4.1.20 – Crazy for (Ottolenghi) Canapés

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My love for the canapés that we create at Ottolenghi is growing so much that I just had to dedicate a post to it.

A canapé, is a type of hors d’œuvr, which is a very small dish served as an appetiser before dinner. Canapés are traditionally a small piece of bread (sometimes toasted), puff pastry, or a cracker topped with what is usually savoury food, held in the fingers and often eaten in one whole  bite. The name actually comes from the French word for sofa, drawing on the analogy that the garnish sits atop the bread as people do a couch! Who would have known. From my understanding, the main difference in a canapé and hors d’œuvr is that canapés usually have three elements; the base, the filling and the garnish, whereas the hors d’œuvr could only have one element.

The French, (I mean, who else would it have been) broadly started offering hors d’œuvr to their guests in the 18th century, but the first mention of the food item was by François Massialot in 1691, mentioned in his book: Le cuisinier roial et bourgeois (The Royal and Bourgeois Cook) and explained as “certain dishes served in addition to those one might expect in the normal composition of the feast”. In other words, the glutinous feasts weren’t enough for French in those days. The English didn’t adopt the practice until the end of the following century. Food in England is heavily influenced by other countries due to the island nation’s dependence on importing outside goods and sometimes, inspiration. Many English culinary words and customs have been directly borrowed from the original French, such as ding, hors d’œuvr and canape. 

It seems that not a lot of people are aware of Ottolenghi’s catering service as much as the eat in/ take away service that it’s so famous for. Biased I know, but I believe the catering service that we provide is phenomenal, and one of the most fresh, vibrant and creative catering services I’ve seen. Out top chefs spend a huge majority of their time developing new catering and canapé recipes to keep our guests entertained, and it’s a part of the business that I’m becoming increasingly interested in. As well as endless amounts of savoury and sweet canape options, we also provide full lunch/ dinner services in the way of meats/fish and vegetarian mains, the most beautiful salads, similar to those we offer on the display, side dishes, sauces and garnishes.

We’ve had a busy week for catering this week, and hence the inspiration for this blog. To give you an example of the type of things we do in the pastry section with regards to canapes, today I prepared: 200 Chocolate Tahini Tarts, 200 White Chocolate Raspberry Pavlovas and 200 Grand Marnier Tarts.

The Chocolate Tahini Tarts are inspired by the larger chocolate tarts that we sell on our cake display. It consists of a sweet, shortcrust pastry shell, roughly the size of a 2 pence coin. The bottom of the shell is filled with a burst of honey flavoured tahini. It is then piped with a rich chocolate filling, that is set in the oven. Once cooled, we top the tarts with cocoa powder to give them a clean finish, and then interrupt the clean cut with a crisp shard of crunchy sesame brittle.

The White Chocolate Raspberry Pavlovas’ are quite simple, but utterly impressive to the eye. We start off with a kiss of meringue, that is dipped with a spoon before baking off to allow room for the filling. Once cooled, we paint the insides with melted white chocolate so that when the cream is added, it doesn’t make the meringue soggy. Once dry, we pipe a an airy, delicate white chocolate cream into the dip, sprinkle with green, shelled, blitzed pistachio and then stick a whole raspberry on top, in such a way to create what looks like a hat.

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The Grand Marnier Tarts are a similar concept to the Chocolate Tahini tarts, and made with the same sweet shortcrust pastry shell. We then however, pipe them with a luxurious Grand Marnier ganache, flavoured with a rich dark chocolate, a dash of Grand Marnier and a punch of orange zest. We set these in the fridge before finishing with a quenelle of mascarpone cream and a sprig of candied orange peel.

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As mentioned in previous blogs, my favourite type of baking seems to be whatever is aesthetically pleasing, and I love attention to fine detail as oppose to mass batch cooking. Canapés are therefore my absolute dream to create because I receive such great satisfaction from seeing hundreds of the finished products, beautifully lined next to each other, with delicate layers of precision.

I hope you learnt something about canapés from reading this post! What’s your favourite canapé? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

I’m now off to bed hungry after all that talk,

Grace

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