Monday 10 December 2018

walnut dacquoise with chocolate and cherries

Two weeks, it's Christmas in two weeks! I'm at odds with Christmas. Growing up in the UK, I find Christmas in short days and long nights, overcast skies or pale winter sun, gloves and scarves, roasted chestnuts, the Wizard of Oz, walnuts and satsumas rattling around in the bottom of a Santa sack. Not in a vast blue sky towering over bleached sandy beaches, that high contrast Aussie summer light; stifling nights, sundresses, salt crusted hair and cricket. But it's all those things, and more, for my kids, and Christmas is essentially about family. So let's say I'm happily at odds with Christmas.

This desserts pairs the festive walnuts of my youth, with the beautiful cherries of an Australian summer, and it's equally delicious whatever the hemisphere. A wonderful dessert for Christmas day, beautifully nutty, with a crisp meringue shell and soft chewy centre, layered with chocolate, cherries and cream. Make the components in advance, then put it together about an hour before you serve, give those flavours and layers a little time to meld, slice with a serrated knife and enjoy! 

walnut dacquoise
preparation time 30 minutes, serves 12*

190g walnuts
110g almond meal (ground almonds)
40g icing sugar
9 egg whites
525g caster sugar
1 tsp white vinegar

500ml thickened cream, whipped
Chocolate ganache
Cherry compote
Icing sugar, for decoration
Cherries, for decoration
Candied walnuts, optional for decoration

• pre-heat oven to 170ÂșC
• grease and line 3, 20 cm cake tins
• spread walnuts evenly over a baking tray, toast in the oven for 10 minutes, leave to cool completely
• tip walnuts and icing sugar into a food processor, and pulse until the walnuts are finely ground, the same consistency as the ground almonds, set aside
• whisk egg whites until stiff, continue whisking adding caster sugar 2 tbsp at a time until glossy and stiff, and the sugar has dissolved
• carefully fold through ground walnuts, almonds, and vinegar
• divide the mixture equally between the 3 tins, bake for 35 minutes
• cool in the tins
• when completely cool, remove the dacquoise discs from the tins, keep the prettiest disc for the top layer
  place a dacquoise layer on your serving plate, gently spread with half the ganache, top with half the cherry compote, finishing with half of the whipped cream; your dacquoise may crack and sink slightly, this is part of the charm, the dip perfectly housing the delicious filling
• repeat with your second dacquoise layer, finishing with the pretty top
• dust icing sugar, and decorate with fresh cherries and caramelised walnuts

chocolate ganache
preparation time 10 minutes

200g dark chocolate
300ml thickened cream

• finely chop chocolate, tip into heat proof bowl
• heat cream to simmering point, pour over chocolate, leave for 5 mins then stir until smooth
• cool completely

cherry compote
preparation time 25 minutes

500g pitted cherries, fresh or frozen
60ml cherry brandy
60ml orange juice (can use all juice if don’t want alcohol, although its’s cooked off)
50g granulated sugar

• tip all ingredients into a pan, bring to boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved
• simmer for 10 mins or so, until cherries soften
• strain cherries over a bowl, return juices to pan, simmer until thick and syrupy
• pour over cherries, cool, store in airtight container

candied walnuts
preparation time 15 minutes

200g granulated sugar
125g walnut halves

• line a baking try with non- stick baking paper, or lightly greased foil
• tip the sugar into a heavy based frying pan/skillet
• cook the sugar over a medium heat until it is melted and golden, do not stir the sugar, but gently swirl the pan to ensure the sugar melts evenly
• add the walnuts to the pan, stir until they are coated with caramel, then tip them onto the lined baking tray, separate the walnut halves, don’t worry if a few stick together, you can try to break them apart when they have cooled
• when they have cooled completely store in an airtight container

* the recipe can be easily adapted to a 2 layer dessert, 8 generous slices, by reducing the quantities by 2/3


Natalie said...

This is such a stunning cake! Perfect for Christmas!

simmer and boyle said...

Thanks so much Natalie, it was a lovely change up from a pavlova :)