You may be asking yourself: “Dacquoise, what the heck is a Dacquoise?” In laymen’s terms, a dacquoise is a decadent classic French dessert made with layers of almond and hazelnut meringue, espresso buttercream and chocolate ganache. The term can also refer to the nutty meringue layer itself. All of these wonderful layers produce different rich textures such as crunchy, chewy, creamy, and come together in perfect harmony for this delectable cake. It is absolutely my favorite classical French dessert.
I want to start by saying that I have not made this cake since culinary school. But I have eaten it numerous times since I graduated over 15 years ago. When I was first starting out, I wanted to be a pastry chef. I love eating pastries, so why not make it a career? The more I worked on desserts and was around them on a constant basis, I thought to myself this is not going to be sustainable for me. In fact, being around sweets all of the time almost ruined them for me! So it was a smart choice for me to focus on all aspects of food instead of one niche. My career choices eventually led me to The Chopping Block and now I am able to share with all of you everything I have learned along the way. Major win for me! Keeping desserts and pastries as a hobby instead of a career really made me appreciate and enjoy all of the hard work that goes into them.
That being said, I am going to set aside my ego and share with you all of the mistakes I made, but teach you how to roll with the punches when things go wrong. Let me ask you a question: if you were to look at the picture below, would you think I did anything wrong?
Looks pretty great to me! Not to mention, it tastes incredible. Things may not always go right in the kitchen but like Tim Gunn always says; “Make it work!” So that is what I did. In the cooking process section, I will explain what I did wrong and how I went about fixing it.
Chocolate Hazelnut Espresso Dacquoise
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Adapted from Kendall College's Pastry Curriculum
3/4 cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup whole milk
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup (2 1/3 ounces) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons amaretto or water
1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons corn syrup
12 whole hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
1 cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted
For the meringue:
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 250°. 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, 15 to 20 seconds. Add 1/2 cup sugar and pulse to combine, 1 to 2 pulses.
- Using stand mixer fitted with a 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.
- Slowly add remaining 1/2 cup sugar and continue to whip until glossy, stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Fold nut mixture into egg whites in 2 batches.
- With offset spatula, spread meringue evenly into 13 by 10 1/2-inch rectangle on parchment, using lines on parchment as guide. Bake for 1 1/2 hours.
- Turn off oven and allow meringue to cool in oven for 1 1/2 hours. (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 at room temperature, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.)
Notes: When I was measuring all of my ingredients, I accidentally put in 1.5 Tablespoons of cornstarch instead of 1. The set I was using had the 1 Tablespoon measure missing so I assumed the big one on the ring was correct. Boy was I wrong! Everything was already pulsed together so I decided to let it ride. I figured layered between buttercream and ganache, who is going to know? The end result was actually a nice and crisp meringue, and I could not tell the difference.
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 half of milk to yolk mixture to temper.
- 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.
- Transfer pastry cream to bowl. Cover and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Stir together amaretto and espresso powder and add to the cooled pastry cream
- 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.
Notes: I hate buttercream; there I said it. You may judge me and that is fine, but it just isn’t my favorite. What I love about this buttercream recipe though is it is a combination of pastry cream (which I love) and buttercream. The trick here is to make sure you cook the pastry cream until nice and thick and cool it completely. I must admit I got impatient and did not let mine thicken up enough. When I added my last addition of pastry cream the buttercream broke. It was not fluffy, and it looked like a separated mess.
To fix it, I ended up creaming 1 stick of softened butter with 1 cup of powdered sugar. Once combined I slowly added additions of the broken buttercream until it all came together. Now I knew that the butter and powdered sugar would be stable but was unsure if it would hold. Luckily, it did and I didn’t have to start over considering I did not have more milk to make a new pastry cream. The only down side is that it does not taste as velvety as the original but still is creamy and has a nice espresso kick to it.
For the ganache:
- Place chocolate in heatproof bowl.
- 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, about 5 minutes.
Notes: If you know me, chocolate is one thing I don’t mess up! I personally like to double this amount because this is my favorite layer but it is not necessary. One note about this ganache is the addition of corn syrup makes for a really lovely sheen in your ganache. If you do not have any on hand, it will be fine.
1. Carefully invert meringue and peel off parchment. Place on cutting board. Using a serrated knife and a gentle, repeated scoring motion, trim edges of meringue to form 12 by 10-inch rectangle. Discard trimmings.
2. Using serrated knife, score surface of the center of meringue by drawing knife toward you. Repeat scoring until meringue is fully cut through. Repeat until you have four 10 by 3-inch rectangles. (I broke all four rectangles as I was cutting, but don't worry, the ganache acts as a perfect glue!)
3. 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.
4. Using offset spatula, spread top of remaining rectangle with 1/2 cup buttercream; place on wire rack with ganache-coated meringues.
5. Invert 1 ganache-coated meringue, place on top of buttercream, and press gently to level.
6. Repeat, spreading meringue with 1/2 cup buttercream and topping with inverted ganache-coated meringue. Spread top with buttercream. Invert final ganache-coated strip on top of cake.
(see all of the hairline fractures in the meringue)
7. Spread half of remaining buttercream to lightly coat sides of cake, then use remaining buttercream to coat top of cake. Smooth until cake resembles box.
(Buttercream covers all blemishes)
8. Refrigerate until buttercream is firm, about 2 hours. (Once buttercream is firm, assembled cake may be wrapped tightly in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days.)
9. Warm remaining ganache in heatproof bowl set over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until mixture is very fluid but not hot. (It's very important that it is not hot!)
10. 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 flow down sides. Spread ganache over sides.
11. Garnish top of cake with hazelnuts and press almonds onto the sides
12. Chill on wire rack, uncovered, for at least 3 hours or up to 12 hours. Transfer to platter.
13. Cut into slices with sharp knife that has been dipped in hot water and wiped dry before each slice. Serve.
Now this recipe may seem a bit daunting and technical, but it is so worth the time and effort you put in. This recipe can easily be broken up into parts that can be done ahead so you don’t have to commit to making the entire cake in one day. As you can see, a few mistakes didn’t stop me from achieving a perfectly imperfect cake.
One of the things I love about working at TCB is answering questions and troubleshooting. So, if you want to attempt to make this cake or have any other baking-related questions please feel free to comment, and I would love to help. If you enjoy baking, don't miss my Seasonal Fruit Cobbler virtual class that I am teaching this Saturday, June 6 at 11am CST or our Owner/Chef Shelley Young's Strawberry Shortcake virtual class on Saturday, June 13 at 11am CST.