Canapés are defined as small, decorative pieces of bread (toasted or untoasted) that are topped with savory garnishes such as anchovies, cheese or some type of spread. They've always fascinated me. They were often served at ladies’ tea parties or cocktail receptions when I was a young girl. Some were made with soft, sliced white bread with a garlic spread that was tinted pale pink or green with a touch of food coloring. Others were squares of lightly toasted bread spread with mayonnaise and topped with tiny, delicate shrimp or a smoked oyster. I adored daintily picking them up – with my pinky finger held gracefully just so – and nudging them into my mouth.
Alas, I didn’t quite learn the art of canapé-making until the last few years. For ever so long, my ideas of hors d’oeuvres were chips and dips, cheese trays and various kinds of finger sandwiches. I had to improve my repertoire.
I went through Mama’s trove of recipes. I bought a couple of Martha Stewart’s books. I asked a friend, who's a fabulous hostess, to give me some ideas. I was on a mission to perfect the art of the canapé. I tried my hand at miniature carrot muffins, tiny cream puffs filled with crabmeat and heart-shaped toasted bread dabbed with herb cheese. With patience, a lot of experimenting and a strong back, I am finally able to make several tiny, delicate, dainty and delicious canapés. Bending over small squares of bread or pastry and filling them with tiny amounts of spreads and such is not easy – at least for me it isn’t.
I have also developed some policies as to when I will put forth energy to make these detailed “little bites.” I serve them only when I have a small party of 10 to 12 guests. I do not make more than four or five different kinds for one affair, and more often than not, they are served cold or at room-temperature. Trying to heat these things in an oven and somehow getting them on a platter or tray is more than I can handle when I have guests.
These are the ones that I find the simplest and best that I can manage on my own.
The shrimp canapé recipe can be doubled if you wish.
• 6 slices of thin white bread
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 12 thin round slices of cherry tomatoes
• 48 slices of ripe olives
• 12 small cooked shrimp
• ¼ cup mayonnaise
• 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
• 12 fresh dill or parsley leaves
Spread the bread with the butter and cut into 12 2-inch squares. Arrange the tomato, olives and shrimp on top of each square.
In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and horseradish, and dot the top of the shrimp with this mixture. Garnish with the dill or parsley.
MAKES 12 CANAPÉS
HEART TOASTS WITH HERB CHEESE
• ½ cup crème fraîche
• 4 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
• 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
• Dash of cayenne
• 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
• 10 very thin slices of bread
Whip the crème fraîche in an electric mixer until fluffy and set aside. In a separate bowl, whip the cream cheese with the remaining ingredients until light and fluffy. Fold in the whipped crème fraîche and refrigerate until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Cut the bread using a heart-shaped cookie cutter small enough to yield three hearts per slice. Put the cutouts on a baking sheet and bake until dry but not colored, about 10 minutes, turning after five minutes so the edges won’t curl. Remove from the oven and cool thoroughly. Using a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip, pipe a bit of the herb cheese onto each toast. Serve at room temperature.
MAKES ABOUT 30 CANAPÉS
• 4 tablespoons butter
• ½ cup flour
• 1/8 teaspoon salt
• 1 cups milk
• 4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
• 4 egg whites, stiffly beaten
• 1 teaspoon sugar
These pinwheels are favorites of mine. You can make any kind of filling using ham, shrimp or whatever suits your fancy. I like this one made with caviar for festive holiday parties. Don’t be intimidated by making the jellyroll bread. If I can do it, anyone can!
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil an 11-by-16-inch jellyroll pan, line with wax or parchment paper and lightly oil.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring for 1 minute. Gradually add the milk and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and blend in the egg yolks and sugar.
Fold in the egg whites.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake until lightly golden, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from the heat and gently turn the pan over onto a sheet of wax or parchment paper. Lift the pan and carefully peel the paper from the jellyroll. Let cool completely.
• 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
• 2 tablespoons sour cream
• 5 ounces caviar (red or black)
Beat the cream cheese and sour cream until soft and fluffy. Gently fold in the caviar. Spread the filling evenly over the jellyroll. Then, carefully roll the jellyroll beginning at one end of the 11-inch side. Wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and chill for at least 3 hours.
To serve, remove the wrapping and cut crosswise into ½-inch slices and arrange on a platter.
MAKES ABOUT 30 SLICES