Whipping up a meringue indulges the pastry geek in me. I never tire of watching a liquid egg white inflate as it foams up and then, with the help of sugar, transform into a beautiful, thick and glossy mixture that you can spread or pipe into almost any shape. (Of course this reverence partly comes from many a failed attempt at a voluminous meringue.) That said, making a meringue is really not difficult, just remember the rules: start with a clean, dry bowl and remove even the slightest speck of yolk.
The meringues in this torte are based on a classic baked meringue called a hazelnut dacquoise. Toasted, ground hazelnuts, and malted milk powder are gently folded into the meringue. The meringue is piped or spread into discs, then baked at a low temperature for a long time until dry and crispy. When cool, the meringues are layered and frosted with a bittersweet chocolate ganache that balances out the sweet meringue. As the cake rests, the meringue layers soften ever so slightly, while still retaining a nice crunchy texture. For as rich as this torte is, it's surprisingly light. For a luxurious gluten-free dessert, simply omit the malted milk powder.
Notes: An alternative to piping the meringue is to divide the meringue between the 4 circles, then gently spread with an offset spatula, taking care to achieve even thickness for each meringue.
- 1 1/4 cups (about 7 ounces) blanched hazelnuts, lightly toasted and cooled
- 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar, divided
- 4 tablespoons malted milk powder
- 4 large egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 8 malted milk balls
Adjust oven racks to upper and lower middle positions and preheat to 250°F. Trace two 8-inch circles on 2 separate sheets of parchment paper. Flip over (so ink is on bottom) and place on baking sheets.
Pulse hazelnuts and 2 tablespoons sugar in food processor until finely ground. Transfer to bowl, toss with malted milk powder, and set aside. Place egg whites and cream of tartar in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whip attachment (see note). Beat on medium high speed to soft peaks. Slowly add remaining sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in salt.
Remove from mixer and gently fold in hazelnut mixture in 3 batches until just combined (do not overmix). Spoon meringue into large pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch tip. Starting in the center of each circle, pipe in a spiral motion to form a disc shape meringue, keeping within about 1/2 inch from the border (see note). You should have just enough meringue to complete the 4 discs.
Place in oven and bake until completely dry, about 2 hours. Store in a cool, dry place until ready to assemble.
Heat chocolate and cream in heatproof bowl over pan of barely simmering water, stirring gently, until just melted. Set aside (or chill) until just firm enough to spread.
To assemble torte, place a meringue on serving plate, top side up. Spread 1/4 cup ganache onto meringue. Continue to layer meringues and ganache, using remaining ganache to frost top and sides of torte. Garnish with malted milk balls. Chill to set, at least 2 hours. Use a hot, wet knife to cut slices.
2 large cookie sheets or sheet pans, food processor, pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain tip,1 8-inch cake pan or cake ring, mixer