Sunday, November 8, 2015

Roasted Peanut Meringue Cake with Sticky Chocolate Mousse

Not only am I due for a chocolate & peanut combo recipe, but I have one that is fancy and flourless.

After last week's post and the kick-off to another month of gluten free recipes, I received a few questions about where to find fine rice flour. The answer is at Asian food stores. You can even check the international aisle of your local supermarket. It usually comes from Thailand and is most commonly used to make fresh rice noodles.

Luckily you can skip a trip to the shop today because this recipe uses ingredients thst you probably already have on hand!

Technically speaking this dessert is called Dacquoise - dry crisp rounds of nut-based meringue layered with shmeares of something creamy. In this case I've chosen dark chocolate mousse for reasons that are so obvious. Chocolate + peanut = rainbows and unicorns. It's a happy feeling.

For this we need ground peanuts and since I have yet to find anyone selling peanut meal, we get to make our own. That gives us an opportunity to make it the best we can by roasting our nuts first to get maximum peanutiness. Roasted vs. unroasted is like BSB vs. NSync - totally different. When grinding nuts the trick is to grind them with a bit of sugar if the recipe calls for it because it will help to prevent it from turning into peanut butter (not a bad thing, just not what we need right now).

Luckily this recipe calls for sugar! Add some in with the peanuts in your food processor and bust them up! Make sure your nuts are completely cooled too.

Second thing's second - we need to make merigue. That's 3 big flat meringues to be exact. If you've never made meringue, then this would be a great way to showcase a new skill. And if you ever find yourself burnt out of ideas for what to do with extraneous egg whites, well this is it!

Now the eggwhites get a work out in your mixer. Start beating them with cream of tartar and salt just until foamy. You probably don't have cream of tartar on hand - no worries, I usually don't either. Instead you can use 1/2 tsp of white vinegar or lemon juice - it's the acid we're after.  Acid helps to prevent the egg proteins from squeezing together too tightly so that we get a stable foam that doesn't leak any water.

Once well and foamy, begin beating in the sugar. Adding sugar this early in the game means that it will take longer for the whites to reach max volume, but it also means that the air bubbles will be very fine and the sugar will be very well dissolved. That means chewy!

When you reach stiff and glossy peaks, go in with the ground peanuts and sifted corn starch. Gentle but brisk folding is the name of the game to keep some volume in the batter. A lot of people think you need to fold slowly, but time is the real enemy. Try to be gentle but quick.

Just two teaspoons of corn starch also contributes to the chew by binding moisture as it bakes. Meringue bakes low and slow so holding moisture in is a challenge. Thank goodness for food science. N. E. R. D.

Once baked, these need to cool completely.

That's when you can make some mousse! This is a very simple and classice French bistro style mousse with no whipped cream. It is dark, rick, sticky and totally chocolaty.

This method does involve heating the eggs imprecisely, but if you cannot eat raw eggs, then best check that they reach safe eating temperature on a thermometer.

Yolks + sugar whip over a hot water bath until pale and fluffy. Whites and sugar whip up the same way. Warm melted chocolate mixes with the egg yolks first before the whites fold gently over.

Now all there is to do is make a giant peanut meringue and chocolate mousse sandwich and call it lunch! Don't forget the sharing part (or not, no judging).

As it sits for an hour or two the meringue softens and develops an epic chewiness. This is something that even the non-dessert goers will have a go at. Unless of course that person doesn't like chocolate... but then why would you be friends with someone like that?

Roasted Peanut Meringue Cake with Sticky Chocolate Mousse

Meringue layers:
1 ¼ cups (6 ½oz/185g) natural peanuts
¾ cup sugar, divided
2 tsp corn starch
6 large egg whites
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt

Chocolate mousse:
150g bittersweet chocolate
3 large egg yolks
2 large egg whites
5 tbsp (65g) sugar, divided

For the meringue layers, preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/350F/Gas 4. Roast peanuts in a single layer on a baking tray until golden brown and fragrant, about 10-12 minutes. Remove skins, let cool completely and then place in the bowl of a food processor with 1/4 cuo of sugar and pulse until finely ground.

Reduce the oven temperature to 275 F/135°C.

Line three baking trays with parchment paper and, using a small dinner plate or a cake pan as a guide, draw a 20cm/8in diameter circle on each. Set aside. Carefully position oven racks in the upper, middle and lower third of the oven.

Make the meringue by pouring the egg whites into the clean bowl of a free-standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the salt and cream of tartar and whisk on medium speed for about 30 seconds, or until foamy. Increase the speed and add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until stiff glossy peaks form. Gently fold the ground peanut mixture and sifted corn starch through the meringue.

Spoon the meringue mixture to a large piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain nozzle and pipe the meringue into a spiral starting at the centre of each circle and working outwards to fill your template.

Bake for 1 ½ hours, rotating the top and bottom baking trays halfway through cooking. Keep an eye on the meringues toward the end of cooking as they may catch and darken too much. They should feel dry and just a tad soft in the center. Turn off the oven and leave to cool with the door ajar for at least 45 minutes.

For the mousse, melt the chocolate in a water bath. Cool just slightly. Whisk the egg yolks with 3 tbsp sugar until very pale and thick in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water; set aside. Whisk egg whites with remaining 2 tbsp sugar in a heatproof bowl until combined. Whisk over the hot water bath just like the yolks until sugar is dissolved and it feels warm. Remove from the heat and continue whisking until soft peaks using an electric mixer. Stir chocolate into whipped yolks, then fold in whipped whites in parts until you get a thick, sticky mousse.

Spread mousse between layers of meringue and let chill for at least one hour before serving.
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