with other yummy nibbles like cornichon, olives, or marinated peppers…an ideal way to kick off any romantic Valentine’s Day soirée.

English or Irish Breakfast Tea, Keemun, and Darjeeling all make great pairings to these Canadian Bacon Cheese Crisps. The full-bodied strength of these black teas make them like red wine, able to stand up to the complex umami flavors in robustly flavored cheeses. But don’t take my word for it…find and discover your own favorite tea and cheese pairings! Assam and Gouda? Darjeeling and Havarti? Sencha and Goat Cheese? If you love tea and love cheese, let the culinary adventures begin!

Canadian Bacon Cheese Crisps

Makes 15 crisps.

Ingredients:

5 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated

5 pieces Canadian bacon

dried parsley (optional)

Equipment:

flat top griddle or large skillet

spatula

paper towels

round metal cookie cutter, 2 1/4″

1 Tbsp measure

large baking sheet, lined with paper towels

small heart-shaped cookie cutter (optional)

Directions:

1.) Cut out heart shapes from the Canadian bacon using a small heart-shaped cookie cutter. I was able to get 3 hearts out of one bacon slice. Blot them with a paper towel to remove excess moisture from the surface. Set aside.

2.) Place the round cookie cutter on a flat top griddle, then spoon out 1 Tbsp of the grated cheese in the center of the cutter. Spread the cheese out with your finger so that it lays even in thickness in the cutter. Remove the cutter, then repeat the process as many times as the size of your griddle allows. Leave 1″ between each patch of cheese.

3.) Turn on the griddle to 350 degrees F or med-high heat (if using stove top) under a skillet. Heat the cheese until melts, for several minutes until the fat starts to render out. When the edges of the cheese start to brown and the cheese looks semi-set, use paper towels to blot off the now liquid fat. Gently lay the paper towel even to the surface of the cheese and the fat should easily wick up. Push a “heart” of Canadian bacon in the center of the melted cheese.

4.) Flip the cheese crisp over to brown the other side. Cook for a few minutes, checking occasionally to see when the bacon “hearts” are nicely browned but not burned. Remove the crisps from the griddle using a thin spatula. Park them on a paper towel lined baking sheet until hardened. Lightly sprinkle the tops of the cheese crisp with dried parsley to finish.

Neapolitan Mochi Cake

I can’t believe we’re already in the midst of February!  With Valentine’s Day arriving in a few short days, I’m sure you might be thinking of something a little decadent to give to your sweetie this year.  Why not make a heart-shaped Neapolitan Mochi Cake for both you and your love to snack on instead of the same old box of chocolates?

Strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate are one of the most yummy flavor combinations around.  So if your Valentine loves Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches, then they’ll also love this Japanese-style sweet rice cake.  It’s as if the classic frozen treat from Naples, Italy has traveled East!

Back in November, I made Pumpkin Butter Mochi, a type of Japanese wagashi that is generally eaten as a tea snack.  Those individually-sized mochi were made with a base of light coconut milk, the type found in the refrigerator section of your market with a consistency much like regular milk.  This recipe uses real coconut milk, the thicker kind you find in a can.  I figured that since this mochi isn’t stuffed with any filling, full-on extra richness and flavor was the way to go.

For the chocolate layer of this cake, use the best baking cocoa you can find.  The darker and better quality your cocoa powder is, the more brownie-like the chocolate layer of this mochi cake will be.  And for the pink layer, I’ve added a bit of strawberry syrup, the kind they use in Italian sodas.  It’s the best way to get some bright strawberry flavor and pinky color into the top layer of the cake.

Enjoy some freshly baked mochi cake with your sweetheart this V-day!  Diced into little bits scattered over ice cream, or cut into thick slices for snacking, this popular Asian treat is made even more delicious and charming with classic Neapolitan flavors mixed in.

Neapolitan Mochi Cake

Makes 1- 6” mochi cake.

Ingredients:

8 oz. mochiko (sweet rice flour)

1 cup coconut milk (the kind from a can)

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup sugar

1 Tbsp vanilla

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 Tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

1 Tbsp strawberry syrup (I used Torani brand)

Non-stick spray

chocolate sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

Equipment:

large mixing bowl

wire whisk

3 small bowls

scale

6” heart-shaped cake pan (I used Wilton)

piece of foil to cover cake pan

cooling rack

Directions:

1.)    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Using wire whisk, mix sweet rice flour, coconut milk, water, sugar, vanilla, and baking powder together in a large bowl and mix evenly.

2.)    Using the scale, weigh the mixed mochi batter (minus the mixing bowl).  Divide the number by 3, then place each amount of that measure into 3 separate smaller bowls.  One bowl will be for the chocolate batter, one bowl will be for the strawberry batter, and one bowl will be for the plain white batter.

3.)    Into a 1/3 portion of the full amount of batter, add the sifted cocoa powder and mix in well.  Spray cake pan with an even spray of non-stick spray.  Pour the cocoa batter mixture into the pan and shake gently to even out.  Cover loosely with foil and bake in oven for about 10 minutes until lightly set.  When it is lightly set, you should be able to touch the center without any residual batter getting on your finger (I’m going to refer to this as the “finger touch test.”  The edges of the cake will also have slightly pulled away from the pan.

4.)    When the cocoa layer is set, pour the plain vanilla portion atop the set cocoa layer, and lightly shake to even out the layer.  Cover with foil loosely, and bake for about 20 minutes until lightly set.

5.)    When white vanilla layer has set (use finger touch test) make the strawberry batter.  Mix 1 Tbsp of strawberry syrup into last portion of batter and stir in well.  Pour atop middle vanilla layer, and gently shake to even out in the baking pan.  Loosely cover with foil and bake for about 35-40 minutes until fully set (use finger touch test).  The cake will also have slightly puffed up and pulled away from sides of pan.

6.)    After removing baked mochi from oven, place on cooking rack to cool completely.  When completely cooled, slide knife between edge of cake and inside of baking pan to help remove it from the pan.  Flip the cake out and enjoy!  To store mochi, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature.  Mochi is best eaten fresh, within a few days of baking.