A dacquoise is a wonderful dessert in its own right. I made this one for my partner’s birthday cake as a more dessert-type feel was wanted.
It is essentially pavlova with more bite to it: meringue with toasted nuts in the mixture. A real melt-in-the-mouth dessert with a deep nutty flavour.
This version, with the nutty meringue being a variation of Mary Berry’s, uses lemon in the filling (crème mousseline: a very light, creamy filling), and fresh strawberries, which cut through the sweetness of the meringue, adding fragrance, sharpness and summery loveliness!
While it might seem to be a daunting dessert, it is actually not too difficult: in fact the deliciously crisp, nutty meringue layers are very simple. The only slightly challenging part is the filling, although I have given a great cheat’s version of the filling, too.
A fruity filling!
The crème mousseline is just thick custard (crème pâtissière), whipped with softened butter and white chocolate to give a very light, indulgent mixture. It sets firm enough to allow you to cut clean slices but melts in the mouth with no effort whatsoever. Whipped cream is not strong enough here sadly!
The crème mousseline is easy to make if you have a food mixer, but a cheat’s version uses ready-made custard – see “A cheat’s fillling“, below.
It is wonderful without additional flavourings, but you can use any other flavours. Favourites of mine include:
- a splash of your favourite alcohol……………
If adding liquid flavours (eg: lemon juice), do so a little at a time, with the mixer on medium to high, otherwise the crème mousseline could start to curdle (think mayonnaise!). The melted chocolate acts as a stabiliser, so that you can add some liquid.
Top tips for adding fruit flavours to the filling
(1) My preference is to use natural fruit powders – available from many baking online retailers: you get a real intensity of flavour with total ease and without risk of curdling. Seriously, these fruit powders are an absolute asset in the kitchen: great added to buttercreams or dusted over cakes. Start with 2-3 teaspoons here and increase to get the level of flavour you want.
(2) Good quality fruit curd is also an excellent way to get fruity flavour in there: again, just a little at a time until you have the level of fruityness you want.
A cheat’s filling:
You can use a good quality commercial custard (the ones in the fridge section are great here). It is less set than crème pâtissière, so whisk in about half its weight in soft butter and use about one third of the custard’s weight in white chocolate.
Let it set to a thick but spreadable consistency before using. You can add lemon powder at this stage, but it does taste great left plain.
Variations on a theme
I love using the nutty meringue mixture to make individual meringues or meringue nests: pipe out whatever size you want and bake until crisp at the same temperature.
Or for great, simple biscuits-type treats, pipe/spoon them to the shape and size of fingers. Once baked, dip one end in melted chocolate, perhaps with a sprinkling of toasted pistachios and lay on a sheet of greaseproof until set……………
Recipe: strawberry & passion fruit dacquoise: makes one large 8″ gateau
Nutty meringue layers
- 250g blanched hazelnuts or a mixure of nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews, pecans, macadamias…..): or use ready-toasted mixed nuts for total convenience
- 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 300g caster sugar
- 30g cornflour
Lemon crème mousseline
- 500ml milk
- 130g caster sugar
- 3 large egg yolks
- 70g cornflour
- 250g unsalted butter, roughly cubed and softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3-4 teaspoons lemon powder
- finely grated zest of 2 lemons
- 100-150g white chocolate, melted & cooled
- about 8 tablespoons good quality lemon curd
- fresh strawberries (optionally soaked in a few tablespoons of limoncello or liqueur of choice)
To make the hazelnut meringue layers
(1) If toasting the nuts yourself, place them on a baking tray and place them in an oven pre-heated to 150C for about 15 minutes, giving them a stir every 4-5 minutes: they should be nicely golden-brown all over. Reduce the oven temperature to 125C(fan). Draw four 20cm diameter circles on non-stick baking parchment, turn it over and place on baking sheets (you turn it over so you don’t get pencil markings on the baked meringues!). You can instead go for three circles, giving thicker layers.
(2) Mix the cornflour and about a third of the sugar with the nuts into a large bowl.
(3) Whisk the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add the rest of sugar, a little at a time, whisking as you add them for about 5 minutes, or until firm peaks form and hold their shape.
(4) Fold the nut mixture into the meringue until well incorporated.
(5) Spoon the mixture onto the drawn circles and flatten with a knife or pipe them using a 1cm round nozzle, starting at the centre and working outwards.
(6) Bake for 50 minutes, rotating the trays part-way through so they bake uniformly. If you are making 3 layers, which will be slightly thicker, bake for an hour.
(7) Turn the oven off and leave the meringues in there until the oven is cold.
To make the filling/topping (crème mousseline)
NB: if taking the short-cut route, simply whisk the chocolate and the butter into the custard a little at a time until you have a smooth mixture. Chill for about an hour or so to firm up to a thick spreadable consistency and go straight to the assembly stage.
(1) Put the milk in a medium pan and bring it up to the boil. Remove it from the heat.
(2) Whisk together the eggs yolks, sugar, lemon zest, lemon powder and cornflour in a medium bowl until blended. Pour the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisk to combine.
(3) Pour this custard mixture back into a clean saucepan and place it over a medium heat to bring it back to the boil, stirring constantly. Let it boil gently for about 4-5 minutes until the mixture becomes very thick (the custard with start to splutter in a volcanic way!). Cover with clingfilm and leave to cool.
(4) Put the cooled custard in a food mixer with the whisk attachment. Add the butter, a little at a time, on a medium-high setting. Add about half of the cooled chocolate, with the whisk still on.
(5) Add the rest of the cooled chocolate and whisk for a few more minutes: you will have a bowl of very light, moussey gorgeousness! If it looks at all curdled/grainy/unappetising, whisk in about 50g more cooled melted chocolate with the whisk on medium, whisking for a minute or two.
(6) Chill for about an hour until you have a thicker but spreadable consistency. If you have made this in advance and it has firmed up too much, simply remove from the fridge for an hour or so to return to room temperature, at which point you can beat it to spreadable consistency.
(1) Place one of the cooled layers onto a large flat serving dish or cake board, using a little of the buttercream to stick it down: as the buttercream sets, it will fix the dacquoise firmly in place.
(2) Spread some of the filling on top, and roughly swirl a tablespoon or two of lemon curd on top.
(3) Place the next layer of meringue and pat down gently. Repeat until all four layers are in place.
(4) Spread a little of the filling on the top and all around the side. Pat the toasted nuts around the side: you might have to go round a second time to fill in any gaps.
(5) Place strawberries on top: don’t worry about any drops of limoncello dripping over the top or down the sides. Chill for at least a few hours to allow the filling to set.