Sunday, October 01, 2006
A dacquoise is a meringue with nuts. It can be used as one of the building blocks for rich layered cakes.
I made a chocolate hazelnut dacquoise based on a Pierre Hermé recipe. It's basically a big sandwich cookie with chocolate ganache between two disks of nut meringue. You can also make individual cakes, as shown in the second half of this post on Kuidaore.
Hermé's dacquoise recipe is great, and I've been successful with it every time I've made it.
Choosing the right ganache recipe
However I'm not as fond of his ganache. When I saw the ingredients it required, I balked at the amount of butter. So I made a tiny portion, and a larger portion of Alice Medrich's whipped ganache filling, which is made of chocolate and cream, and to which I added some of my pralin. I piped the Hermé ganache on the outside of the cake, and the whipped ganache on the inside. Both my husband and I preferred the Alice Medrich filling.
In this picture you can (barely) see the Hermé ganache is a small, darker circle on the outside edge of the filling. There's even a white fleck of butter that wasn't fully incorporated. (If the filling looks a little wet it's because the knife I used to cut the cake was too hot.)
Making the cake ahead of time
The dacquoise layers can, and even should be, made ahead of time, according to Hermé. I confirm that you can prepare this whole cake the day before, wrap it carefully and chill it, and it will have a great texture and flavor when you serve it. I've frozen it as well, whether just the dacquoises or the filled cake and it was excellent. If you choose to freeze dacquoise layers, be careful. They are fragile! Several of mine got destroyed as we tried to force-fit the frozen fish-sticks and peas in the compartment. It's worth storing them in a rigid box.
Piping a circular shape
I had some difficulty piping a perfect circle, as evidenced here. I drew a circle on the parchment paper and tried to stick to it. But starting from the middle, as the recipe recommends, meant that by the time I got to the outside of the circle it looked potato-shaped. Perhaps I need more practice. Maybe when I get to the outside edges I shouldn't hesitate to squeeze the batter into the right shape as I pipe. I've also tried piping from the outside and had better results, though the center did not look as pretty as I had to push the batter around to fit it in. Still, even if your circles are less than perfect, the final dessert will look quite appetizing.
Source: Pierre Hermé
- 80 g hazelnuts
- 135 g ground hazelnuts
I've made it with ground almonds as well
- 150 g icing sugar plus more for sprinkling
- 5 egg whites
- 50 g sugar
1. Preheat oven to 150°C. Spread the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil.
[I skipped the foil.]
Bake for 10 minutes. Put them immediately in a hot towel
[some sources say to let them steam in the towel for a few minutes]
and rub them together to remove the skins.
[Aiming for perfection here is maddening. I was happy with about 70% removal. Remember, rub the nuts against each other, not just against the towel.]
Roughly chop the nuts.
2. Increase oven temperature to 170°C. Sift together the ground hazelnuts and icing sugar.
[Now this can be quite difficult, at least with the ground hazelnuts we buy here. They are fairly coarse, so a large portion doesn't make it through my sieve. One solution would be to sift and weigh after sifting. Any nuts that don't make it through the sieve you throw back into the bag for recipes that don't require fine nut powder. Or else take what is left in the sieve and grind it up in a little food processor or nut or coffee grinder. This is what I do. I simply have to be careful not to grind for too long or the powder gets oily and then sticks together.]
3. Whip the egg whites until firm, gradually add the 50 g regular sugar as you go. Using a flexible spatula, delicately incorporate the sugar and nut mixture.
4. Fill a pastry bag with a #12 tip
[This number is a French number. I would guess it's for 1.2 cm. I believe I've used both 10 and 13, as I don't have 12. With 13 it was harder to work as the batter kept dripping out of the pastry bag].
On two cookie sheets that have been covered with parchment paper, create two 26 cm disks (about 10.5 inches I believe).
[You can trace circles on the underside of the paper to help you, see my comments above about shaping the circles. You can also draw smaller circles for individual portions.]
Sprinkle each disk with the chopped and skinned hazelnuts. Lightly press them down. Sprinkle the disks lightly with icing sugar. Let them rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle again, and let rest again for 10 minutes. Bake for 35 minutes.
5. Place the disks on a rack to cool. Once they are cold, wrap them in plastic film and store them in the refrigerator.
[You can freeze them at this point as well, if possible in a rigid container to prevent breakage.]
Recipe: Whipped Chocolate Ganache Filling
Source: Alice Medrich, Bittersweet
- 6 ounces (170 g) 70% cocoa chocolate, chopped medium-fine
- 4 tspn to 3 Tbspn (16 to 37g) sugar
- 2 cups (480g) heavy cream
[- 1 to 2 Tbspn pâte pralinée - optional, my addition]
[These amounts are the corrected version as I used 70% cocoa chocolate rather than the regular bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. A. Medrich gives the substitution amounts for using different types of chocolate.]
Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream with the sugar in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Immediately pour half the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is mostly melted. Add the rest of the cream and stir. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes to be sure all of the chocolate particles are completely melted.
[Mix in the pâte pralinée if you are using any.]
Stir the ganache until perfectly smooth. Let cool. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the ganache for at least 6 hours (I usually leave it overnight, says A. Medrich); it must be very cold or it will curdle when it is whipped. (The ganache can be prepared up to 4 days ahead.)
When you are ready to use the ganache (and not before), whip it until it is stiff enough to hold a nice shape and seems spreadable, but don't overdo. Overwhipped ganache looks granular, proceed carefully: I usually stop the mixer early and finish the whipping by hand.
[Ah, don't you love recipes that say, "enough but not too much?" I never know if I whip the ganache enough. It seems to get stiff very very quickly, so I only whip it a few seconds with my hand-held mixer.]
After whipping, the ganache will firm as it sits (and even more after it is chilled), so spread it immediately. If you accidentally overwhip, or if the ganache becomes too stiff to spread, warm your spatula by rinsing it under hot water and wiping it dry as necessary.
Assembling the cake or cakes
Using a pastry bag with a large plain tip, pipe big spheres of ganache on the outside of one one dacquoise disk, fill in the space between the spheres with a spiral of filling, and sandwich with another disk.
Or use a star-shaped tip and pipe rosettes.
Refrigerate for a short or longer while (that's vague, I know. I don't quite remember how long I chilled the cake), and sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.
This was my first attempt. Perhaps a little too much filling, as we found it quite rich on the first night we ate it. However the second and third nights (lots of left-overs) the richness didn't seem overwhelming.
I used a star-tip on this one. Perhaps there wasn't enough filling though.
The filling was a bit runny on this one (too much pâte pralinée?), and the bottom dacquoise broke in the freezer. However, the end result tasted just as good...