Dacquoise. A French cake traditionally made from three disks of nut-studded meringue, filled and frosted with a coffee custard mousse and decorated with chocolate ganache, clusters of caramelised hazelnuts and crushed hazelnut praline.
I had been meaning to bake a dacquoise for a while but kept on putting it off because it sounded like a lot of faff. But a combination of seeing how manageable it actually is thanks to the Great British Bake-Off and just wanting to finally give it a go had me start this on a Tuesday night the other week, assembling the various components on Wednesday night, just in time to have a dessert to follow homemade pumpkin ravioli (another one of those recipes I had put off too long until I was desperate for pumpkin recipes to use up a monster of a pumpkin in my fridge).
Someone’s tweet about breakfast (Coffee! Toast!) is what ultimately decided I was going to use breadcrumbs instead of ground nuts for the meringue – I have baked with breadcrumbs before (these breadcrumb baked donuts for example, one of my favourite recipes on this blog) and love their flavour and find they are a great substitute in recipes requiring nut flour. For the dacquoise, I thought the flavour of toasted breadcrumbs would go well with the bitter chocolate ganache and the coffee custard mousse. So while the coffee custard mousse in this dacquoise is true to the original, I changed the other elements a bit – there is a toasted breadcrumb meringue, the colour of toasted bread, a ganache made with browned butter, making the ganache extra rich and velvety and, instead of the caramelised hazelnut clusters, I used caramelised puffed grains (to stay with the breakfast theme). I also did away with the classical layers of a dacquoise, reduced the quantities significantly and turned this into a dessert instead, a very rich dessert, but delicious nonetheless.
Coffee and Toast Dacquoise
Adapted from Mary Berry
This makes enough for 4 people for dessert
Note: I would suggest tackling the recipe in the order below – the time the dacquoise takes to cook in the oven will allow you to prepare the coffee custard mousse, brown butter ganache as well as the caramelised cereal (and standing by the stove will allow you to keep an eye on the dacquoise as well to make sure it doesn’t colour too quickly). You can also make a classical dacquoise using these components, i.e. baking 3 round dacquoise disks, filling and covering it with the custard and decorating it with the caramelised cereal and ganache, if so, you will need to triple the ingredients state below.
For the breadcrumb dacquoise
80g breadcrumbs, ground finely
100g light muscovado sugar
2 egg whites
Pinch of salt
For the coffee custard
1 tsp ground coffee
1 egg yolk
40g light muscovado sugar
100ml whipping cream
For the brown butter ganache
50g dark chocolate
30g whipping cream
Pinch of salt
For the caramelised cereal
15g light muscovado sugar
15g puffed cereal
Pinch of salt
1. For the breadcrumb dacquoise, pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Next, toast the breadcrumbs in a dry pan on medium heat until light golden in colour and fragrant, stirring constantly to ensure even browning (2-3 minutes). Stir together with 30g of the sugar and the cornflour.
3. Whisk the egg whites together with the pinch of salt using an electric whisk on medium for 2 minutes before adding the remaining 70g sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar has been incorporated and the mixture has reached the firm peak stage. Carefully fold in the mixture of breadcrumbs, sugar and cornflour. Spread meringue on the lined baking sheet in a rough circle of ca. 1cm hight. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour or until the meringue is light brown in colour and perfectly crispy throughout. Switch off the oven and leave meringue to cool in the oven with the door left ajar. Once the meringue has cooled to room temperature, break into irregular chunks and store in an airtight container together with any crumbs from breaking the meringue into chunks.
4. For the coffee custard, begin by heating the milk until it starts steaming, turn off the heat, add the ground coffee and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain the milk and return to the stove and heat until it just starts to steam. While the milk is warming up for the second time, whisk the egg yolk together with the sugar and cornflour to combine. Once the milk is steaming, slowly pour it over the eggs in a thin stream while continually whisking. Once all the milk has been poured in, return the eggy milk to the stove on medium heat. Whisking continuously, cook the custard until it is thick (this will take ca. 5 minutes). Cover with clingfilm, pressing the clingfilm right against the custard’s surface (to help prevent a skin forming) and set aside to cool. Once the custard has cooled, whisk the cream until stiff and carefully fold into the coffee custard. Store in the fridge until using.
5. For the brown butter ganache, begin by browning the butter in a small saucepan on medium heat (this should take no more than a couple of minutes – keep an eye on the saucepan at all times, with this small amount the butter can burn easily). Set aside to cool. In another saucepan heat the cream, once it starts steaming, pour it over the chocolate. Add the browned butter and salt to the chocolate and stir until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Cover with clingfilm and set aside until firm.
6. For the caramelised cereal, line a large plate or serving tray with parchment paper. Add the sugar, puffed cereal and a pinch of salt to a small saucepan. Place saucepan on the stove on medium heat, stir until the sugar has melted and is starting to brown. Spread the caramelised cereal in a single layer on the parchment paper and set aside to cool. Once cool, store in an airtight container.
7. To serve, place a few small chunks of meringue into a bowl, cover with a few tablespoons of coffee mousse. Scatter small spoonfuls of meringue crumbs on one side of the bowl and place a teaspoon-sized quenelle of ganache on the chunks, place 2-3 larger chunks of meringue upright in the mousse. To finish, scatter caramelised cereal around the mousse, meringue and cereal.