GBBO Challenge with a Twist #2: Coffee-Caramel Almond & Hazelnut Dacquoise
Welcome to the second instalment of the newest feature on my blog, Great British Bake Off (GBBO) Challenges with a Twist! If you missed the first instalment (Blackberry and Pistachio Mille-Feuille) and want to start from the beginning, you can CLICK HERE to read it.
The original GGBO challenge from series 4 episode 8 required quarter finalist contestants to recreate Mary Berry's Hazelnut Dacquoise which consists of 3 layers; coiled meringue, coffee custard and a hazelnut praline top. You can find Mary's original recipe HERE.
For my version, I decided to change things up by adding caramel flavouring to the coffee custard and using almonds instead of hazelnuts in the meringue. Of course, this decision had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I accidentally bought almonds rather than hazelnuts when I was shopping for this recipe. I also decided to make the dacquoise rectangular rather than round because I thought it would be easier to serve that way.
Finally, I played around with the decoration a bit and only covered some of the sides with chopped hazelnuts, poured the ganache over the top rather than piping it, and made hazelnut brittle to top the dacquoise with rather than making little hazelnut praline clusters as Mary's recipe suggests. Overall, I was aiming for more of a rustic finish on my dacquoise. If you have a go at Mary's or my recipe, don't be afraid to mix things up and flavour / decorate the dacquoise as you wish!
For some reason I really struggled to make the caramel for the hazelnut brittle without burning it. I tried twice before I ran out of ingredients and both attempts tasted like they had just caught, though they weren't completely written off as work colleagues seemed happy to snack on both attempts anyway.
Even though I was doing my best to swirl the pan to ensure the sugar cooked evenly, both times I seemed to end up with some sugar that had already caramelised and was on its way to burning and some sugar that hadn't even dissolved yet. This might have been because the saucepan I was using maybe didn't have a heavy enough base, or because I was using a gas hob which doesn't cook as evenly as an induction hob. Anyway, next time I'm going to try saturating the sugar with water and then boiling the water off to see if this leads to a better result!
Utensils: 3 baking trays (36cm x 25cm in size), non-stick baking paper, roasting tin, food processor or grinder, electric hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, hand whisk, sieve,1 large piping bag with 1.5cm plain tube piping tip, large heavy based saucepan or frying pan, sugar thermometer (not essential), jug.
Top Tip: You can prep the various components of this dacquoise ahead of time so that on the day you need it, all you have to do is put everything together. The meringue can be made up to 1 week before it is needed. Once cooled, wrap the meringue layers in cling film or place in an airtight container, separating the layers using baking paper under each meringue. Keep in a cool, dry place until needed. The hazelnut brittle will also keep for up to 1 week in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. The coffee-caramel custard and chocolate ganache can be kept covered in the fridge for up to 3 days.
250g blanched (skinned) whole almonds
300g caster sugar
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
600ml full-fat milk
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
125g caster sugar
2 tablespoons coffee essence / flavouring
2 tablespoons caramel essence / flavouring
300ml whipping cream, chilled
150g dark chocolate (about 36% cocoa solids)
110ml double cream
300g caster sugar
100g roasted chopped hazelnuts
1 tsp sea salt flakes
100g roasted chopped hazelnuts
1. Arrange your oven racks in the upper, middle and lower thirds of the oven (if you have a wide oven you may be able to cook the meringues all at same level). Heat the oven to 180°C fan and cut three pieces of baking paper to line your baking sheets. Draw a 30cm x 13cm rectangle in the centre of each piece of baking paper and set to one side.
2. Make the dacquoise: Put the almonds into the bowl of a food processor and ‘pulse’ just until coarsely ground. Spread the nuts in an even layer in a roasting tin and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden, stirring every 3 minutes. Remove the tin from the oven, tip the nuts into a large heatproof bowl and leave to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 150°C. When the nuts are cold, stir in 100g of the caster sugar and the cornflour.
3. Pour the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or a large mixing bowl if you're using a hand mixer. Add the salt. Whisk at medium speed for about 2-3 minutes until the whites are frothy. Increase the speed and continue to whisk while adding the remaining 200g sugar, one tablespoon at a time, to make a stiff glossy meringue that stands in peaks when the whisk is lifted out.
4. Gently fold the toasted hazelnut mixture through the meringue using a large metal spoon or plastic spatula. Transfer the meringue to a large piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain piping tip (warning: this bit is quite messy!).
5. Pipe the dacquoise: Pipe a border of meringue on top of your first rectangle guide and then, with the rectangle in portrait format, fill in the middle of the rectangle from top to bottom using a 'left to right and back' motion. Repeat the process to form the two remaining rectangles.
6. Bake the dacquoise: Place the rectangles in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour, swapping the top and bottom baking sheets halfway through (ignore this if your oven allows you to cook the meringues all at the same level) so the meringue rectangles cook evenly. Turn off the oven and open the oven door so it is just ajar, then leave the rectangles inside until completely cool.
7. Make the coffee-caramel custard: Pour the milk into a heavy-based saucepan and slowly bring to the boil over a low heat. Meanwhile, put the egg yolks, sugar and coffee and caramel essences / flavourings into a medium-sized heatproof bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the cornflour a tablespoon at a time to make a smooth, thick paste. Pour the hot milk over the egg yolk mixture in a thin steady stream, whisking constantly.
8. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk over a medium heat until it comes to the boil, then lower the heat so the mixture just simmers for 2-3 minutes until thickened and very smooth, whisking constantly so that none of the mixture burns on the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the custard through a sieve into a heatproof bowl. Cover the custard with cling film, with the cling film in direct contact with the custard to prevent a skin from forming, and leave to cool. Once fully cooled, place in the fridge until needed.
9. Make the hazelnut brittle: Melt the caster sugar in a large, heavy-based saucepan or frying pan over a low heat to make a caramel. Don’t stir the sugar as this will cause it to crystallise but swirl the pan to ensure the sugar dissolves evenly. At the same time, line a baking sheet with baking paper. Once all of the sugar has dissolved and becomes a golden caramel colour (or reaches 300°C on a sugar thermometer), add the roasted chopped hazelnuts to the caramel and swirl the pan to make sure all of the nuts are coated. Pour out in a thin layer onto the baking sheet, then sprinkle with the salt. Cool fully before breaking into shards.
10. Whip the cream: Using a stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, whip the whipping cream until it will stand in soft peaks. Whisk half of the whipped cream into the cold coffee-caramel custard, then gently fold in the rest. Cover and chill until needed.
11. Make the chocolate ganache: Break up the chocolate into even-sized pieces and put into a heatproof bowl. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat over a low-medium until simmering. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, leave for one minute and then stir gently until smooth. Leave to cool slightly while you assemble the dacquoise layers.
12. Assemble the dacquoise: Set one of the meringue layers on a large flat serving plate and spread with a third of the coffee-caramel cream. Place another meringue layer on top and then spread with half of the remaining coffee-caramel cream. Top with the last meringue layer and spread the remaining coffee-caramel cream on the top and short sides of the dacquoise, leaving the long sides bare. Press the chopped roasted hazelnuts on to the short sides of the dacquoise.
13. Ensure the chocolate ganache is just at pouring consistency before transferring it to a jug. If it is too solid, place the ganache in a saucepan over a low heat until it reaches the desired consistency and allow to cool a little before transferring to the jug. Pour the ganache over the cake so that it drips down the sides of the dacquoise layers a little (or you could pipe your ganache like Mary's recipe suggests). Allow the chocolate ganache to set a little before decorating the top of the dacquoise with shards of hazelnut brittle.
Storage: Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Better eaten as soon as it has been assembled, otherwise the layers can become a little soggy!