“Petit fours” in French means “small oven”, but we really like to think it means something along the lines of, “you can’t have just four, darling!” A petit four can either be a small sweet confectionery, or (surprise, surprise) a bite-sized savoury appetiser.
Petit fours were traditionally made during the 18th century when coal and wood were very expensive, and heat had to be utilised as much as possible. After the food had been cooked and the coal-fired brick ovens were left to cool off, women would take advantage of the stored heat to bake mini treats, which became known as petit fours.
These delightful little treats come in three decadently different varieties:
- Glacé (meaning “glazed”) petit fours are tiny iced or decorated cakes that are usually covered in fondant or icing. These include the beautifully decorated petit fours that we’ve come to know and love, as well as éclairs and glazed tartlets.
- Salé (meaning “salted”) petit fours are savoury bite-sized appetisers that are more suitable for cocktail parties or buffets.
- Sec (meaning “dry”) petit fours are dainty desserts that aren’t glazed. This includes all kinds of dainty biscuits, baked meringues, macaroons and puff pastries.
Just for interest sake: If you were to ask for a petit four in a French patisserie however, you would get a small crunchy buttery biscuit instead.
Original images and their credits available on Pinterest.