petit four any of the little biscuits and cakes to which this name is applied; for example, cigarette russe, langue de chat, miroir (for all of which see biscuit varieties), meringue, macaroon, and tuile. The name means ‘little oven’. Robert states the term was first used in 1807. Larousse opines that carême (a big advocate of them) named them thus because they were baked in a low-temperature oven (à petit four) but, like the German usage klein Gebäck, it more likely indicates ‘small items from the oven’. One may distinguish petits fours secs and petits fours frais. The first are biscuit-like, the second are miniature tarts and flans. The habit of serving petits fours with coffee has been universalized in upper-crust French restaurants. They may be called friandises or mignardises.
© the Estate of Alan Davidson 1999, 2006, 2014 © in the Editor’s contribution to the second and third editions, Oxford University Press 2006, 2014.