|CHOCOLATE COFFEE DACQUOISE RAISES THE BAR|
It's made of meringue layers (which start off as a large cookie!), buttercream and chocolate ganache. Separately, each component is not difficult to do though together, they do take a little time. But to get something that looks pretty impressive without a whole lot of effort – now, that's the kind of cake I like.
It certainly doesn't take a professional pastry chef to make this cake. Which is why it was appropriately featured in the newspaper's Don't Call Me Chef cooking column which I write with Indra and Ivy. This month's theme was all about chocolate desserts and was just in time for the Hari Raya or Eid celebration.
|The dacquoise is made of sterner fluff|
Very often, meringue-type confections use the egg white in the cake or cookie and the yolks are either discarded or used for an unrelated dish. For this cake, the yolks are used in the buttercream, which is custard-based. This is one of my favourite ways to make buttercream frosting. I think it is smoother and more stable than whipping just butter and icing sugar together and it's not uncooked like a Swiss meringue frosting.
I think this cake is best cut and served straight from the fridge. In a less casual situation, I'd probably set out saucers and forks, but in fact, slices of chilled dacquoise can be picked it up with the hand to eat as the layers holds together well.
|A cake to celebrate with|
Serves 12. Adapted from a recipe at cooksillustrated.com (requires subscription)
80g ground almonds
50g ground hazelnuts
180g caster sugar, divided
1 tbsp cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
4 large egg whites (about 120g), room temperature
Large pinch of cream of tartar
4 large egg yolks
1 tbsp cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
175ml full-cream milk
1½ tbsp instant coffee
2 tbsp hot water
225g unsalted butter, softened
170g chocolate (60% cocoa), finely chopped
170ml whipping cream
2 tsp corn syrup
20 whole hazelnuts, to decorate
Mark out a 32cm by 25cm rectangle on baking paper; place it on an upturned baking tray. Preheat oven to 120°C.
Meringue: Combine the nuts, half the sugar (90g), cornstarch and salt in a bowl.
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a large metal or glass mixing bowl (the bowl should be very clean). Using electric beaters, whip the eggs until foamy, 30 seconds, then slowly add the remaining 90g of sugar until glossy, stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula, fold in the nut-sugar mixture in two batches.
Spread the meringue evenly onto the paper and mist the surface with water. Bake for 90 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave the meringue inside for another 90 minutes. Do not open the oven doors at this time. Remove from the oven and cool the meringue on the paper on a wire rack.
Buttercream: Whisk egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a bowl. Place milk in a small pot and heat until simmering. Pour half the hot milk into the yolk mixture while whisking until smooth, then add this to the milk in the pot and return to medium heat. Continue whisking until it thickens. Transfer custard to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until set, two hours. Before using, bring to room temperature.
Dissolve instant coffee in water. Whip the butter until light. Beat in the custard in three batches until just combined. Add coffee mixture and continue to beat until light and fluffy, five minutes.
Ganache: Place chocolate in heatproof bowl. Heat up cream and corn syrup until simmering and pour over the chocolate to soften; stir until smooth. Cool for five minutes.
Assembly: Make sure there is room in the fridge to chill the cake in stages.
Peel off paper from meringue and place on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, trim edges and cut into four equal rectangles, about 25cm by 8cm.
Spread three rectangles each with ¼ cup ganache. Refrigerate until firm, 15 minutes.
Spread remaining rectangle with ½ cup buttercream; place on a wire rack. Place one ganache-coated meringue, chocolate side down, on top of the buttercream and press gently. Repeat this process with all the meringue layers. Finally, frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining buttercream. Refrigerate until firm, two hours.
Warm remaining ganache in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water until it is runny but not hot. Pour ganache over top of cake and spread with a spatula, letting excess flow down sides.
Garnish top of cake with hazelnuts. Chill, uncovered, then transfer cake to a platter. To serve, cut each slice with a sharp knife dipped in hot water and wiped dry.
|The dacquoise-making process|
Top tier: Lay down baking paper on an upturned baking tray. Beat the egg whites with sugar until they form stiff peaks and then fold in the nut mixture.
Second tier: Spread out the meringue and spritz the top with water to prevent burning. Bake until brown and cooked, and trim off the uneven ends.
Third tier: Mark the meringue cookie and cut into four even strips. Spread chocolate ganache on three strips, and buttercream on the final strip.
Final tier: Layer the strips, spreading buttercream in between. Finally, spread buttercream on the outside of the stack and pour ganache over the top.