Canapés are perfect for parties and gatherings. With their decorative presentation, the bite-sized foods make wonderful finger foods any hostess will be proud to serve.
What Is a Canapé?
Although sometimes people use the words interchangeably, canapés can be used as appetizers, but not all appetizers are canapés. Canapés are defined as finger foods that consist of crackers, pastry, or thin slices of bread that have been cut into geometric shapes (rounds, diamonds, triangles, etc.), with some type of tasty topping. For a fancy affair, one might serve golden, buttery pieces of toast that are spread with duck liver pâté, piled high with lobster salad, or topped with sour cream, cucumber, and caviar. In a more casual setting, the toppings might consist of a blend of cream cheese and Spanish olives, slices of ham and cheddar, or egg salad. There's really no end to the canapés you can create.
Because they are easy to pick up and eat neatly, canapés are often served at parties where people are circulating around a room rather than sitting at a table. Thus, they make popular items at events like wedding receptions, art gallery openings, and cocktail parties. However, because of their small size and because they are eaten with the fingers, canapé recipes are also an excellent choice for children's parties.
Building the Perfect Canapé
Canapés can be hot or cold. Even without a recipe, you can build a great canapé following a few simple steps.
Step One - Choose Your Base
Tightly crumbed breads like rye or black bread make the perfect base for canapés, because they will hold up well under the pressure of ingredients. You can toast the bread for further structure. Many grocery stores sell crunchy, pre-toasted bread rounds that make the perfect base for a canapé. Crackers work well, too. If you are using bread, cut it into the size and shape you want, keeping in mind that a canapé should be no more than two bites.
Step Two - Add Flavor
Jazz up your canapé before you top it by spreading on a flavored compound butter. Compound butters are simple to make. Mix finely minced herbs, garlic, cheeses or other ingredients into softened, unsalted butter and allow to sit overnight to allow flavors to blend. Spread a thin layer over your base. You can also brush your bread with melted garlic butter and toast it in the oven. Some compound butters to try include:
- Garlic butter
- Dijon butter
- Maytag bleu cheese butter
Step Three - Toppings
With compound butters, you can add a simple topping to make the perfect canapé. Top your bread and butter with flavorful foods like roasted peppers, smoked salmon and dill, caviar, or tomato and basil, or shrimp.
Whether you use a recipe or go off the map and create your own, you can liven up your next gathering by passing around a tray of beautifully presented, creative canapés. You are limited only by your imagination.