To cap off a delicious meal, Petit Fours are usually served post-dessert, along with coffee or tea, in a tasting menu. Some chefs find fun with the wordplay; hence, presenting four sweet bites, which has become more of a playful tradition. However, despite its reference to the the English word "four", the French culinary term Petit Fours does not have anything to do with the actual number.
When translated from French, Petit Four means “small oven”, and sometimes, it is seen alongside another French dining term: Mignardise. While both allude to bite-sized desserts served at the end of the meal, what sets the two apart is that Petit Four is usually baked in the oven. For example, madeleines, tarts, macarons, and canelés are baked in the oven, so they would be considered petit four, whereas jellies and chocolates are mignardises.
For those who have a sweet tooth and find delight in these small, indulgent treats — or for those who just have a sheer culinary curiosity — we take a look at what seven MICHELIN-Starred restaurants in the Lion City serve in their array of tiny bites at the end of a luxurious meal.
Yuzu, Fennel & Batak Pepper Jello; Cep Ganache & Salted Walnut Praline; Apple & Cloudberry Cobbler, Woodruff Diplomat; Pistachio Matcha & Miso Macaron; Brown Cheese, Blueberry & Pâté Brisée, Long Pepper Meringue; Black Garlic Fudge
At three-MICHELIN-Starred restaurant Zén, the petit four program strays from the usual four-piece selection and instead extends its offerings to six snacks. The program is served in the living room of the restaurant's third floor.
"The whole concept behind our petit four program is to finish the meal in a relaxed and informal setting, where guests can unwind and experience our take on a traditional Swedish serving of 'Fika'", says Tristin Farmer, Zén's executive chef. Fika, a Swedish term that translates to "a coffee and cake break", is a very important part of Swedish culture and is one of the ways that the 3-Star restaurant refers to its sister restaurant, Frantzén, in Stockholm.
According to Farmer, every part of a tasting menu plays an important role in the meal and experience. "We may compare our petit four program to fika, but really, it is much more than that," he says. "Fika is a concept, a state of mind, and an attitude. Many Swedes consider it almost essential to make time for fika everyday. It means making time for friends and colleagues to share a cup of coffee, or tea, and a little something to eat."
Among the six petit fours served at Zén, Farmer says that what he considers the most controversial and commonly requested for an extra serving of is the Black Garlic Fudge. "It has rich umami and a chewy texture, while being slightly sweet. It's a signature in both Frantzén in Stockholm and in Zén here in Singapore," Farmer says.
Devon Cream Tea; Roasted Almond and Caramel; Coffee Chocolate; Lemon Meringue Pie
Executive chef Kirk Westaway champions his "Reinventing British" culinary philosophy in the 2-Star restaurant; hence, referring to his set of sweet treats served at the end of his meal as "Final Sweets", deeming this naming convention more appropriate than using the French terminology. "High tea and snacks are a huge part of the British culture, so I've always wanted the Final Sweets to be an integral part of the dining experience at JAAN," says Westaway.
The Final Sweets at JAAN by Kirk Westaway boast a Devon Cream Tea, which comprises a soft Scottish shortbread that envelops clotted cream from Westaway's hometon of Devon, and a house-made raspberry jam. "This is a real nod to my Devonshire heritage, encapsulating key flavours of the traditional British Afternoon Tea," he shares.
Next, a Roasted Almond and Caramel, where caramel sauce is dipped in chocolate and rolled in roasted almonds, is described by Westaway as "the ultimate decadence". The Coffee Chocolate, which is decorated with a small JAAN logo, offers a dark chocolate crisp filled with a liquid coffee centre, and in the Lemon Meringue Pie, a homemade lemon curd is deliberately prepared using modern techniques to showcase the quality of produce used at the restaurant. "We start with Devonshire butter, Amalfi lemons, and the best organic eggs from Japan. We cook these together sous vide at 72 degrees for 45 minutes," explains Westaway. "The mixture is then blended and emulsified to produce a cooked lemon curd. By preparing it this way, we ensure that the flavours will not be lost through steam."
“For me, the Petit Fours, or Final Sweets, are the final expression of the dining experience. It’s such an important part because that is what will form the lasting memory for our guests.”
Among the Final Sweets, Westaway confesses that the Devon Cream Tea is his favourite. "Its recipe has barely changed since we started serving it, apart from a few different flavours of jam to reflect seasonality. It’s symbolic of our vision at JAAN; a modern and elevated take on British gastronomy. I feel it is the perfect way to close off a meal, to be enjoyed with a fragrant cup of English tea. When crafting the Final Sweets, we make sure it is light on the tastebuds. The flavours must be delicate yet memorable."
Crème Caramel Rosemary Tart, Pink Peppercorn Caramel; Cereals Chocolate Tile; Solero; Bombolino e Nutella
"In my opinion, petit fours shouldn't be too complicated," says executive chef of Art, Daniele Sperindio. "After experiencing the tasting menu, the guest has already been through quite a conceptual process; he or she is starting to feel full, perhaps sleepy (or tipsy), and now, he or she is ready for some familiar or approachable flavours to cap off the experience."
Art prides itself in the conversational approach it takes with food, and Sperindio explains that in the restaurant's current selection of petit fours, there is a specific focus on nostalgic childhood memories and flavours, which have evolved into more grown-up versions of themselves. "After a generally extensive and savoury journey, the petit fours provide a plethora of different sweet flavours in small bites, in order to close the gastronomic experience with fireworks...but without being overwhelming," he explains.
“Petit Fours, to me, is the edible translation of one last warm hug from the team before you go. After all, we need some sweetness in life.”
A Crème Caramel Rosemary Tart with pink peppercorns evokes a lot of nostalgia for Sperindio. "Crème caramel is one of my all-time favourite desserts. I used to order it all the time during our family outings, usually after a wood-fired pizza. At Art, we have infused it with some fresh rosemary and topped it with a touch of pink peppercorn for character. The final result is an egg-tart-like flan; I have been very fond of egg tarts as well since I moved to Asia," he says. "Cereals Chocolate Tile is an ode to youth. It is filled with milk and puffed barley, so you get toasty and coffee notes. Think of it as coffee and cereal enjoyed together," says the Italian chef.
To celebrate the coming of spring, Solero, a medley of coconut gelato and citrus sorbet, is also served. "This brings memories straight from camping by the beach with my family," says Sperindio. Finally, to wrap up the petit fours is Bombolino e Nutella, a signature at Art, and is also Sperindio's favourite among the selection.
"It's an absolute favourite snack for all seasons, filled with a luxurious homemade gianduja (hazelnut chocolate) soft cream, made with cacao and hazelnuts from Piedmont. It's the best way to finish the edible journey at Art, departing the restaurant with a lingering gianduja flavour in the mouth. It tastes like a home run for me every time," he says.
Martin Sec Sorbet; Edible Stones; Maritozzo; Tiramisu Tartlet
"When my team and I create the petit fours, we always take into consideration different elements such as the season, ingredients, texture, produce...and then we start to work out some ideas together, like recreate a memory or a childhood favourite snack," says Matteo Ponti, chef de cuisine of Braci. “Petit Fours is the last course, so it will be our guests' last memory about the tasting menu and experience, which makes it the most crucial part of the meal. I want my guests to bring home a sweet, lingering memory of the innovation and creativity of my menu at Braci.”
Braci's petit fours comprise an array of treats: Martin Sec Sorbet, shaped as a little pear, coated with a blond chocolate infused with muscovado sugar and liquorice; Edible Stones, a curious and sugar-free snack made of chervil root mixed with coconut and with a peanut praline heart, served with a pistachio sponge and hibiscus leaf to depict a forest; a mini version of Maritozzo, a typical breakfast in Rome, comprises a soft bun stuffed with miso caramel and topped with hazelnut chantilly (made with Tonda Gentile, a hazelnut from Piedmont); and lastly, a treat rooted in Italy's most famous dessert, a Tiramisu Tartlet, with a tiramisu's classic flavours condensed in one bite — a cocoa tartlet with espresso ganache, Marsala wine jelly, and topped with mascarpone marshmallow burnt with charcoal to emit a caramel flavour. "Since Braci means 'embers', we close the meal with a charcoal element," explains Ponti.
Among the four, Ponti's favourite is the Tiramisu Tartlet. "It is an intense burst of coffee that takes me back to Italy in one bite, bringing back memories of Sundays spent with my family and fighting with my brothers over the last bite of my mum’s tiramisu," the young chef fondly reminisces.
Sicilian Cannolo; Apricot Fruit Gelée; Earl Grey Chocolate Lollipop
Buona Terra offers a trio of petit fours in its current menu. Sicilian Cannolo, a classic sweet treat widely enjoyed and found all over Sicily, comprises a crisp, deep-fried pastry that is made with the addition of Marsala wine and cocoa powder, and filled with artisanal Artigiana ricotta, Valrhona chocolate, as well as candied orange and lemon. An Apricot Fruit Gelée bursting with flavours of the stone fruit is also served, and to complete the trio, an Earl Grey Chocolate Lollipop, which showcases a fragrant Earl Grey-infused Valrhona chocolate ganache.
Chef Denis Lucchi of Buona Terra fondly recalls past treats such as Bread, Chocolate, and Olive Oil, which holds a personal story to it. "This petit four is inspired by a childhood snack that my grandmother would make after I returned from school. My rendition is a toasted brown buttered sourdough topped with a quenelle of chocolate ganache made purely of chocolate and water. Extra virgin olive oil is drizzled over the ‘toast’, and finally, it is garnished with salt, spices, orange zest, and wild fennel," he shares. "We also used to serve Baci Di Dama or ‘Lady’s Kisses’. Originating from Northern Italy, this cookie is typically eaten with coffee or tea, and our version features a rich 55% Valrhona chocolate ganache sandwiched between the aromatic almond flour cookies."
Lucchi also says that petit fours are important as they comprise the last few bites that guests take at the end of a meal. "It forms a lingering memory of the dining experience," he says. "They have to be appealing and full of flavour, all in a single bite; light, delicate, and luscious enough to round up the meal nicely. At Buona Terra, I like to present a selection of petit fours that includes at least one mini treat that is quintessentially Italian, so the menu seamlessly tells our story from start till end."
Red miso caramel macaron with miso buttercream; walnut crumble, walnut caramel, and roasted walnut; melilot chocolate ganache with grilled cacao nibs; black sesame petit choux with black sesame pastry caster cream and
At 1-Star JAG, French chef Jeremy Gillon provides us with more insight as to why Petit Fours are named as such. "The term 'petit four' was created from the gauging and managing of an oven's temperature. In the olden days, ovens did not come with a thermostat; and when it got really hot, or 'grand four', the main dish was cooked at this high heat," explains Gillon. "After some time, when the temperature went down, smaller items such as cakes were baked. This temperature was called 'petit four'. Year after year, the theme of petit fours became widely used to describe little cakes."
Gillon mentions that the petit fours at JAG are intended to be paired and enjoyed with their selection of teas and tisanes, or coffee. "We also propose some digestif spirits, and they, too, pair well with our petit fours. It is the perfect pairing to finish your experience with," he adds.
“Having petit fours at the end of your meal is part of French culture and history. It's a sweet way to end your meal.”
Together with executive pastry chef Suzuki Ryo, Gillon's petit four selection boasts French techniques and Japanese flavours. To be enjoyed first in the sequence is a Red Miso Caramel Macaron with miso buttercream, followed by a Walnut Crumble made with walnut caramel and roasted walnut. Staying true to his mission of showcasing the herbs from the mountains of Savoie, Melilot, flowers that provide notes of vanilla and tonka bean, is used to flavour a chocolate ganache with grilled cacao nibs; this is also Gillon's favourite among the four. The last of the series is a Black Sesame Petit Choux with black sesame pastry caster cream.
Canele De Bordeaux; Spiced Pineapple and Kurozato Brown Sugar Madeline; Green Tea Macaron with Salted Yuzu Buttercream; Araguani Chocolate Tart, Cep Mushroom and Smoked Bone Marrow Caramel; Exotic Choux Croustillant, Opalys, Mango, and Passionfruit
At the newly minted MICHELIN-Starred restaurant, the young chef, Lewis Barker, offers five small sweet bites to round off the restaurant experience at Sommer. "Personally, I love a larger selection of petit fours and mignardises, as they are the final display of what the restaurant has to offer," shares Barker.
“I enjoy focusing on the classics whilst using creativity to elevate them a little bit, but not steering too far away from the flavours they are recognised for.”
"It's a feeling of overindulgence with generosity. I like to focus on the classics when it comes to my petit fours and cover the grounds of texture and flavour profiles through crunchy, spongy, biscuit-like bases, along with sweet, salty, and acidic notes," he shares.
Among the petit fours served at Sommer, Barker says his favourite is the Choux Croustillant. "I tend to enjoy more citrus-based desserts, and this one covers the sharp acidity of passionfruit, as well as the floral flavour of mango, rounded off with the opalys chocolate cream."