Thank God It's Friday! And not just any, today is Sugar High Friday! Friday's have become something special thanks to a fabulous idea spun up by the Domestic Goddess (Jennifer, that is, not Nigella) which is celebrating its 2nd anniversary this year. The theme for this month's event is Petits Fours thanks to Jeanne who courageously stepped in after the scheduled host mysteriously disappeared from the face of this earth...
Now, I never have any problem tucking into a dessert, even after the most elaborate succession of courses (yesterday's visit to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon with the Cooksister! was good proof of that) - and I tell you why: all Austrians are born with two stomachs, and one of them is specifically dedicated to desserts... (although, unfortunately, the RDA of calories remains the same).
But for those most unfortunate among you who can't count on this blessing, petits fours are often a great alternative to a big plate of dessert heaven: they're quickly dealt with in a bite or two, so there's no excuse not to indulge, there's always a variety of them, so you don't have to go through the agony of selecting one out of a myriad of temptations, and, well, they are too pretty to resist anyway, no matter how hard you try!
Ever since Jeanne's announcement of the theme, I'd been wrecking my brain over what I should make - and ended up consulting my local and favourite chocolatier and pâtissier, William Curley, for inspiration. Apart from his hand-made chocolate truffles and pâtisserie, he also sells handy little trays of petits fours which I sometimes buy for dinner parties. The display was mouth-watering, as usual, and although tempted to try some chocolatey concoction, I was under time pressure and opted to make the quick and easy: a custard-filled mini-tart case topped with delicious seasonal fruit and a glaze of apricot jam. Perfect served as a gorgeous finale to a formal dinner or an elegant afternoon tea... and incredibly quick and easy to make - so you have no excuses for not trying it as well!
STOP PRESS: Jeanne has just posted the round-up of fantastic contributions to this edition of SHF. If you have never had petits fours, this is the best way to educate yourself - if you have, read it anyway, as it will change the way you see these little bites of delight forever!!!
Mini fruit tartlets
(makes 12 of 5 cm diameter)
150 g sweet shortcrust pastry (ready-rolled)
ca. 500 g vanilla custard
seasonal fruit (figs, raspberries, nectarines, blueberries)
2 tbsp apricot preserve
Pre-heat oven to 200 C.
Line a tray of shallow bun tins with shortcrust pastry, ca. 2 mm thick. Place a little square of grease-proof paper on each one, then fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 10 minutes, remove the baking beans and paper and bake for another 5 minutes or so, until the pastry is cooked through and golden brown. Dust with vanilla sugar while still hot and leave to cool.
Prepare the custard (make your own* or use a good-quality powder, if you can get your hands on such a thing... you might want to mask the flavour of any instant mix by adding more vanilla or some ground nuts) and cut the bigger fruit into bite-size wedges.
No more than 6 hours before serving, fill each pastry case with roughly 1 tbsp full of custard and top with the fruit.
Heat the apricot preserve in a pot, then purée, if it contains any bits. Brush the fruit with the jam and leave to set before serving.