Sunday, December 25, 2011

Hazelnut Dacquoise

This dessert stands out as my most favorite anywhere. I never knew what it was at the time, but when I worked in Atlanta, the pastry chef there had a signature dessert of sorts that was sold in the restaurant I managed.  He called it Chocolate Hazelnut Torte.  I would've found out exactly what it was 28 years ago since most chef's I worked around helped me with the gist of how things were made and I gained lots of knowledge in that way...but this Prima Dona pastry chef, no way.  He never smiled and he rarely said a word to me.  He was American, too, which baffled me because most Prima Dona pastry chef's come from Europe.  This guy was trained at the CIA and he was talented.  In the restaurant, the servers brought around a dessert cart to the diners and everyday there was a piece of this dessert left, I ate it.  That was back when I could do that and though those days are long gone, it was fun while they lasted.  This wasn't exactly what he made, I'll have to work on it, but I discovered, his was a dacquoise not a torte.
So this discovery came about when my son checked out a dessert cook book from his school library.  As I looked through it, I was drawn to a picture that sort of reminded me of the layers of that dessert from Atlanta.  I decided to give it a try for Christmas dessert.  I loosely followed several recipes to invent this particular recipe, though a jumping off point, it was very good.  Here's what I did.
Toast 2 Cups Shelled Hazelnuts for 7-8 minutes in a 350 degree preheated oven.  Give the pan a shake while they are toasting.  Once they are fragrant and golden remove them from the oven.  Once they are cool, place them in a dish towel and rub them against themselves to remove the skins.  Reserve 12 nuts for garnish when serving.  Reserve 1/2 Cup for ganache.  Place 1 1/4 Cup Hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse with 2 Tbl Sugar until finely ground.  Add 1 Tbl Corn Starch and pulse until combined.
Cut (2) pieces of Parchment Paper large enough to cover a sheet pan.  Using a pencil and a ruler, draw (2) 8 1/2" circles on each of them.  Place the paper on (2) sheet pans pencil side down.  Place oven racks on upper 1/3 and lower 1/3 of the oven.  Preheat to 250.
Separate 6 Eggs placing the 6 whites in a mixing bowl.  Save the yolks for another use.  Allow the whites to warm to room temperature.  Beat at medium high until frothy.  Add 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar and 1/4 tsp Salt and beat until soft peaks.  Add 3/4 Cups Sugar, 1 Tbl at a time and beat until stiff and glossy.  Gently fold in Hazelnut Mixture adding small amounts at a time.  Spread 1/4 of the mixture on each of the 4 circles and flatten with an off set spatula.  Do not allow the circles to touch.  Place in the oven and bake for a total of 1 1/2 hours.  Switch positions after 45 minutes.  Turn off oven and allow the oven to cool.  Remove from oven and let cool and additional hour.  Gently remove the circles from the parchment.  Be certain layers are cool.   Place in a 1 gallon storage bag with paper towels in between the layers.  NOTE: I encourage you to get to this point 1 day ahead.
For ganache garnish.  Pulse 1/2 Cup of reserved toasted Hazelnuts in food processor until fine.  Warm 1 Cup Heavy Cream over medium heat until about to bubble around the edges.  Turn off burner and add 6 oz Ghirardelli or Lindt Chocolate Bars and 2 Tbl Frangelico.  As it cools, add ground hazelnuts.   Stir to combine and refrigerate.
For the filling, melt 6 oz of Ghirardelli or Lindt chocolate over low heat.  As soon as it melts, remove from heat.  While it is melting, beat 3 Cups Heavy Cream.  Add 2 Tbl Confectioners Sugar and 1/2 tsp Vanilla and beat until soft peaks form.  Beat another 30-45 seconds or so.  Add melted chocolate and stir to combine.
To assemble, using a large flat bottomed platter, place a small dollop of cream in the center to keep the bottom layer from moving.  Place first layer on the dollop and push down with the layer to spread and position the layer.  Spread evenly, 1/3 of the cream and press on the 2nd layer.  Add 1/2 of the remaining cream and press on the 3rd layer.  Add remaining cream and press on the 4th layer.  Refrigerate for several hours before serving.
When dining, remove ganache from the refrigerator and allow to warm to room temperature.  Using a hand mixer, beat on high so it becomes airier and softer.  Place in a pastry bag with a fluted tip.  (I didn't have the right kind of tip for this so I added a small spoonful of ganache.)  Garnish the outer edge of dacquoise with 10-12 swirly dollops of ganache and topped with a toasted hazelnut.  Serve with a light red wine, sparkling wine or hazlenut coffee.  Enjoy this special Parisian treat!!

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