Recipe Number Two Hundred & Seven: Page 219.
I wanted to make these little treats with my mother-in-law in mind. She really enjoys chocolate liqueurs and, as these petits fours are laced with brandy, I had to be onto a winner.
Neil's parents come over most Thursday mornings and take Isaac out for a few hours. I made a start just before they arrived. Despite the recipe appearing to be very simple, it was clear that it would take a while to complete. I laid out the required 24 petit four cases and unwrapped several bars of plain chocolate. There were a few squares going spare so I merrily tucked in. It was still quite early in the morning, but at least I'd eaten my breakfast first! I placed the large quantity of chocolate, along with a drizzle of sunflower oil, into a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water. It took a little while to give in to the heat but, before too long, I had a bowl full of deliciously smooth melted chocolate.
I allowed the chocolate to cool for a few minutes while I hunted for one of Neil's paint brushes. I thought it wise to steer clear of his most expensive brushes, and instead opted for a tiny cheap one which had clearly never been used. I gave it a quick rinse and then started the long and laborious task of painting each paper case with chocolate. Of course Isaac appeared to 'help' mummy at this moment. He quickly grabbed and ran off with a paper case before heading back for another. Thankfully he was happy with two as I was finding it hard to fight him off with chocolate covered hands! By the time he'd started to kick a plastic onion around my feet I was beginning to feel a little fraught! Thankfully, at this moment Neil's parents arrived and they were able to take him into town for an adventure.
Now able to enjoy some peace, I took my tray of paper cases and bowl of chocolate over to the kitchen table. I had to take the weight off my feet and sit down! I carried on painting the cases, all the while wondering if I was wasting my time. I just felt as though something was going to go wrong! Once I'd finished, I placed the tray in the fridge. Mary says to place them somewhere cool and I couldn't think of anywhere cooler than the fridge! Twenty minutes later my chocolate cases had set and I could carry on and paint on a second layer....Yes ANOTHER layer. On this second attempt I followed my mother-in-law’s advice. She suggested using a teaspoon to drop a blob of chocolate into the bottom of the case and then drag it up the sides with the brush. I found that this worked well and speeded the process up. Apart from having to reheat the bowl of chocolate in the microwave for a few seconds (it was starting to firm up), I found the process pretty painless. Once the tray was back in the fridge for the final time I made up the ganache.
I poured the double cream into the saucepan and placed it on the hob. When the cream had reached boiling point I took it from the heat and added in the chocolate. I am not keen on liqueur chocolates, so I halved the mixture, stirred a few drops of brandy in to one half and left the other plain. When the chocolate had melted it was time to reheat until boiling. Once this was done the ganache needed to cool, so I used this time to go for a quick walk to get some fresh air. It was so nice to get outside after being cooped up due to the recent wet weather. I enjoyed my wander in the sunshine but, all too soon, I was back in the kitchen; I didn't like what I saw. The chocolate ganache had separated. An oily layer covered the surface. I really could have cried! It also had a runny consistency, so would be impossible to pipe. I was ready to give up for the day and try again the following morning.
An hour or so later, once Isaac was home and tucked up in bed, I dared to examine the mixture once more. It had finally firmed to a piping consistency, so all was not completely lost. I thought I might as well try to get it to work. The chocolate was still edible after all!
Mary says to peel the paper cases away from the chocolate after piping in the ganache, but I chose to disobey! Surely it would be far trickier to peel once they are full of filling. I was amazed when I managed successfully to remove the cases. I only suffered a few casualties!! I fitted a star nozzle to a piping bag and managed to pipe the ganache into the pretty chocolate cases – hooray! Sadly I only managed to fill half as I ran out of ganache (I didn't like to use the oily bits). However, do not fear – the empty cases will still get eaten! For a finishing touch I broke up some pistachio nuts and placed a few on top of each petit four. The green contrasted beautifully.
Now for the very important taste test! I tucked into a little mouthful and felt my arteries immediately slam shut. It was so very rich and chocolaty. I loved the chocolate cases the best as they look so pretty and also provided a contrasting crunch to the smooth ganache. I think I might use the cases with different fillings. I'm sure that the list is endless! These rich treats might take a while to make but they really are special. They are perfect for a gift or a party. It was just a shame that I didn't have them ready in time to give to my mother-in-law. Oh well, I'll just have to make them again!