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June 09, 2006

Chocolate Caramel Mignardises


It is probably no surprise to anyone that dessert is one of my favorite parts of any meal, which is why I was so delighted the first time I was treated to mignardises at a restaurant. Mignardises, from the old French word mignard, meaning pretty or delicate, is the perfect word to describe the little after-dessert desserts that accompany your coffee, allowing you to extend the pleasure of the evening just a bit longer. And who could argue against more sweets? It's added an additional layer of challenge to my satiation-judging abilities: I've always saved room for dessert, not having the endless stomach of some other foodies, but to save extra room for mignardises? On a couple of occasions at some very fine establishments, where the sweets almost literally came to the table in a shower, I've had to admit defeat, nearly in tears that I couldn't fit one more nibble in my mouth.

Mignardises were perhaps more commonly known as petits fours in the US several years back, even though there is some debate over whether they mean the same thing. My understanding is that petits fours refer to small, bite-sized cakes, cookies, or other baked items, not necessarily served after dinner and dessert. In fact, what usually comes to mind when I think of petits fours are those dainty little multi-layered cakes of genoise and buttercream, covered with icing in pastel colors. Mignardises can include baked items as well as chocolates and confections, but they are always served at the end of the meal after dessert. Variety counts, as this is the pastry chef's last chance to display his skill -you'll see caramels, pates des fruits, truffles, tuiles, candied nuts -it's like opening up a fabulous jewelry box full of the most perfect little treasures.


While flipping through Michael Recchiuti's Chocolate Obsession I was inspired by several of the recipes to make a little plate of mignardises, to serve after tonight's dinner. Although usually chefs go for a variety of flavors, I chose to focus on a chocolate-caramel theme.

Chocolate-Covered Caramelized Hazelnuts

Those little nuggets spilling out of the foil cup were a nice way to use up the hazelnuts in my pantry. Covered with a layer of caramel, then tempered chocolate, and finally a dusting of cocoa powder, they are addictively easy to pop in your mouth.


Fleur de Sel Caramels

Certainly the trendiest sweet du jour, restaurants are all coming up with versions of this sweet-salty delight. Recchiuti's recipe has fleur de sel in the caramels themselves, not just on top, to add a little extra crunch and flavor. He also suggests covering them in tempered chocolate; I tried that, and the results were even more delicious, although the warm weather made it difficult for the caramels to hold their shape and therefore they unfortunately just weren't photogenic enough in their little chocolate coats!


Chocolate Shortbread Cookies with Caramel Chocolate Cream Filling

A decadent little number, crisp chocolate cookies sandwich a rich ganache filling. Although the original recipe did not have caramel for the cream filling, I added in a bit of Recchiuti's burnt caramel base to give it an extra dimension of flavor. Very rich and chocolatey!

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I looked for fleur de sel caramels when I was in the States last March, and they were difficult to find, surprisingly. Your treats look elegant, very much like something I'd expect to find at high tea.

Beautiful, delicious looking shots Anita! I wish I could paint these as good as they look...

these look so mouth watering! You should've seen how big your photos came up on Bloglines!! Wow!

Hmm...maybe their popularity is cresting now...I see them all over the place in gourmet stores. Thanks for the compliment!

Thank you! I think your paintings are just as great - they capture those cafes so well!

You're right! I never realized how big my pictures came up! Maybe I need to fix that...I didn't mean for people to see them so super magnified!


Stunning as always. The caramels in particular had my mouth watering. I simply must get Michael Recchiuti's book!

My "chocolate" has a long way to go to catch up with your chocolate-the range of tone & texture, highlights etc. I'm working on it...did you recreate the set up like the one in your photo class? Your pictures have changed!Also I love your compositions

Thank you! You should get the book, it's just gorgeous and the recipes are inspiring!

It's good to know my pictures are improving! My equipment hasn't changed much, unfortunately, I'm just learning to work smarter with what I have!

wow, these creations look so divine.

Great photos! Great blog!

Those do look amazing!

Thanks! I'm enjoying your blog as well!

Thanks! They were really fun to make!

Gad, those are the things that my dreams are about. I'm really not a sweet person but your photo really make me consider licking my screen. Caramel and chocolate, oh, yes please!!!

Always great to find another fan of caramel and chocolate - how can you go wrong, really?

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