Although finger foods have been around since, well, forever, canapés were developed in France in the late 18thcentury. The word canapé means “sofa” in French, and apparently these one-bite wonders were named because someone thought they looked like a person sitting on a couch!
While the terms canapé and hors d’oeuvre are often used interchangeably, there are subtle differences. While all canapés are hors d’oeuvres, not all hors d’oeuvres are canapés. Canapé refers specifically to a small appetizer with a base layer (usually toasted bread or pastry) topped by a spread and/or other topping and a garnish.
This Signature Challenge for the bakers in the Great White Tent called for 12 each of three different kinds of savory canapés: one that’s pastry-based, one using choux pastry and one with a base of the baker’s choice. Mary Berry wanted them to have a perfect finish. Paul Hollywood said they must be all the same size and pack a big punch of flavor in a small, bite-sized morsel.
For my three kinds of canapés, I made smoked salmon-stuffed choux puffs with fresh dill, caprese tartlets with homemade pesto, and parmesan-and-black-sesame crackers with fig-and-goat-cheese spread.
The smoked salmon puffs came from a recipe on FoodAndWine.com. It’s a simple choux pastry recipe with a salmon cream cheese filling, but it makes way more than 12 puffs, so I may cut the recipe in half for you, my blog readers. Still, it was tasty, and the fresh dill made a refreshing addition to the flavor profile. In fact, my daughter requested that I add more dill next time!
For the caprese tartlets, I used a three-ingredient pastry recipe from TheSpruceEats.com and filled the shells with fresh mozzarella rounds, tomato rosettes and a drizzle of my homemade pesto. The dough was a little tricky to work with. I wanted a nice scalloped edge on the tartlet shells, so I ended up rolling the dough into individual-sized balls, flattening each and using a fluted cookie cutter to cut out each one. I then blind-baked them using mini baking cups (the size you’d use for chocolate-covered candies) filled with rice and dried peas.
Tomato rosettes are a festive way to use tomatoes as garnish. I followed the video instructions here. All you need to do is, using a paring knife, peel a tomato in one long, thick peel and roll the peel up into a tight spiral. Then, when you flip the spiral over, it looks like a tight rosebud. In addition, I garnished each tartlet with a small basil leaf from my garden.
I love caprese salad, and these little canapés are like a one-bite salad with a light pastry crust. You could use a balsamic glaze instead of the pesto, but I had plenty of my homemade pesto left in the freezer from last summer that I needed to use up before I start making more. My basil plants are growing like gangbusters this year! (HINT: If you make your own pesto, freeze it in ice cube trays so you can thaw just what you need. Then it never goes to waste!)
For the parmesan-and-black-sesame crackers, I adapted the recipe I used for the Crackers and Crisp Breads challenge from last year, only this time I used parmesan cheese instead of American and substituted black sesame seeds to give them a nice contrast in colors.
The fig-and-goat-cheese spread came from this recipe. I thought the sweetness of the fig would pare well with the goat cheese and offset the saltiness of the crackers. After piping a swirl of the spread onto each cracker, I garnished them with fresh rosemary, which leaves a nice finish on the palate. Although one reviewer thought the combination resulted in “too much cheese,” others responded with “there’s no such thing!” So I suppose it comes down to personal taste.
Canapés made their way to the U.S. in the early 20th century and were popular during Prohibition at speakeasies, where patrons needed something to eat with their libations so as not to be noticeably inebriated when they left. These small bites also became fashionable at cocktail parties, as they are small enough to hold in one hand when you have a drink in the other. Because of their small stature, canapés often feature stronger flavors and richer ingredients than you’d be able to eat in larger quantities.
Any or all of these canapés would feature nicely at a cocktail party. They are both pretty on a plate and pleasing to the palate.
Savory Canapés Three Ways
Smoked Salmon Puffs with Fresh Dill
For the choux pastry:
- ½ c. water
- ¼ c. (4 T.) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
- ½ t. kosher salt
- ½ c. all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 1 T. poppy seeds, for sprinkling
For the filling:
- ¼ lb. sliced smoked salmon
- 2 oz. (4 T.) cream cheese, softened
- 3 T. sour cream
- ½ t. Dijon mustard
- 1/2 clove of garlic, crushed
- Tabasco sauce, to taste
- Fresh dill, to taste
2. In a saucepan, bring the water, butter and salt to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the flour, stirring vigorously until combined. Return to moderate heat and cook for one minute, stirring constantly. Scrape the mixture into a mixer bowl and, using an electric mixer, beat at medium speed for one minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until the batter is thick, smooth and shiny.
3. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe 1-inch mounds onto the prepared baking sheets, about 3/4 inch apart. Using lightly moistened fingertips, smooth the tops. Sprinkle with the poppy seeds and bake for 20 minutes, shifting the pans halfway through, until the puffs are risen and golden. Lower the oven to 250°F.
4. With the tip of a knife, poke a hole into the side of each puff and return them to the baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes longer, with the oven door slightly ajar, to dry out the centers. Transfer to a rack and cool.
5. In a food processor or blender, combine the smoked salmon with the cream cheese, sour cream, mustard and garlic, and process until smooth. Season with Tabasco. Transfer the filling to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch tip.
6. Slice off the top third of each puff. Remove any excess pastry inside the puffs to create a hollow chamber. Pipe the filling into the bottom portion of the puffs and top each with a sprig of fresh dill. Replace the top of each puff and transfer to a serving plate. Serve right away, or keep in refrigerator for up to 2 hours.
For the pastry:
- ½ c. (1 stick) butter, room temperature
- 3 oz. (6 T.) cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 c. flour
For the pesto:
- ½ c. fresh basil leaves, lightly compressed
- 2 T. grated parmesan cheese
- 4 t. pine nuts
- ½ clove garlic, minced
- 1/8 t. black pepper
- 1/8 t. salt
- 1½ t. lemon juice
- ¼ c. olive oil
- 24 Campari or large cherry tomatoes
- 8 oz. log of fresh mozzarella, presliced
- 24 small basil leaves
2. Remove dough from fridge and divide into 24 equal portions. Roll into balls. On a floured surface, working quickly before dough gets too soft, roll out each ball to 1/8-inch thick and cut out a 2½-inch circle using a round, fluted cookie cutter. With a metal spatula, transfer each circle to a mini-muffin tin. Refrigerate for another 15 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Remove tartlet shells from fridge and dock with a fork or toothpick. Place a mini paper baking cup inside each shell and fill with rice or small, dry beans. Bake for 5-10 minutes or until the cups come away from the dough without sticking. Remove pan from oven and carefully take paper cups out of the shells without spilling the beans. (This is tricky because they’re hot! I used a pair of tweezers in one hand and needle-nosed plyers in the other!) Place tartlet shells back in oven for a few more minutes until lightly browned. (This will help prevent them from sticking to the pan.)
4. Remove from oven and let cool just until you can remove the shells from the pan without burning your fingers. Place them on a rack to cool.
5. To make the pesto, mix all ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth. (This recipe can be doubled or quadrupled. If you have any left over, it will keep in the refrigerator for about a week. I recommend freezing it in ice cube trays so you can thaw only what you need. I have kept it in the freezer for several months.)
6. To assemble the tartlets, use a ¾-inch round canapé cutter to cut 12 small circles out of the mozzarella. (I used the wide end one of my piping tips.) Then cut those circles in half to make 24 thinner circles. Place one circle in the bottom of each tartlet shell. Drizzle with pesto.
7. Make 24 tomato rosettes by peeling each tomato with a fine serrated knife into one long strip about ½ inch wide, then wrapping the strip into a tight spiral. Flip the spiral upside down to reveal a rosebud shape. Use this video as a guide: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQ_NadLcypY. Place a tomato rosette in each tartlet shell on top of the pesto. Garnish with a basil leaf. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 hour.
Parmesan-Sesame Crackers with Fig & Goat Cheese Spread
For the crackers:
- 1 c. sifted flour
- ½ t. salt
- ½ t. ginger
- ½ t. sugar
- 1 c. finely grated parmesan cheese
- ¼ c. black sesame seeds
- 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
- 1 T. water
- 1/3 c. butter, melted and cooled
- ½ t. Worcestershire sauce
For the toppings:
- 3 oz. dried Smyrna or Calimyrna figs
- 7 oz. plain goat cheese
- 2/3 c. sour cream
- 12 small, fresh rosemary leaves (about 2 small sprigs)
2. Preheat oven to 350°F and place a piece of parchment paper on a large baking sheet. Roll out dough between two large pieces of wax paper into a 12-inch square about 1/8-inch thick. Remove top piece of wax paper and use a pizza cutter to cut dough into 1½-inch squares.
3. Transfer squares to paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating baking sheet every 5 minutes to ensure even browning. When crackers are lightly brown around the edges, remove from oven. Leave crackers on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to cooling racks.
4. To make the spread, cut stem ends off of figs and cut the remaining fruit into chunks. Place in food processor or electric chopper and process until finely chopped. Add goat cheese and sour cream (or, if using a chopper, transfer to a blender first) and process until smooth, scraping sides of bowl or blender occasionally.
5. Transfer spread to a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe a small spiral onto each cracker and garnish with a small rosemary leaf. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 hour.