Friday, 23 October 2015



Serves 8-10
10 free-range egg whites
275g (10oz) caster sugar
50g (1¾oz) cocoa powder
250g (9oz) ground hazelnuts
750ml (26fl oz) double cream
1½ tbsp vanilla bean paste
75g (2¾oz) icing sugar
10-12 figs
twisted willow, or other decorative twigs
sugar spiral (optional)

1 Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and line two baking sheets with silicone paper. Draw a 23cm (9in) circle on each sheet of paper, then flip them over.
2 Make sure your bowl and whisk are very clean, free of grease and dry, as any water or grease will affect the meringue.
3 Place the egg whites in the bowl and whisk with a food mixer or an electric whisk on high speed to soft peaks. Add the sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking until the mixture is smooth and glossy.
4 Sift in the cocoa powder and whisk until combined. Fold in the ground hazelnuts, taking care not to knock the air out of the meringue. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm (½in) plain nozzle. Lift the paper up and pipe four blobs on the corner of each tray, then press the paper to them to stop it moving.
5 Pipe concentric rings to fill the circle on each of the lined trays. Next, pipe six small discs around the trays (you will have some mixture left over). Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and just firm to the touch. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
6 Meanwhile, whisk the cream, vanilla bean paste and icing sugar together until you have firm peaks.
7 Place one of the meringue discs into a 23cm (9in) metal ring on a cake stand or serving plate, trimming it if necessary, then spread a layer of cream 1cm (½in) thick on top. Cut 10 figs in half from top to bottom. Place these upright into the cream around the edge of the ring, cut side facing out. Continue all the way around until you have made a border of figs around the edge of the cream. Fold the small discs of meringue into the remaining cream, along with 2 quartered figs. Pile the cream into the centre, pressing it lightly so that it holds the figs in place against the ring.
8 Place the second meringue disc on top, trimming if necessary, then press down lightly. Lift the ring off the dacquoise. To help you do this cleanly, warm the ring very quickly with a blow torch, or dip a cloth into hot water and run it around the ring.
9 Decorate with twisted willow and fig wedges, and a sugar spiral, if desired
(James Martin - Christmas Bakes Magazine)

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