Thursday, March 9, 2023

A Decadent Dessert

 I am planning a couple of dinner menus and was thinking about my favorite foods - other than pizza.  I remembered this dessert and it is truly one of my favorites.  I first blogged about this in 2012.  Wow, it seems like yesterday.  Here it is again, with edits.

I did a recipe test for Cook's Illustrated.  It was the most delicious recipe I have ever tested.  It was for a chocolate espresso dacquoise.  Honestly, I could have eaten the entire recipe.  Instead, I took it to the hospital where I was volunteering and shared it with my fellow kitchen cooks.  I have since made it two more times, and am thinking of doing it again.


Chocolate Espresso Dacquoise  - 

Goal: An impressive dessert composed of complementary flavors and textures, chocolate dacquoise serves a large party and it can be prepared up to two days in advance, making it perfect for the holidays.

This recipe may seem daunting, but it can be easily broken into components that can be prepared in advance. Use a rimless baking sheet or the back of an overturned rimmed baking sheet to bake the meringue. Misting the raw meringue with water seems counter intuitive, but it prevents the top layer of the meringue from separating, which yields a more cohesive cake. To skin the hazelnuts, simply place them in a clean kitchen towel after toasting, while they are still warm, and rub gently.  I recommend using Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar with 60% cacao for this recipe.

Serves 8 to 12


¾ cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted  (Purchase approx. 6 ounces)
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned  (Purchase approx. 1/2 pound of nuts)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar


¾ cup whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) sugar
1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Amaretto (optional)
1 ½ tablespoons instant espresso powder
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened


1 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 teaspoons corn syrup
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
 1 cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted
12 whole hazelnuts, toasted and skinned  

1. For the Meringue: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250 degrees. Using ruler and permanent marker, draw 4  3" x 10" rectangles on a piece of parchment. Grease baking sheet and place parchment on it, ink side down.

2. Process almonds, hazelnuts, cornstarch, and salt in food processor until nuts are finely ground, 15 to 20 seconds. Add ½ cup sugar and pulse to combine, 1 to 2 pulses.

3. Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to medium-high and whip whites to soft, billowy mounds, about 1 minute. With mixer running at medium-high speed, slowly add remaining ½ cup sugar and continue to whip until glossy and stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Fold nut mixture into egg white in two batches. With offset spatula, spread meringue evenly into rectangles on parchment, using lines on parchment as guide.  (or pipe if so desired)  Using spray bottle, evenly mist surface of meringue with water until glistening. Bake 90 minutes. Turn off oven and allow meringue to cool in oven for 90 minutes. (Do not open oven during baking and cooling.) Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature, about 10 minutes. (Cooled meringue can be kept, tightly wrapped, for up to 2 days)

4. For the Buttercream: Heat milk in small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in bowl until smooth. Remove milk from heat and, whisking constantly, add ½ of milk to yolk mixture to temper. Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to milk in saucepan. Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens to consistency of warm pudding, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer pastry cream to bowl. (Pastry cream will not be perfectly smooth.) Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.  Bring to room temperature before adding to butter in Step 5.

5. Stir together espresso powder and Amaretto; set aside. In stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter at medium speed until smooth and light, 1 to 2 minutes. Add pastry cream in 3 batches, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Add espresso mixture and continue to beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes longer, scraping down bowl as needed.

6. For the Ganache: Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Pour cream mixture over chocolate and let stand for 1 minute. Stir mixture until smooth. Set aside to cool until chocolate mounds slightly when dripped from spoon.

7. To Assemble: Carefully invert meringues and peel off parchment. Re-invert meringues and place 3 rectangles on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Using offset spatula, spread ¼ cup ganache evenly over surface of each of meringue. Refrigerate until ganache is firm, about 15 minutes. Set aside remaining ganache.

8. Using offset spatula, spread top surface of remaining meringue rectangle with ½ cup buttercream. Invert one ganache-coated meringue and place on top of buttercream and press gently to level. Repeat spreading meringue with ½ cup buttercream and topping with inverted ganache-coated meringue two more times. When last ganache-coated meringue is in place, spread half of remaining buttercream to lightly coat sides of cake. Then use remaining buttercream to coat top of cake. Smooth sides and top of cake until cake resembles box. Refrigerate until buttercream is firm, about 2 hours. (Once buttercream is firm, assemble cake may be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to two days.)

9. Warm remaining ganache in heat-proof bowl set over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until mixture is very fluid but not hot. Place assembled cake on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Pour ganache over top of cake. Using offset spatula spread evenly over top of cake, letting it flow down sides. Spread ganache evenly over sides (top must be completely covered, but some small gaps on sides are okay).

10. Garnish top of cake with toasted hazelnuts. Hold cake with 1 hand and gently press sliced almonds onto sides with other hand. Chill for at least 3 hours and up to 12 hours. Cut into slices and serve. For best results, slice with sharp knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry before each slice.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

Winter - A Picture is worth a Thousand Words

 This was the second storm in a week.  I lucked out with the ice storm and no major damage. But that birch tree in the top picture lost two large branches.  And two large mugo pines in the side yard are looking pretty bad but the snow is too deep too check them out.  It will be a very busy spring cleanup.