Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Decadent Dacquoise For Dessert.

       I want something special for a Christmas dessert - something out of the ordinary, something that makes you go "Oooooh,  Ahhhhh," and something that tastes, of course, wonderful.  And I got it - Dacquoise.  It's a French creation, and the French, as you know, know their pâtissierie.

I always like it when there's a bit of history to what I'm preparing and, in this case, there is.  This dessert was created by Clèment Lassagne, who was chef to the French diplomat César Gabriel de Choiseul, the French Duke of Praslin, back in the early 17th century.  Chef Lassagne had the somewhat brilliant idea to dip almonds in boiling sugar, which he then presented to the nobleman and named the confection after him - "Praslin."  Later on, these sugared almonds made their way to New Orleans by the French settlers who migrated there and it was their slaves who transformed the French version of the "Praslin" into the pecan version of the "Praline" which we all know and love. 

Now that Chef Lassagne has already invented the praline, what could possibly be next?  And the answer to that brings us to the dacquoise.  A dacquoise is a dessert, typically comprising two basic components - nutty meringue and buttercream.  Chef Lassagne is credited with being the creator of this classic French creation.  It takes its name from the town of Dax in southwestern France, but I'm still unsure about the relationship here even after doing research.  Lassagne was serving at the court of Louis XIII back in the 1600s and was charged with creating a luxurious dessert for members of the aristocratic entourage. By the way, Louis XIII was the one who started construction on his modest country residence and hunting lodge, which eventually became the Palace of Versailles; so, as you can imagine, the stakes were rather high for Chef Lassagne to create something suitable for the royal court.  I would say that in this endeavor, the Chef was quite successful. 

 With that said, I still don't know the relationship with Dax and Louis XIII and why this dessert was named after the town, but I did find out that Louis XIV stopped in Dax on one of his travels and there's a triumphal arch erected there in his honor.  Personally, I think the arch should be erected in Chef Lassagne's honor, but that's just me.  After more research, i.e. Googling, I did find out that the town of Dax is in the Aquitaine region in southwest France and that the dessert Chef Lassagne was tasked to create was supposed to be in honor of the Duke of Aquitane, who had just returned from battle.  So, as tenuous as that is, there ya go.

So, back to the dacquoise. For Christmas dessert, as I said, I want something special and festive and I've come up with a rather striking, delectably scrumptious, and eminently doable confection - the dacquoise.

For my dacquoise, I’m going with three layers – nutty meringue, satiny buttercream, and glossy ganache.  To get definitions out of the way, meringue is simply egg whites and sugar, baked until lightly browned, with ground nuts added in this case.  Buttercream is a sweet butter-based mixture used as a filling or frosting.  And ganache is a mixture of chocolate and cream also used as a filling or frosting.  The beauty of all this is that once you master the basics, you can tailor the flavors to your own tastes.  For example, you could pick different nuts for your meringue or different flavorings in your buttercream – say vanilla, amaretto, orange blossom, or Bailey’s Irish Cream.  And you can perk up your ganache with, say, espresso powder.  Lots of choices here.

  I’m making this feasible for the home cook.  The three components – meringue, buttercream, and ganache - can be made several days in advance, covered, and refrigerated. Assembly can be done at your convenience.

½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 cup pecans, toasted
1 TB cornstarch
⅛ tsp kosher salt
1 cup sugar, divided
4 egg whites, room temperature
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract

 Heat oven to 250°.

Draw a 10 ½ x 13-inch rectangle on parchment paper.  Place paper, drawn-side down, on greased baking sheet.

Finely grind nuts, cornstarch, and salt in processor.  Pulse in ½ cup sugar to combine.

Using stand mixer, whisk egg whites and cream of tartar on medium-low about a minute until foamy.  Increase speed to medium and whip another minute, to soft mounds.  Slowly whip in remaining ½ cup sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 2-3 minutes. Add in vanilla. Fold nut mixture into whites in 2 additions.

With offset spatula, evenly spread meringue onto rectangle. Using spray bottle, spritz surface of meringue with a mist of water.  (This keeps the top from baking faster than the bottom.)  Bake 1 ½ hours. Turn off oven and let meringue cool in oven for 1 ½ hours.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.

 Meringue caveats:
      ·         For best volume, use room-temperature egg whites.
·         Do not let any yolk in with the whites.  The fat in the yolks keeps the whites from foaming.
·         Use a glass, ceramic, or metal bowl for whipping whites, not plastic.  Plastic tends to develop a thin coat of oil.
·         Don’t make meringues on a humid day.  And don’t let any water come into contact with the whites while whipping.

I’m going with a German buttercream here instead of American.  American buttercream is simply sweetened butter - it contains softened butter, lots of powdered sugar, a splash of cream to thin it out, plus a flavoring.  German buttercream is a bit more demanding.  It’s made from a traditional pastry cream (containing egg yolks, cream, sugar, and vanilla), basically custard. Then it’s combined with whipped butter.

 German Buttercream:

 ½ cup skim milk
¼ cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks
⅓ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp cornstarch
¼ tsp salt
1 TB vanilla
16 TB unsalted butter, softened

Make pastry cream: Heat cream and skim milk in saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. (You could use whole milk here instead of cream and skim, but I never have whole on hand; however, I do always have skim and cream.) Whisk yolks, sugar, cornstarch, salt, and vanilla in bowl until smooth.  Slowly, pour half of cream into yolk mixture, whisking constantly, to temper.  Return tempered mixture to saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is bubbly and thickened, 3-5 minutes.  Transfer pastry cream to bowl, cover, and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.

For buttercream:  Using stand mixer, beat butter until smooth and light.  Add pastry cream in 3 batches, beating a minute after each addition, continuing until smooth and fluffy, about 3 more minutes.

 For the ganache:
 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1 TB corn syrup

Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat.  Pour mixture over chocolate and let stand for a minute; stir until smooth.  Let cool a bit before using.


Invert meringue and peel off parchment.  Trim edges of rectangle as needed and cut into 4 approximately 3 x 10-inch strips.  (Save meringue pieces for a bonus dessert.)

Using offset spatula, generously spread ganache over surface of three strips.  Refrigerate about 20 minutes to firm up ganache. 

Stack the strips:  Spread remaining strip with ½ cup buttercream. Invert 1 ganache-coated strip on top of buttercream-coated strip, pressing gently to level.  Spread ½ cup buttercream on top, then place inverted ganache-coated strip onto buttercream. Spread buttercream on top.  Invert final ganache-coated strip on top.

Frost top and sides with remaining buttercream.  Refrigerate until buttercream firm, about 2 hours.

Heat remaining ganache until mixture is fluid, let cool a bit, then spread even layer over top and sides.  Garnish with nuts.  Chill at least 3 hours before serving. 


 Now, for the step-by-steps:

I did the whole process in small steps over a 3 or 4 day period. 
 Don't even try to do it in one day. 

I'm starting with the meringue.

Toast the nuts.

Grind nuts,

Pulse in sugar.

And there's
nut mixture.

Separate eggs.
Make the meringue.
Whip it.
 Whip it good.
Stiff peaks.

nut mixture in.




And bake.


Next, cut the meringue into 4 rectangles and make the ganache.

Pour hot cream 
over the chocolate.

espresso powder.

Stir until smooth.

Paint 3 rectangles
with ganache.


Now, make the buttercream.

Beat yolks,

and vanilla in.

Beat until light,
add in half 
hot cream,


Return to pot.
Cook until

Pour into bowl.


Beat butter.
Add in custard.

Spread buttercream
on meringue rectangle.

Start assembly.

Frost tops and sides.


Pour on ganache..

Rosie Note:  It's important to have the buttercream COLD and the ganache NOT HOT, but just warm enough to make it liquid, to pour over buttercream.  Hot ganache will melt the buttercream.

Smooth ganache 
over top and sides.

with nuts.

Make some chocolate leaves if you like.


Rosie's Bonus Dessert - A Trifling Matter

Here's where all those saved pieces of meringue (from where you cut the rectangles) come into play. We're going to use up every little bit.  Whip 1 cup heavy cream until thickened.  Then slowly add 1/4 cup sugar, whipping at high speed, until stiff and glossy.  Add in about a tablespoon of vanilla.  If you like, spike the whipped cream with a tablespoon or two of sherry, to taste.  Spoon into glass bowls and tuck in the meringue pieces.  Drizzle with extra ganache and/or caramel or add on some candied nuts.

Rosie Note:  For extra volume in whipped cream,  I put a glass bowl and the beaters in the freezer for about 30 minutes before pouring in the cream and whipping.  Cold bowl and beaters are the key.