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A dacquoise is a cake made of nut meringue sheets that are layered with chocolate ganache and espresso-flavored buttercream. Yeah, it’s a really, really good cake. Now, here’s what you do when you’re sleep-deprived because your allergies are keeping you awake at night and as a result you carelessly drop the meringue on the kitchen counter and it breaks into pieces: you make a dacquoise trifle. Simple as that and tastes just as amazing. :)
I did not come up with this recipe myself, instead I followed America’s Test Kitchen’s instructions pretty closely (other than making a trifle instead of a cake, of course). Their recipe is absolutely super.
So, the dacquoise is made with a German-style buttercream, which is butter whipped with a pastry cream. Here’s how that works: you make a pastry cream with milk, egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch and cook it like a pudding. Then you chill it while attending to the nut meringue and the ganache. When you’re ready to make the buttercream you make sure that both pastry cream and butter are at the same temperature (about 65 degrees F.) I really mean the same temperature (within about 2 degrees of one another), measured with a thermometer, not with your finger. Otherwise the buttercream will curdle and you will be so irritated that you will probably curdle, too.
If the pastry cream is too cold, you can carefully warm it over a pot of hot water, stirring constantly and paying close attention. As long as you observe the temperature thing you’ll be fine. The rest of the recipe is straightforward. It does take quite a bit of time but most of that time is inactive, plus it tastes so good that it’s really worth every minute!
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons almond meal
- ½ tablespoon cornstarch
- ½ cup sugar, divided into 2 quarter cups
- 2 egg whites (keep the yolks for the buttercream)
- ⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1½ cups milk
- 8 egg yolks
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 32 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
- 4 teaspoons instant espresso powder
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 4 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 1 cup heavy cream
- about 20 hazelnuts, half of them finely chopped
- Heat the oven to 250 degrees F.
- Whisk almond meal, cornstarch and ¼ cup of sugar until well combined and no clumps remain.
- Beat egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks.
- Continuing to beat, slowly add ¼ cup of sugar to the meringue. Beat until you have stiff peaks.
- With a rubber spatula, carefully fold the almond mix into the meringue.
- Spread the meringue onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in a thin layer, about 9 inches by 12 inches.
- Bake the meringue for 1½ hours.
- Without opening the oven door, turn the oven off and let the meringue cool in the oven for another 1½ hours.
- Crumble the meringue into small pieces.
- Heat the milk to a low simmer.
- Meanwhile, whisk egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl until they turn lighter in color and texture than they were when you started.
- Once the milk is hot, whisk about half of it into the egg mixture.
- Transfer the egg/milk mixture back into the pot and continuously stir with a wooden spoon until the mix thickens. Once it thickens take it off the heat immediately, cover and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, take the pastry cream out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature.
- Beat the butter with the espresso powder until fluffy and creamy.
- Measure the temperature of the butter and the temperature of the pastry cream. They both should be about 65 degrees F. If the pastry cream is too cold, warm if carefully over a pot of hot water, stirring continuously.
- Once butter and pastry cream have the same temperature, start beating the butter and add the pastry cream to it in 5 to 6 batches. Beat for at least 30 seconds after each pastry cream addition and scrape down the sides of the bowl frequently.
- Cover and use or store in the fridge until you're ready to use it.
- Put chocolate and espresso powder in a bowl.
- Heat the cream to a full boil, then pour it over the chocolate/espresso mix. Let the mix sit for a minute.
- Stir until you have a homogeneous consistency.
- Pipe a ½-inch layer of buttercream into ten 7-ounce jars.
- Add about 2 tablespoons of crumbled meringue on top.
- Drizzle a thin layer of ganache over the meringue layer.
- Repeat the previous three steps and pipe a buttercream layer on top.
- Set a hazelnut in the center and sprinkle chopped hazelnuts over the top.
- Chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours to give the buttercream time to soften the meringue layers a bit.
Food Photography and Styling: In its cake form the dacquoise is a mighty elegant dessert but I felt that in its trifle form it took on a decidedly rustic appearance so that’s what I went for here. I used a Weck jar that I got from the World Market a while ago because I liked its curve and its substance for this recipe, it’s so thick and non-delicate that it works well in a rustic setting. I piped with my large 9P tip because I wanted a more loose look rather than the sharp, elegant curves that the 1M tip creates. I kept the set dark with a bunch of flags and let only a sliver of light come through from the side to make it look as if the jar was illuminated by a small window to the side.
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.