DACQUOISE

BAKED MERINGUE LAYERS
WITH COFFEE BUTTERCREAM FILLING
There is perhaps no more elegant meringue confection than the dacquoise, a favorite in restaurants and pâtisseries all over Paris. The Gourmet version layers baked almond meringue with a rich coffee buttercream and is garnished with sliced almonds and a dusting of confectioners’ sugar: it is an accurate rendition of the French classic, which would layer three almond or hazelnut disks with any-flavored buttercream filling (although coffee is the most traditional flavor), decorated with chocolate shavings and toasted nuts.

The word “dacquoise” also is used to describe the meringue/nut layers used to make the dessert. The layers may be full-size, like this one, or individual-serving size. The components, and even the final assembled dacquoise, may be made in advance - see the Cook’s Notes following the recipe for details.










SERVES 8 TO 10

for the almond meringue:
1 1/4 cups (7 ounces), skinned whole almonds
3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons, granulated sugar
1 tablespoon, cornstarch
6 large egg whites – left at room temperature for 30 minutes
1/4 teaspoon, cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon, salt

for the coffee buttercream:
6 large, egg yolks
1 cup, granulated sugar
1/2 cup, heavy cream
2 tablespoons, instant espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon, salt
2 1/2 sticks, unsalted butter – cut into tablespoons – softened

for the garnish:
1 cup (4 ounces), sliced almonds – toasted
powdered sugar

MAKE THE MERINGUE LAYERS:
Place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a springform pan, or a plate, as a guide, draw two 8 1/2-inch circles on one sheet and a third circle on second sheet. Flip the paper over (circles will show through).

In a food processor or coffee grinder, pulse the nuts with 2 tablespoons of the sugar until finely ground. Add the cornstarch and pulse until combined. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites (easiest in a stand mixer, if you have one) at medium-high speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and salt and beat until the whites just hold soft peaks. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the remaining sugar a little at a time. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the meringue just holds stiff, glossy peaks. Transfer to a large bowl and gently but thoroughly fold in the almond mixture.

Divide the meringue evenly among the parchment circles, spreading the batter with an offset spatula to fill the circles evenly; make a decorative swirl in the top of one circle (this will be the top layer).

Bake the meringue disks, switching the position of the baking sheets halfway through baking (so they cook evenly), until the meringues are just firm, dry, and pale golden - 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours total. (If the centers are still soft when the meringues are golden, turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool in oven; they will continue to dry during that time.)

Slide the meringues, still on the parchment paper, onto racks to cool - about 1 hour (they will continue to firm as they cool).

WHILE THE MERINGUES COOL, MAKE THE BUTTERCREAM:
In a clean bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar at high speed until thick and pale, about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, combine the cream and the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and bring to a boil, whisking until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat. In a slow stream, add half of the hot cream to the yolk mixture - beating constantly while the hot cream is being added. (This will “temper” the egg yolks so they won’t scramble.)

Pour this yolk mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the cream and whisk in the espresso powder and salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the custard registers 170 degrees on thermometer - 3 to 4 minutes; do not allow the custard to boil.

Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and beat with cleaned beaters at medium-high speed until the custard is completely cooled - about 6 minutes.

At high speed, beat in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Cover the buttercream and refrigerate until it is firm enough to spread - at least 30 minutes. (If buttercream gets too hard or separates after chilling, simply beat it at high speed until it is smooth and spreadable.)

ASSEMBLE THE DACQUOISE:
Carefully remove the baked meringues from the parchment paper. Reserving the swirled layer for the top, put 1 meringue disk, smooth side down, on a plate and spread it evenly with about 1 cup of the buttercream. Top with another meringue disk, smooth side down, and press gently so that buttercream spreads to edges. Spread with another cup of buttercream and top with reserved, swirled, meringue disk, smooth side down, pressing gently so that buttercream spreads to edges (you will have some buttercream left over). Press almonds onto sides of the dacquoise.

Chill the dacquoise, loosely covered with plastic wrap, until the buttercream is firm - at least 2 hours. Just before serving, dust the dacquoise with confectioners’ sugar. To serve, cut into slices using a serrated knife, using a sawing motion.



COOK’S NOTES:
The meringue layers can be made up to 1 day ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

The buttercream can be made aheads and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Allow it to soften slightly at room temperature (do not use a microwave) and beat it with an electric mixer at high speed before using.

The assembled dacquoise can be refrigerated for up to 12 hours.

Variations:
Recipe adapted from: The Gourmet Cookbook, by Ruth Reichl (Houghton Mifflin)