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the trickery of small things

Recipe: chocolate hazelnut petits fours glacés

Sometimes it takes me a few iterations to realize that I hate something… Humans have an amazing capacity for blocking out bad experiences like relationships, suffering, and making petits fours glacés. I’d like to think my inspiration was spurred on by the extra sheet of vanilla chiffon cake I had in my freezer from last time, but I honestly believe I had forgotten that I uttered the words, “I’m never making these again!” just over a month ago.

It’s the same story with a slightly different cast – a cast that probably appeals to more people because it includes our friends chocolate and hazelnut.

weighing hazelnut paste

The basic construction is a vanilla chiffon cake base, hazelnut (Frangelico) simple syrup, hazelnut buttercream, and chocolate glaze. For the buttercream, I went to my standby, Swiss meringue buttercream because it is so stable and easy to clean up in comparison to Italian meringue buttercream, what with all the zipping around of candied sugar strands. My hazelnut paste is merely a purée of toasted, skinned hazelnuts with sugar, vegetable oil, and a pinch of salt. I added some of the paste, vanilla extract, and Frangelico to the buttercream which didn’t come out hazelnutty enough. I dropped a tablespoon of nutella in there and that helped. I don’t know where to get that awesome praline paste we used in pastry class…

hazelnut buttercream

The chiffon cakes store well in the freezer if you wrap them carefully. My only gripe about them is that the top becomes a gooey nightmare when you touch it. Once it’s off, the cake is fine and much easier to work with.

slicing the frozen chiffon cake in half

I soaked the first layer of cake with a lot of the hazelnut syrup, then I spread a layer of hazelnut buttercream over that. I topped it off with the second layer of cake and sent it to the freezer. These things make me crazy when I have to cut them because they ooze all over the place. Freezing is a beautiful way to firm it up before slicing. Although freezing isn’t recommended for pastry cream, which might be why pastry cream is such a pain to work with in layered desserts.

glaze with chocolate

The slicing went very easily. I’ve made petits fours three times now, and each time when I cut the squares, I think 1-inch squares are awfully small and end up making them 1.5 inches in width. They look about right. Then I glaze them and they start to look too big and I think I should have left them at 1-inch widths. Then I try to move them from the cooling rack and they are so unstable they begin to topple into one another. That is when I really hate petits fours glacés. I think if I had to produce large quantities of these little bites, I would become aggravated very quickly and for a long time. But they look harmless enough to the uninitiated.

it’s payback time

Chocolate Hazelnut Petits Fours Glacés
[print recipe]

1/2 recipe of vanilla chiffon cake
1/2 recipe of hazelnut swiss meringue buttercream
hazelnut simple syrup
chocolate glaze

vanilla chiffon cake
makes 2 11×17-inch sheets or 2 9×3-inch rounds (you need only 1/2 of one sheet)
this recipe originally intended for baking at 5300 ft. so sea-levelers may want to increase the baking powder a bit

14.5 oz. cake flour
8.75 oz. confectioner’s sugar
6.75 oz. whole milk
6 oz. canola oil
3.25 oz. eggs
0.5 oz. baking powder
13 oz. egg whites
9.5 oz. granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Oven 375°F. Prep pan by buttering bottom and sides. Place parchment in pan and butter the parchment. Sift dry ingredients (except granulated sugar) into a large bowl. Mix all ingredients (except the 13 ounces of egg whites and granulated sugar) in the large bowl until combined. Whip whites and granulated sugar to medium peaks. Fold into batter gently. Bake until set, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and remove from pan. Let cool on a rack. Wrap the sheet you want to use in plastic and place in the freezer for a few hours. Remove from freezer and with a large serrated knife, cut the cake into two layers.

hazelnut swiss meringue buttercream
makes about 1.5 quarts

8 oz. egg whites
16 oz. sugar
1 lb. butter, room temperature
2 oz. hazelnut butter or praline paste
1 tbsp Frangelico, hazelnut liqueur
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp Nutella

Combine egg whites and sugar in a Kitchenaid mixing bowl. Whisk constantly over a bain marie until 140°F is reached. Place on mixer with whisk and whip until stiff. Turn down whip speed to 3rd and whip until cool to the touch (this takes a while – should be cooler than your hand). Change to a paddle and gradually add soft butter by tablespoon pieces. Mix to emulsify. Once desired consistency has been reached, add remaining ingredients to taste.

hazelnut syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2/3 cup Frangelico, hazelnut liqueur

Heat water and sugar in a pot until sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil and turn off heat. Let cool. Mix in liqueur.

chocolate glaze

1 lb. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups whipping cream

Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream in pan until simmering, then remove from heat. Pour cream over chocolate and let stand for 3 minutes. Stir until smooth and begin glazing when temperature reaches 90-95°F.

Assembly: Set first cake layer on a rack and brush 1 cup of syrup over the layer (you’ll think it will be springing leaks, but the cake can soak up a lot of liquid). Spread buttercream over the cake layer. Carefully set the second cake layer on top and soak in another cup of syrup. Move the assemblage to the freezer for an hour or more. Remove from freezer and on a cutting surface, use a large serrated knife to trim the sides and cut cake into 1×1-inch squares. Set the squares on a cooling rack over a baking sheet (to catch drips) with a minimum of an inch between each square. Pour the glaze over the squares. Garnish while glaze is still wet. Let cool until glaze hardens.

19 nibbles at “the trickery of small things”

  1. linda says:

    How pretty and delicious!

  2. natascha says:

    hi Jen,
    I found your site (the lime-raspberry petits fours) because I also try to make petit fours. I am still working on the chocolate glaze. I found one site, that helped me a lot: they have online film demo’s. the “cutting, piping, pralines” is the one that is helpful. it works also with my petit fours. Callebaut has the wonderful nut pastes and praliné’s. if you can’t get them in the US, I can send you a package. I am from hamburg germany.
    so, I really enjoy your site! today i will make the hot and sour soup.

  3. Graeme says:

    Oh, God; I want one. No, I want three!

    You’ve got some of the best “action” shots I’ve seen in a long time – Serious chocolate porno.

  4. Patricia Scarpin says:

    These are fantastic!
    So beautiful and delicious, I love how shiny the icing is.

  5. Jennywenny says:

    Wow, they look absolutely beautiful, and not evil at all! That seriously makes me want to make some petit fours, so thanks for the warning!

  6. Maninas: Food Matters says:

    They look absolutely amazing! And an incredible amount of work, too!

  7. Merav says:

    These are beautiful! I can imagine they are fussy to make but they do look worth the effort! I’ve seen praline paste here…not sure if it’s what you’ve used:

  8. Jennifer says:

    These are just beautiful! And I’m so jealous that anyone besides me got to eat them. :-) Hazelnuts + chocolate = happy me.

  9. jenyu says:

    Linda – thank you.

    Natascha – that’s so sweet of you to offer! I do know where I can order the praline paste online in the US, I just can’t seem to find it locally :) Thanks for the link, I will check that out too.

    Graeme – thanks! It’s easy to make chocolate beautiful because it’s already beautiful!

    Patricia – that icing is my bane ;) I need to remember to let it set first and THEN move the petits fours…

    Jennywenny – I think once I get more practice on these suckers, I may feel a little less antagonistic about them :)

    Maninas – thanks.

    Merav – it’s much smoother than the one in the picture, but I’m sure all of these are similar. One day I’ll order some, but it’s a BIG bucket from the pastry supplier!!

    Jennifer – I agree that chocolate and hazelnuts are a delightful combination of flavors. If you lived next door, I’d have given you at least half of these!

  10. Cindy says:

    They looked soooooo good!
    I wish I can taste it!

  11. Sindy says:

    Your photos are always such a work of art! I agree with Graeme totally chocolate porn!
    I know you said that you froze these to firm up but do you think that they would stand up to longer term freezing at this point?Say a week or so..I want to make them ahead. I am assuming if I was freezing that they should definately be frozen before the glazing. Baking is so SO not my forte I need all the help I can get!

  12. jenyu says:

    Cindy – this recipe makes some very nice and moist petits fours! I think my biggest gripe with some petits fours is how dry they can be.

    Sindy – I froze the cake/buttercream/cake assemblage so I could cut them without turning the whole thing to mush. If you freeze them just before glazing you should be aware that the chocolate glaze (which should be poured when 90-95 degrees) will set up faster and may not “drape” as much. I poured the glaze while they were room temp (they come to room temp rather quickly!) I think the petits fours have last for up to a week in the fridge. If you freeze them, it should be fine although the chocolate glaze may “sweat” when you bring it out of the freezer. Good luck!

  13. Rasa Malaysia says:

    Wow that last picture!!! I am speechless. Simply perfection.

  14. Louise Johnson says:

    You can purchase Praline Paste made with Hazlenuts from King Arthur’s Flour in VT. They have a great store and catalog/online order. This was used in an excellent European cake class that I took not too long ago.

  15. jenyu says:

    Louise – thanks! I used it in my pastry class, but forgot to write down where our chef said they order it :)

  16. Adelina says:

    I’ve always adored your site! In sooooooo many ways….! I’d like to try out this recipe and have a question to ask, if you have the time!

    I know you said you use serrated knife to cut your cake into layers, but what size do you use? Should I try to invest into a 10 or 12-inch knife? Some suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Your layers always look so clean, neat and very professional!

    Thanks for posting and for sharing!

  17. jenyu says:

    Adelina – thanks! I use a 12-inch serrated knife. I think if you do a lot of cake cutting, this might be a worthwhile investment. I don’t have the proper knife – mine is some Chicago Cutlery 12-inch serrated which cost me $40. Definitely not the top of the line, but it is very sharp and does a lovely job on what I need it for. Good luck!!

  18. 5 Months – Is that all? « Sunrise Rants says:

    […] says that the labor was a good excuse.  Still, I want to redeem myself.  I’m going to try these under her watchful baking-experience eye tomorrow afternoon. They look terribly difficult but as my […]

  19. sarah@buttered-up says:

    Do you know how pretty these look? So pretty that you got me into trouble. Got the husband saying he wants these. Sigh. Wonderful stuff. Not sure if I’m up for this just yet!

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