I don't really know what made me think of it.....Dacquoise. Perhaps it was musing on a light dessert for a relaxing Sunday lunch; an occasion to be savoured as it doesn't seem to happen too often! Or maybe it was my general preoccupation with ground almonds, a sense that seems to shadow me like some half forgotten eidolon.
Well, anyway, whatever it was, it sent me searching through my own hand-written student notebooks; dog-eared recipe books bespattered and smudged with years of loving use as their pages have given up their well-loved treasures time and again. Yet, strangely, this was a recipe that I have had for well over 25 years, and have, as yet, never made! I don't really know why exactly I've overlooked it for so long. It became a family favourite of my class buddy from our sixth-form cookery classes (or Home Economics as it was then!) In fact, I remember her calling me on several occasions when she had been asked to produce this favoured confection, but didn't have the recipe to hand!
Despite this, until now, it had remained for me just so many ingredients on a page. Until today, that is....so I approached the task with interest, wondering what it was that could be so special about what is basically a meringue with ground almonds added to it. Following the recipe I dutifully whisked up the meringue, and folded in the almonds, and then set it in the oven and waited......
Well, I can certainly see why this became a favourite. The ground almonds offer a taste that is rather like amaretti biscuits and the texture light and crispy with a little chewiness - not as sickly as a normal meringue, and perhaps a little more 'grown up'. The original recipe from my notebook was filled with apricots and cream, although the delicate nutty flavour would lend itself to all sorts of different fillings. We had ours with summer fruits though (from the freezer, since we're not yet even fully into Spring! ) as I felt I wanted a sharp contrast to the sweet almondy meringue. I'll definitely make this again, though I don't think I'll wait another 25 years!
Dacquoise with Summer Fruit Compote
3 egg whites
150g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
250ml double cream - lightly whipped
100g summer fruits
sugar to taste
1 teaspoon cornflour
Heat the oven to 140C / 275F / Gas 1 and mark out two 20cm circles on sheets of baking parchment and place these on clean dry baking sheets.
Whisk the egg whites until just stiff, and then whisk in half the sugar so that it becomes smooth and glossy. Fold in the rest of the sugar and the ground almonds gently until they are mixed in evenly.Carefully divide the mixture between the two circles, spreading them out gently - they will be quite thin. Bake for an hour, or until the paper peels away easily.
For the compote, put two tablespoons of water in a saucepan with the fruit and sugar, and simmer gently until soft (about 5 minutes). Slake the cornflour with a little water to a smooth paste, and then add to the fruits, stirring all the time to avoid lumps. Bring to the boil to thicken the mixture for two minutes and then leave to cool. Alternatively, if you want to do without the cornflour you can just continue to cook the fruit until the juices have reduced to a syrup.
Finally, sandwich the Dacquoise together with whipped cream, and pile the fruit compote on top allowing some of the sweet juices to dapple the sides. Finish off with a light dusting of icing sugar and some toasted almonds. (Try not to assemble this too far in advance or the filling will tend to make the Dacquoise lose it's lovely crunch)