Besides warming your tootsies and keeping your pipes from freezing, turning on the heat for the winter can have a great effect in your kitchen.
Bread dough rises well, cookies stay nice and warm, and the humidity disappears, making it a perfect time for meringues and their grownup cousins, dacquoise.
Dacquoise. Da-qwah. Like a duck, but not a full quack.
Dacquoise are meringues made with nut flour, so they're still sweet and crisp but a bit more chewy, with subtle nut flavors.
Like meringues, they begin with an egg white foam whipped with sugar. As you know, sugar is hygroscopic and it will pull moisture from the surrounding air. Sticky summer lollipop? Blame the sugar. Tacky tops on your muffins? Sugar and humidity strike again.
Think of meringue as being a castle made of blocks – except these blocks are made of sugar. As the sugar gets moist, it loses its structure and ability to support, and slowly your castle walls will begin to crumble apart and sink. Result? Puddles of goo instead of pinnacles of gloss.
But cue the dry heat of winter and you're in meringue heaven. Add chocolate and a nut flour to that basic meringue, bake, stack the results, and you have dacquoise, a restaurant-fancy dessert perfect for ending a romantic dinner.
Let's make Chocolate Dacquoise.
Preheat the oven to 225°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Place 6 large egg whites and 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar in the bowl of your stand mixer. Whip on medium speed, to start with. You want to build up a base of small bubbles to make your foam nice and sturdy. Yes, you can use dried egg whites and water; the results are nearly identical.
Increase the speed to high, and whip until soft peaks form.
Gradually add 3/4 cup granulated sugar. If you can get superfine sugar, it will blend into the foam easier. If you only have household sugar, just plan on the sugar taking longer to dissolve fully.
Beat until you have stiff (but not dry) peaks. The mixture will still be glossy.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, and use a spatula to fold the ingredients together. Remember to fold with a light touch, as you're looking to keep as much air in the mix as possible.
There, a nice smooth batter without streaks of chocolate or nut flour.
Using a piping bag or spreading with a spatula, create small rounds on your paper.
You can see a little better in this picture, using white meringue. The circles in pencil are on the opposite side of the paper and can be helpful guidelines. Leave about an inch between circles for spreading during baking.
Bake the dacquoise discs for about 60 minutes, or until firm and dry to the touch. Turn off the oven and let the meringues cool in the oven with the door cracked open for about an hour, or up to overnight.
You can nibble the dacquoise plain, like a nutty meringue. Or you can make a dessert also known as dacquoise.
Stack two or three discs sandwiched with buttercream, ganache, jam, or the filling of your choice. When first assembled the dessert will be very crisp, layered with very soft filling. As the stack sits, the meringue will absorb moisture from the filling and begin to soften.
When it's just perfect, you'll get bites with a touch of crunchy and a touch of smooth filling. In other words, the perfect bite. So weep no more, meringue fans, now's the time to bake these beauties – while things are hot, hot, hot!
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