As my daughter and I walked through the market the other day she was like a moth to a flame with the pretty little bottles of pink and red sprinkles that seemed to be everywhere. Somehow we got sidetracked from our fairly focused shopping trip and ended up with a basket full of Valentine trinkets designed to make anything you bake look adorable. How could I say no to straws with x’s & o’s or ribbons with little hearts?! The delicacy of the accessories we selected lent themselves to a baking project which would be small in scale. We decided to make heart shaped petite fours with a chocolate ganache. This is a great project to do with kids because it involves cookie cutters and drippy frosting. Fail proof! Who doesn’t love a pretty little Valentine treat?
There are many proper petit four recipes out there. We kept it simple and just used a chocolate devil’s food cake recipe (you could even use a box mix) which we cooked in a layer pan. Our main focus was on the ganache. This recipe is adapted from a fabulous baking cookbook I received when I moved into my first house. The Secrets of Baking, written by Sherry Yard, provides simple techniques for baking exquisite things. There are over fifteen ganache recipes in this book! What I like most of all, is that she also provides a page telling the reader the ratios needed to achieve either medium, firm or soft ganache. Once you know those you have endless possibilities of how to flavor your ganache. We added a pinch of sea salt to ours because we love that sweet savory combination.
Because this ganache needs to be used immediately, we made sure our cake had been made, cooled and cut into heart shapes before we even began putting the ganache together. This recipe is for a firm ganache which is a 2:1 ratio of chocolate to cream. In this recipe the cream is replaced with butter. Ms. Yard refers to this as a chocolate frosting. We did not let ours get quite that thick- so it was definitely not something we could have used a piping bag for. But it was perfect for dipping.
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (the original recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate but we only had semi-sweet on hand so we used it)
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 small pinch of sea salt
We began by chopping our chocolate into 1/4 inch pieces. It was placed in a medium heatproof bowl with the butter. This bowl was placed on top of a medium pot of simmering water. The chocolate and butter were stirred for about two minutes until they melted together. It was then removed from the heat. The powdered sugar and sea salt were sifted in and then slowly stirred using a rubber spatula. You need to stir this for three to four minutes until all of the sugar and salt is absorbed. It looked a little bumpy at first but smoothed out as more of the sugar/salt mixture was sifted in.
We took our little cake hearts and dipped them upside down into the bowl of warm ganache. They were then placed on a baking rack and left to set for about two minutes before we added the tiny little Valentine sprinkles to the tops of the cakes.
What I love about this recipe is the minimal amount of ingredients used and the quickness with which it can be prepared. Be forewarned…you are going to want to eat this frosting right out of the bowl you made it in. Go sparingly or you won’t have any left for your petit fours!