Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Almond Hazelnut Dacquoise Cake

It was our anniversary and what is a celebration without a home baked cake? In all honesty, i was looking for another reason to indulge my sweet tooth and challenge myself at the same time. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the regular cakes and bakes, but something challenging is always fun for me. So i set out with a recipe i had bookmarked a while back - the french classic, the dacquoise cake. I ended up baking an Almond Hazelnut Dacquoise Cake with a chocolate mousse and ganache filling, and topped it off with more ganache. I also did a few spun sugar elements to top the cake. The whole process will take a while, so i had spread out the elements over the weekend, thus making it not-as-labor-intensive. But the end result bowled me over and i'm already looking for an occasion that'll justify this yummy dessert.

The dacquoise is a meringue based French dessert, it is exquisite and is different from the conventional soft, spongy cake. The different elements add depth to this masterpiece. The elements can be made upto 2 days ahead so that it is not too much strain on a single day and assembled on the day of serving.
P.S: The recipe has been adapted from here with changes made to different components.

1) Dacquoise layers:
¾ cup almond toasted
¼ cup hazelnuts toasted
1 tablespoon cornflour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites (room temp)
Procedure: Preheat oven to 120 C. Using ruler and pencil, draw 13 by 10 1/2-inch rectangle on piece of parchment paper. Grease baking sheet and place parchment on it, ink side down.
Process almonds, hazelnuts, cornstarch, and salt in food processor until nuts are finely ground. Add 1/2 cup sugar and pulse to combine.
Using a mixer, whisk egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. Increase speed to medium-high and whip whites to soft, billowy mounds. With mixer running at medium-high speed, slowly add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to whip until glossy, stiff peaks form. Fold nut mixture into egg whites in 2 batches. With offset spatula, spread meringue evenly onto the parchment, using lines on parchment as guide. Bake for 1.5 hours. Turn off oven and allow meringue to cool.
(Do not open oven during baking and cooling. Cooled meringue can be kept at room temperature, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days)

2) Chocolate mousse:
170 g Semisweet chocolate
2 tablespoons Butter
1 cup Cold Heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon Pure vanilla extract
Procedure: Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Continue to stir and once melted, let it cool to room temperature
Meanwhile whip the cold whipping cream in a bowl.
Whip till you get soft peaks using hand mixer or stand mixer. Add the vanilla extract.
Add a third of whipped cream to the cooled chocolate mixture and fold it in gently.
Continue with the remaining cream and fold. It will be airy in texture. Keep refrigerated till serving.

3)  Ganache:
200 g Chopped Dark chooclate
200 g Fresh cream
Heat the cream in double boiler till it gets hot and starts to form little bubbles on the edges. Add the chopped chocolate and stir it into the cream as it melts. Take off the double boiler and let it cool to room temperature.

4) Spun sugar (Optional):
¼ cup sugar
½ tablespoon water
Place a silpat on the workspace.
Heat the sugar and the water in a thick, wide bottomed saucepan. As it starts to caramelize, swirl it around, till it turns a dark amber in color. Take off the flame and once the sugar starts to cool,  using a fork, dip into the sugar and twirl patterns onto the silpat. Once it starts to cool, form shapes and set aside in an airtight box.

Carefully invert meringue and peel off parchment. Re-invert meringue and place on cutting board. Using serrated knife and gentle, repeated scoring motion, trim edges of meringue to form 12 by 10-inch rectangle. Discard trimmings. With long side of rectangle parallel to counter, use ruler to mark both long edges of meringue at 3-inch intervals. Using serrated knife, score surface of meringue by drawing knife toward you from mark on top edge to corresponding mark on bottom edge. Repeat scoring until meringue is fully cut through. Repeat until you have four 10 by 3-inch rectangles. (If any meringues break during cutting, use them as middle layers.)
Place 3 rectangles on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Using offset spatula, spread 1/4 cup ganache evenly over surface of each meringue. Refrigerate until ganache is firm, about 15 minutes. Set aside remaining ganache.

Using an offset spatula, spread top of remaining rectangle with 1/2 cup mousse; place on wire rack with ganache-coated meringues. Invert 1 ganache-coated meringue, place on top of mousse, and press gently to level. Repeat, spreading meringue with 1/2 cup mousse and topping with inverted ganache-coated meringue. Spread top with mousse. Invert final ganache-coated strip on top of cake. Use 1 hand to steady top of cake and remaining mousse to lightly coat sides of cake and to coat top of cake. Smooth until cake resembles box. Refrigerate until it firms, about 2 hours.
Final ganache layer: Make sure the ganache is fluid and of pouring consistency. Keeping assembled cake on wire rack, pour ganache over top of cake. Using offset spatula, spread ganache in thin, even layer over top of cake, letting excess drip down sides. Spread ganache over sides in thin layer
Holding bottom of cake with one hand, gently press almonds onto sides with other hand. Chill on wire rack, uncovered, for at least 3 hours or up to 12 hours. Transfer to platter. Garnish with spun sugar and almond flakes. Cut into slices with sharp knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry before each slice. Serve and enjoy! Bon appétit! :)


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