Ayushi Shah from Napeansea Road-based bakery Icing On Top, is a skinny girl who obsesses about butter. She is known for crumbly, miniature cookies that speak rightly of her size. At her central kitchen, three chefs swear to have never used a cookie cutter till date. This is because Shah’s biscuits are tinier than the tiniest cookie cutter available in the city. Almost the size of a sweet pea.
Each year, during the bridal season, Ayushi lines up these decadent cookies for a dozen high tea soirées. She doles them out in cranberry, caramel, orange-spice, saffron, ginger and lemon flavours. Each rhythmically syncing with the floral overtones of organic, auburn and black tea blends.
For brides and grooms who want to throw a gathering over cheese and crackers, her two-inch cakelettes and millefeuilles dot the buffet table. “The only thing common between all my desserts is the fact that they can be eaten in a single bite. Two at the most,” says the 23-year-old baker who is on the speed dial of many wedding planners in this city.
Shah explains this shift of focus from three-tier fluffy cakes to hors d’oeuvre-sized desserts, as an offshoot of the global small-plate phenomenon. She says, “While restaurant diners are digging into small plates, wedding goers are getting a taste of something known as petit fours.”
Petit fours, as the name rings, are desserts that are served in miniature form. “They range from large desserts cut into individually decorated pieces or desserts perched on spoons or layered into shot glasses,” says Chef Clinton Cooper from Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai.
Chef Cooper’s kitchen specialises in ‘petits fours glacés’, a branch of this niche, that comes covered with icing or fondant. It is a tad bit different from ‘petite fours secs’ that translate into small dry desserts such as cookies, meringues and macaroons.
According to gourmet bakery owner Kiran Salaskar from Country of Origin, “Bite-sized desserts are apt for wedding buffets as they allow you to offer a large variety.” Since they are essentially large desserts altered into a small model, you are serving exactly the same thing, but in a way that avoids wastage.
Salaskar’s repertoire includes shots of blueberry cheesecake, hazelnut mousse and chocolate fondant – piped into thick glasses. He also does pre-cut chocolate brownie and red-velvet squares that come seated on ceramic spoons and have to be eaten in one mouthful. For pre and post-nuptial celebrations, Country of Origin does mini chocolate soufflés that simply have to be warmed before serving. “Since there is no time for whipping up fresh desserts, the soufflés come handy for a busy wedding household,” says the owner.
While bakeries in New York, London and Paris are recreating classics such as red velvet, éclairs, carrot cake and parfaits, Indian chefs are experimenting by merging western flavours with traditional influences. Take for instance, Shah’s teensy chocolate-filled samosas that are served with ginger-caramel chutney or Chef Cooper’s tiny angoori rasmalai, gulab jamun and phirni pots.
Apart from being apt on for a buffet setting, small sweets work as chic wedding favours too. At the takeaway delicatessen launched by the Four Seasons Hotel, the petit four box doubles up as an ideal giveaway. It comes brimming with nine varieties of pastries such as carrot cake, dragon fruit tart, pistachio cream profiteroles and fondant-draped red velvet – giving the guests a break from humdrum mithaai boxes and making a chic style statement.
CHOCOLATE SOUFFLÉ SHOTS
Ingredients: 2 whole eggs; 2 egg yolks; 3/4 cup muscovado sugar; 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch; 6 ½ tablespoons butter, 125 gm dark Belgian chocolate (chopped), few drops of vanilla extract.
Method: In a bowl, whisk whole eggs with egg yolks and add vanilla extract to it. In another bowl, mix muscovado sugar with cornstarch and keep it aside. In a saucepan, melt butter on low flame and add the chopped chocolate. Keep stirring until the chocolate melts and starts to bubble around the corners. Remove the pan from fire and add cornstarch mixture to it. Now pour the eggs in the pan and whisk it into a smooth batter. Transfer the liquid into a bowl and refrigerate it overnight. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and grease a few shot glasses with butter or a non-stick spray. Fill each shot glass with the batter and bake it on the top rack of the oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove and dust it with powdered sugar. Serve immediately with vanilla ice cream.
(Recipe by owner Kiran Salaskar from Country of Origin.)