Petit Ecolier…a petite history
One of the Handyman’s favourite varieties of biscuits is the French treat, Petit Ecolier. They have a butter biscuit base and an embossed chocolate top featuring a little schoolboy.
Made by the LU cookie company, their excellent quality cookies dominate the supermarket offering in France. More than 150 years ago, the LU cookie company was begun in the western city of Nantes by the husband and wife team Jean-Romain Lefèvre and Pauline-Isabelle Utile (the first initials in their last names were combined to name the company).
At first the company was mostly just a luxury store where people came to buy carefully crafted cookies, served with great show and packaged for gift giving. Over time and as the company’s care was passed from one generation to the next, the company changed over to the industrialized production of cookies.
Their marketing campaigns featured many delightful advertisements created by artists, and the le Petit Ecolier (Little School Boy) painted by Firmin Bouisset became emblematic for the LU company. The company has now been taken over by Kraft but the quality has remained the same.
The Handyman’s go-to Petit Ecolier is now made by Quebec company Leclerc that began making their Celebration version about 15 years ago. The chocolate top features an image of the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City. This company was formed in 1905.
In a small backroom at his family home on Arago Street in Quebec City, Francois Leclerc baked his very first cookies. These cookies were from a tried-and-true jelly cookie recipe belonging to his wife, Zelia.
This version, made in Quebec, has a 45% cocoa dark chocolate cookie topper.
Ricardo Cuisine makes a butter cookie cutter and chocolate moulds kit that works beautifully to let you make your own version at home and up the ante by adding no artificial flavours or soya lecithin and increasing the cocoa content of the chocolate.
The butter cookies are easy to make although it takes awhile to make all the chocolate tops with the six moulds provided in the kit (which costs under $20).
Butter cookie base
Makes about 36 cookies
- 3 cups (spooned and leveled) all-purpose flour
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Place flour, sugar, butter and salt in the bowl of a food processor; process until mixture is the texture of coarse meal. (You could also do this by hand cutting in the butter.) In a small bowl, lightly beat egg yolks and vanilla; with motor running, add to food processor. Process just until a dough forms. Form into two discs, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for an hour or so to chill.
Pre-heat oven to 350 F degrees.
Roll dough out to a bit less than a 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and use the Ricardo butter cookie cutter (which works very well by the way…nice sharp edges). Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.
- 2 90 gram 70 per cent dark chocolate bars. (I used Godiva Belgian chocolate.
- 2 250 gram high-quality dark chocolate chips. (I used Ghirardelli 60 per cent cacao chocolate.)
Place the chocolate in a non-reactive metal bowl over a pot of simmering water (double boiler) and melt the chocolate stirring occasionally. Once melted carefully pour into the chocolate moulds ensuring the chocolate gets into all the crevices of the mould. Keep the chocolate over the simmering water while you continue to make the six batches you will need. Place the moulds in the refrigerator or in a cool place (I put them outdoors on a winter day) for a few minutes for the chocolate to set up. Carefully unmould the chocolate by loosening the edges. If you break any of the toppers simply put the pieces back into your melted chocolate in the double boiler so you can re-use it.
If you let your cookies cool for just two minutes and then place the chocolate disks on top of them, the chocolate will melt nicely and adhere to the biscuits. (Thanks good folks at Ricardo for this tip.) If like me, you didn’t have all your toppers ready beforehand, you can “glue” them onto the butter cookies with a few dabs of the melted chocolate. (You could also use Nutella.)
The Handyman’s verdict on these fun to make cookies? “Delicious and they are even bigger than the store-bought ones which is a very good thing.”