To sum petits fours up in a sentence: A lot of work, a lot of yum. OK, that's not a sentence. Add a "they're" and a "but" in there.
I've been wanting to make petits fours forever. I'm the classic little sister who's constantly trying to fill her beautiful, independent, successful sister's shoes. And my older sister loves petits fours. For as long as I can remember, my mom always got a dozen or two petits fours from St. Louis' beloved Jewish bakery, Pratzel's, for her birthday. When Pratzel's closed right in time for my sister's 30th birthday, I jumped at the opportunity to wow her with my baking skills, remembering that Lauren Ulm had posted a recipe -- a very complicated one, might I add -- on her blog, Vegan Yum Yum. Into the kitchen I went...
Two trials later, here they are! (Well, up there they are.) These babies are complicated and just as difficult as they seem. Lauren does a great job of documenting the process on her post, but I'm going to add some tips below. Just some things I learned along the way, twice.
- I don't recommend adapting the recipe at all. (Believe me. I tried and it sucked.) The only thing I will allow you to change is the flavor of jam. But raspberry tastes pretty darn good with the drizzle of chocolate on top.
- I'd find a ruler and actually measure your jelly roll pan, if you're not entirely sure of the size. Don't guess, because it will affect the thickness of your cake, which you are going to have to cut in half horizontally. You don't want it too thin.
- Just like Lauren says in her post, you want to be very, very careful when cutting the cake rectangles in half horizontally. Go as slow as you need to and make sure to keep your knife level so you are cutting even pieces. And don't cut yourself. (Honestly, I had Dyl do all of the cutting. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but he was an art and photography major and is very meticulous.)
- I know I said above not to adapt the recipe at all, but I left out the marzipan. I didn't have it and didn't feel like going to the store again. I would use it next time, but if you really hate marzipan or something, you can leave it out. (I think the marzipan helps to maintain a nice, even top, though, so your end result might suffer.)
- Even if you've just taken your candy thermometer out of its package (like I did), make sure to calibrate it first. Make sure the thermometer reads 100C or 212F in boiling water. If it's a few degrees off, record that so you know when your thermometer has reached 238 exactly when boiling the fondant. I didn't do this the first time around and my fondant turned into the consistency of maple candy. Hard as a rock. When I calibrated it, I realize it was 4F degrees off.
- When you've calibrated your thermometer and are ready to cook the fondant, I turned the heat to medium to begin with and went no higher. It's very important that you don't overheat the fondant or it will harden to the consistency of candy. When it starts to boil, turn the heat down a little and let the temp. reach 238, then immediately remove from heat and pour into the food processor.
- Also regarding the fondant: I highly recommend using the fondant immediately after you let it cool to 140 and blend it in the food processor for 2-3 minutes. Make sure to have your cake squares cut and ready to go by the time you start processing the fondant. Then pour it into a bowl and immediately start dipping. Then you don't have to worry about heating it up again and burning yourself, bla bla bla. It's just easier this way.
- Dipping the cake squares is the hardest part. At this point, you've done a lot of work and you don't want all of that work to go to waste. Use the photos on Lauren's petits fours post and this video on Sprinkle Bakes (aren't Heather's petits fours so pretty?) for guidance. I gripped the squares using my forefinger and thumb, quickly dunked each side in the fondant, placed it on the cooling rack and spooned more fondant on the top. Keep a clean wet, cloth and a dry cloth nearby to clean and dry your hands off in between squares, because the cake is sticky and might stick to your hands.
- Make sure to spoon the fondant on each square right after it's been dunked. The fondant sets quickly and if you wait to spoon all of the squares after dunking all of the squares, the fondant will have set already and you won't have a smooth top.
- After you've dipped and spooned the fondant on your cake squares and let the fondant dry on the cooling rack, make sure to use a knife to remove the cakes from the cooling rack. The fondant will have stuck to the rack and you'll break the cakes if you don't use a knife.
- Even though there's jam in the cake, I don't recommend storing these in the fridge. (Just make sure to eat them within a few days. That shouldn't be hard.) I stored some in the fridge overnight and the fondant got really moist and the jam layers started seeping out, so you could see the jam through the fondant. They also don't taste as good with the fondant wet like that. The ones that I stored at room temperature overnight taste great and the fondant is a perfect consistency. I'll report back how the ones that were stored in the fridge taste when they've come back to room temperature.