Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

mignardise, also called “friandise,” is a general category that includes many kinds of little sweets—small cakes, cookies, macarons, chocolates, candied fruits, and pralines—served most often at the end of a meal with coffee and liqueur. The word comes from the French mignard, meaning “delicate” or “pretty,” which in turn derives from the medieval word mignon, meaning “small.” Mignardise can be synonymous with the petit four (literally, “small oven”), which appears to be a creation of the nineteenth century. The famous French chef Marie-Antonin Carême claimed that the name referred to the baking of these small cakes in a slow oven whose heat dissipated after the large desserts had finished baking. See carême, marie-antoine. In his Physiologie du goût (1826), Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin refers to the “multitude of delicate pastries which make up the fairly new art of baking little cakes.” M. LeBlanc, author of Roret’s Nouveau manuel complet du pâtissier (1829), refers to the confection of petits fours as a branch of patisserie in which particular commercial bakers specialized. He advises professional bakers to have two ovens, including a smaller oven devoted to baking petits fours and all sorts of small cakes, to save on cooking fuel. By the time LeBlanc was writing, there were already at least 50 different types of ovens that the professional baker could purchase.