Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mocha Almond Dacquoise

I am on the email distribution list for Cooks Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen, and near the end of the year, their newsletter included this recipe for a special NYE dessert.  I highly recommend watching the video they've posted, because that is what makes it look so easy. Even though I had other preparation to do for dinner, I was inspired try it. It is a great recipe for make ahead, and not only does it require a minimum of a few hours to rest in the fridge, and gets better after 24 hours, it also retains flavor and texture for over three days.

I started making each component on Sunday morning and was planning to assemble it Sunday evening so it could rest overnight. Sunday afternoon, as my dacquoise was cooling and my buttercream was chilling, one of my guests emailed and asked to bring dessert. Buttercream and ganache keep just fine, and meringue should be okay sealed in an airtight container as long as it isn't exposed to moisture. So I didn't end up assembling the full cake until Wednesday evening, and we were still eating it like it was fresh-made on Saturday night.

Though Cooks Illustrated names this cake "Dacquoise," the word actually refers only to the layers. Dacquoise is meringue made with the addition of ground nuts. Both The Joy of Cooking and The Cake Bible has a different ratio of ingredients, and I will try another recipe next time; though I really enjoy very sweet desserts, I find that most people do not, and I think this is bordering on "too sweet."

As you can see from my photos, I didn't bother to spend a lot of time decorating it because it was just for Will and me, and not for company... though I rarely make a dessert as a "test run," in this case it was kind of fun to have it just eat and I will definitely make it again for a special occasion. 

The recipes below are for my future reference. The link above has very easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions if you are making it for the first time, but the versions below scale back the sweetness. Also, in my version, I used all almonds instead of part hazelnuts.

from The Joy of Cooking
3/4 cup toasted almonds, finely ground
1 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 + 1/2 cup superfine sugar
4 large egg whites (1/2 cup)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 200. Outline 13" x 10 1/2" rectangle on sheet of parchment, and lay outline-side down on cookie sheet.
Pulse nuts, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup sugar in food processor until finely ground.
Beat whites until frothy, add cream of tartar, and beat at medium until soft peaks form. Slowly add remaining 1/2 sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.
Carefully fold in nut mixture and spread immediately on parchment in desired shape.
Bake for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, then turn off oven and leave with oven door closed for another 1 1/2 -2 hours.

While meringue is baking, make buttercream,

Coffee Buttercream3/4 cup whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons amaretto (I used Frangelico because that is what I had; it is hazelnut liquer)
1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
16 (2 sticks) tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Heat milk in small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. In separate bowl, whisk yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in bowl until smooth. Remove milk from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly whisk a couple tablespoons of milk into yolk mixture. Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to remaining milk in saucepan.
Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is bubbling and thickens to consistency of warm pudding, 3 to 5 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.

Stir together liqueur and espresso powder. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter at medium speed until smooth and light, 3 to 4 minutes. Add pastry cream in 3 batches, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Add amaretto mixture and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes longer, scraping down bowl thoroughly halfway through mixing.

When dacquoise is completely cool, peel off parchment, and trim edges flat using a bread/serrated knife. Measure and score 3" wide rectangles (by 10" long) and gently score through sheet of meringue with long sweeping cuts. These sheets are delicate so proceed carefully and with very light pressure.

6ounces bittersweet chocolate (Lindt 70% or 85%), chopped fine
3/4cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons corn syrup
Heat cream to simmer. Pour over chopped chocolate and let rest one minute. Stir until smooth and stir in corn syrup. Set aside to cool, stirring periodically, until spreadable consistency.

Spread a thin layer of ganache on the flat side of each of 3 dacquoise layers. Place in single layer in fridge 15 minutes until firm. Spreak top of 4th layer with buttercream, and use as base of cake on platter.

Place chilled, ganache coated layer atop buttercream layer, chocolate-side down. Frost top of layer with buttercream, and repeat with remaining layers.  Frost entirely with buttercream, and chill until set.

Spread ganache over buttercream. Garnish with slivered or chopped almonds, hazelnuts, or chocolate curls and piped buttercream if desired. Refridgerate at least 3 hours before serving. Slice with a wet (! - yes, it works perfectly!) knife into 12 slices. Keeps well for 3-4 days.

The recipes I've shown above are for a reduced amount of sugar that I think will better highlight the flavor and amazing textures of this dessert. But it would be amazing with any number of combinations of filling and frosting flavors, so I plan to make this again and get creative with the layers.

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