A Dacquoise is a famous French gateau from the town of Dax.It is composed of thin discs of nut meringue layered with flavoured butter cream (coffee is popular) or whipped cream and fresh fruits.
My original idea was to simply sandwich the layers together with home-made blackcurrant jelly and whipped cream. On the morning of Dacquoise production, the fresh blackberries in the fridge pleaded to play a part. This turned out to be a good idea. The blackberries, dotted over each meringue layer, made a handy structure to ‘contain’ the cream and prop up the layer on top.
You can use any fresh fruit, with or without a complementary jam or jelly. Pureed apricots are also excellent.
Dacquoise with dark fruits
8 egg whites
200g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or paste
150g ground almonds
75g finely chopped, roasted hazelnuts
blackcurrant jelly preserve (as above)
half cup lightly roasted blanched almonds, chopped
Preheat oven to 180C. Line 3 trays with non-stick baking paper. Grease the paper and mark a 20cm circle on each.
Beat the whites with the salt until very stiff. Beating all the while, gradually add the caster sugar and vanilla. Keep beating until the meringue is very thick and shiny. Gently fold in the nuts by hand. Spread the meringue over the marked circles. Bake the meringues for 20 minutes at 180C and then turn down to 150C and bake for a further 10 minutes. They should be nicely brown. Turn the trays as necessary. Let cool a little, invert onto wire racks and carefully peel away the paper. When cool store in an airtight tin with baking paper between the layers.
To assemble the Dacquoise:
Place a meringue on a serving plate. Lightly spread blackcurrant jelly over the meringue. No need to be neat. Dot the meringue with whole blackberries. Dollop the cream around the fruit. Spread blackcurrant jelly over a second meringue circle. Place this over the cream and berries. Press down gently. Top the second circle with berries and cream. Pop the third meringue on top. Gently press the chopped almonds into the top. Dust generously with icing sugar.
You can keep the cake in the fridge. The meringue layers will be deliciously chewy.
To make the blackcurrant jelly: Place the blackcurrants, stems and all, in a large pot. Cover with water, pop on a lid and cook over very low heat for an hour. Place a strainer over a large bowl. Line the strainer with 2 layers of muslin. Tip the cooked blackcurrants and juice into the muslin. Tie the muslin into a bag (without squeezing) and suspend this bag over the basin (hanging from the knobs of overhead cupboards works well) so that the juice can drip through. Leave for a few hours until the bag has stopped dripping. Measure 1 cup sugar for each cup juice. In a very large pan stir the juice and sugar together just until the sugar has dissolved. Over very high heat boil the mixture until jelly point has been reached. Measure this on a cooking thermometer or watch carefully – when the mixture wants to keep foaming up to the top of the pan, it is ready. (Forget testing it on a saucer – if it jellies immediately it has gone way too far.) Take off heat, remove scum and cool a little. Pour into sterilised jars and cover.