Sunday, May 12, 2013

Week 19: Petit Fours, Volume 1: Picnic By the Loire

A plate of pastel petit fours
   Petit fours date back to the 18th century in France. The word "petit four" is french for small oven... which refers to the process of making the tiny pastries in a cooling brick oven to maximize the usefulness of the oven's heat. Petit fours are tiny appetizer-sized morsels that are decorated in delightful patterns and colors with just the right compliment of ingredients to be delicious. This week's book-of-the-week is just one of a series of Petit Four books in the works. It's titled Petit Fours, Volume 1: Picnic By the Loire.
For the cover, a french napkin for spine piece and cover paper from an antique french book dating to 1829...
In the French kitchen, there are three types of petit fours. Glazed (glacé) petit fours are tiny cakes, eclairs or tartlets iced and decorated with fondant or icing. Salted (salé) petit fours are savoury bite-sized appetizers usually served at parties and buffets. The third variety of petit four is described as "dry" (sec) petit fours, which are tiny biscuits, meringues, macaroons or puff pastries. My guess is that this week's little book, Picnic By the Loire, is of the salted variety... a savory confection of part memory... part daydream. The cover, made from a printed French cloth napkin and a page from an antique book titled Le Histoire de France, is reminiscent of the colors and textures along the riverbank of the Loire River in western France.

Fishing boat on the Loire River
The tiny book opens to a map of the Loire River near a place I love to visit, Chateau du Pin near Champtocé-sur-Loire. Bike paths, walking trails, and beautiful scenery line this historic river of modern-day organic farms, vineyards, and quaint villages. I've mentioned it before.. the link to rent Chateau du Pin is ....and to take art classes at Chateau du Pin with book and textile artist Peg Gignoux (and others) link on

The Loire River with a turkish map fold
A tiny book is like a petit four.. packed with preciousness and unimagined bounty... like a picnic basket  loaded with all the delicious parts for the perfect repast. When the basket is empty and the table is laid full.. the clear warm breezes, the music of nearby birds and humming bees, sunlight reflecting on the river and the energy of the outdoors... create a mouthwatering experience that never gets old.
A picnic table unfolds with delicious pates, cheeses and salads from the garden
...And the petite little book, Picnic By the Loire becomes a memory map to beauty and delight.

....just the right spots to sample this delicious country
We all have our journeys... and our maps might not be so well marked as this little map in Picnic By the Loire. But I hope your petit four collection of life maps have some that are sweet, some salty, and some a little fluffy.

Harriett along the Loire