Bite-sized versions of classic dishes, canapes usually have three parts: a base, a spread and a garnish. Canapes are best served on large plates or platters in rows of alternating types of canapes or neatly arranged on smaller plates. Choose foods and canape plates that match the level of formality of the event. For outstanding canapes, use fresh foods, keep cold canape ingredients refrigerated until just before assembly and stay away from overly messy or drippy foods.
Bread is the classic canape base. The quickest way to make canape bases from bread is to use round cookie cutters to cut out small, round shapes. Almost any type of bread will do, provided it is soft enough to be chewed easily. You can also use Melba toasts, toasted pita slices, small biscuits, crackers or miniature pancakes. Make sure the base is substantial enough to support the toppings and small enough to be eaten in one bite.
Spreads give the canape its defining flavor, so choose wisely. Your spread can be virtually any soft, spreadable food. Simple spreads include plain butter and softened cheese, while pate is a more formal option. Most people make their own spreads, such as a port and cheese mixture flavored with nutmeg for the holidays. You can also mix fish or meat with mayonnaise and olive oil to create a spread. Experimenting with flavors is an important part of creating appetizing and memorable canapes.
The garnish goes on top of the base and spread and its the canape's finishing touch. It can be as simple as a sprig of mint or as hearty as a slice of ham. Common vegetarian garnishes include radish slices, asparagus tips, parsley and watercress leaves. If you prefer meat, traditional choices are roast beef, turkey breast and smoked ham. You can also use sliced boiled egg, small lobster or crab chunks, or plain cheese. Keep in mind your garnish should provide a flavor that complements the base and the spread.
Attractive canape presentation is nearly as important as taste, so plan your plating carefully. For a holiday party, try a theme of gold, red and green, with plates and canapes adding to the festive theme. If you're serving canapes at a wedding rehearsal, white porcelain trays bring elegance. You can also experiment with canape design instead of following the traditional stacked style. For example, wrap a small slice of duck inside a mint leaf and use a toothpick to secure it to the canape's base. To add whimsy, use an icing gun to apply the spread to the bases in stars or swirls.
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