Lemon Poppy Seed Pound Cake

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Chocolate Mousse Dacquoise

Submitted by Heather

For a couple of years I've wanted to start a dessert club.  You know, get together with friends who love to cook and eat and share our latest recipes.  So this past month I finally set it all up and we had our inaugural meeting.  It was so much fun!  Because I wanted everyone to feel comfortable (or uncomfortable?), I had the dessert assignment be something you've never made before.  That opened up a lot of possibilities, without making it so that people could say "I don't know how to make that."  We were all trying something new.
It was really hard to decide on something to make.  I have a cake cookbook, though, with a number of cake recipes that are just different enough that I've never thought of attempting them.  I can't believe how many things I've never tried making!  The following recipe is one of those.  I'm so glad I chose it, because it was really different and fantastic.
It took a bit of work and pre-planning, but don't let all the steps scare you away.  They're really just there to guide you and help you from making mistakes.
This cake is really wonderful, because you get the crisp and crunchy texture from the dacquoise, and the smooth chocolate taste from the mousse and together it is definitely more than the sum of its parts.  After I had made just the dacquoise layer, I tasted it and thought, meh.  I wasn't sure my dessert was going to be anything special.  But after I put it together with the mousse, I was won over.  It was delicious!  If you have a fancy occasion and want to wow someone, this would be a perfect choice.  And one wonderful thing about this cake is that you can make the different parts days ahead of time, and then you're all ready to assemble a few hours before serving.
(In all of the craziness of the first meeting of Dessert Club, I forgot to take a close-up of my own dessert!  Here it is blown up a bit.  At the top of the post is a picture of a leftover piece I thankfully had saved.)

Dacquoise Cake Layer

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/4 C.  sifted superfine sugar (8 3/4 oz.; 250 g.)
2 Tablespoons sifted cornstarch
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For dacquoise add:
1 C. (5 ounces; 140 g) toasted and finely ground hazelnuts and/or almonds
1/8 tsp. hazelnut or almond extract

Dab a little butter on a jellyroll pan and add parchment paper cut to fit the pan. Spray parchment with vegetable spray, then dust it with flour; tap out excess flour. Use a toothpick directly on the greased sheet to draw around a template marking three 8 or 9 inch rounds about 1 inch apart on the prepared pans.

Set aside 1/2 C. of the sugar. Combine remaining sugar with the cornstarch in a sifter and sift together onto wax paper.  If making a dacquoise, add the ground nuts to this sugar-cornstarch mixture.

Put the warm whites into the large bowl of an electric mixer, add cream of tartar and salt, and beat on low to medium speed until the whites begin to look fluffy.  Gradually add the reserved 1/2 C. sugar, while beating on medium-high speed (Kitchenaid #8) until whites are glossy and medium-stiff.  Add vanilla if used, and the hazelnut or almond extract.  Beat just a few seconds longer, until stiff but not dry.

In four or five additions, fold the cornstarch-sugar and nuts mixture into the whites by hand, using a flat whisk or rubber spatula.  Fold gently to maintain maximum volume.

Prepare a pastry bag by setting it, tip down in a four cup measure.  Spoon in the meringue.  Twist the bag closed and pipe meringue inside the 3 marked shapes on the pan.  Gently squeeze out an even column of meringue, holding the bag perpendicular to the pan and slightly above it.  Use up any leftover meringue by piping out small cookies or spooning out small nests or cups of meringue.  Bake the meringue in the preheated oven for 40-50 minutes, or longer, until the meringue is thoroughly set and a very light beige color.  Look in the oven after about 5 minutes; if the meringue is darkening too fast, reduce the heat to 250 degrees.  If the oven heat is too high, the color of the meringue will darken as the sugar caramelizes; this changes the flavor of the meringue.  To bake perfectly white meringues, you must bake the layers at 200 degrees for 90 minutes or longer until thoroughly dried out.

After baking the dacquoise, set the pans on a wire rack for a few minutes.  The baked shapes will be slightly pliable while warm.  At this stage, use a wide spatula to lift them from the sheet, take off the parchment, and set them on the wire rack to cool completely.  After cooling the layers on the racks for 15 to 20 minutes, they should be completely crisp.  Test a small cookie to test the texture - it should crack in half.  If your shapes are still soft when cold, set them back on the parchment and return to the oven for a little while to dry out further.

Once they are cold and crisp, trim the layers to be the same size so that they have a neat appearance.  Save the trimmings. Store the layers in an airtight container, separated by wax paper.  You may freeze, fill and frost or keep on the counter for several days.

(This recipe is for those who do not want raw egg in their mousse, but would like the added richness that eggs add.  The eggs are cooked to remove any possible danger.)

12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, chopped (2 C. morsels; 340 g.) or combine half semisweet and half bittersweet chocolate
4 Tablespoons light corn syrup
6 large egg yolks
1 C. heavy cream, at room temperature, plus 2 Cups, well chilled

Melt chocolate in top of the double boiler set over, not touching, hot water; stir, remove from heat, stir until smooth, and set aside to cool.
In small, heavy-bottomed pan set over medium-low heat, whisk together corn syrup, yolks, and 1 C. room-temp. cream.  Whisk and stir continuously for 5 to 7 minutes, or until mixture is thick, covers a spoon, and reaches 150 F for 2 minutes, or 160 for moment on an instant-read thermometer.
Strain the yolk mixture into the cooling chocolate and immediately whisk hard, making the chocolate shiny and satin-smooth.  Cool until warm, not hot, to the touch.
Using a chilled bowl and beater, whip remaining 2 Cups of chilled cream to soft peaks.  Check temperature of chocolate - it should feel warm but comfortable to the touch.  Fold chocolate into cream, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Bring to room temperature before spreading on cake or serving alone as a dessert.
Makes 6 Cups.

1 C. toasted and ground hazelnuts and/or almonds, or toasted and sliced almonds (add this to the leftover dacquoise pieces that have been crushed)
Chocolate curls (Note: my curls didn't work out.  I think the room/pan was too cold, because they turned into shards of chocolate instead.  But I still used them and actually got compliments on them! Maybe people were just being nice...)

Prepare 3 dacquoise layers.  While the layers are baking, prepare the chocolate mousse.  Set the mousse in the refrigerator to chill until it reaches a spreading consistency.
Set out a bowl containing toasted sliced or chopped nuts and add any crumbs left from trimming the baked dacquoise layers.

On a 9 inch cardboard cake disk or a flat plate, put a dab of chocolate mousse in the center, then set down the first dacquoise layer.  spread about 1 1/4 C. of mousse on the first layer, top with a second dacquoise layer, and add mousse filling as before; repeat with remaining layers.  Align the sides of the cake neatly.  Frost the sides and top of the cake generously with the chocolate mousse.  You will probably have some mousse left over; it can be frozen and served at another time or piped through a pastry bag fitted with a star tip to make decorative rosettes around the edge of the cake.

To garnish the cake, lift it up and hold it over a piece of wax paper or a tray.  Scoop the toasted and ground nuts/crumbs into the palm of your other hand and press them gently onto the lower third of the cake sides.  If you plan to freeze the cake, do so at this time.

To complete the cake, cover the top with chocolate curls and sift on a fine dusting of confectioners' sugar.  Refrigerate the cake for 3 or 4 hours for easiest slicing, or until ready to serve.

Source: The Perfect Cake by Susan G. Purdy

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