Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Taming the Beast- Hazelnut-and-Chocolate Meringue Cake

As you probably can tell by now, I am always intrigued by baked goods that have interesting or clever names.  This cake sounded delicious and its nickname "the beast" pulled me right in. I imagined a big, heavy dessert, but it is actually a fairly simple cake- just layers of hazelnut chocolate meringue sandwiched with whipped cream.  It looks like it took hours to make.   A rich dessert with all the whipped cream, but the taste is surprisingly light and crunchy, despite its nickname. It is a perfect ending to a special meal.

Hazelnut-and-Chocolate Meringue Cake
from the Genoa Restaurant, Portland, Oregon as seen in Food and Wine, October, 2010

1 1/2 cups ( 7 ounces) hazelnuts
6 large egg whites at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup (6 ounces) mini chocolate chips
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
3 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
chocolate shavings for garnish

     Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and line 2 large  baking sheets with parchment paper.  Draw two 8-inch rounds on one sheet and one 8-inch round on the other.  Spread the hazelnuts on a third baking sheet and toast 12-14 minutes until browned.  Let cool slightly, then transfer to a towel and rub to remove the skins.  Chop the nuts finely in a food processor.  Lower the oven temperature to 225 degrees F.
     In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with the salt at medium-high speed until soft peaks form.  Gradually beat in the granulated sugar at high speed until stiff.  Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.  Fold in the hazelnuts and chocolate chips. Pour the melted chocolate down the side of the bowl and gently fold until the meringue is lightly marbled.  Divide the batter in three and spread the meringue over the drawn circles, baking for 2 hours, 30 minutes until crisp.  Rotate the pans halfway through baking.  Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the meringues cool completely.
      In the chilled bowl of the standing mixer, beat the heavy cream with the confectioners' sugar until firm. Remove the meringues from the paper.  Spread the whipped cream on the layers and stack them, meringue, cream, meringue, cream, meringue, cream.  Refrigerate or freeze the cake overnight.  Cut into wedges ( it can get a little messy) and let come to room temperature before serving.  Garnish with chocolate shavings before serving. ((post by Susan))

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