Chocolate Espresso Dacquoise

Serves 8-10

Meringues

2 Cups blanched almonds, chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 TBL cornstarch
8 large egg whites, room temperature
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 Cups sliced unblanched almonds

Position the racks in the top and bottom  thirds of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.  Trace 3 8-inch circles on 2 pieces of parchment paper, and place the paper on 2 large baking sheets, tracing side down.

Toast the blanched almonds on a large baking sheet for about 15 minutes, until golden brown.  Transfer to a plate to cool. Reduce oven to 250ºF.

Pulse the toasted nuts in a food processor just until finely ground.

Whisk together 1/2 cup of the sugar and the cornstarch, in a small bowl, and reserve. With an electric mixer, on medium speed, beat the egg whites in a large bowl until foamy. Increase the speed to medium-high, add the salt, and beat just until the egg whites form soft peaks. Add remaining 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition, and continue to beat just until stiff peaks form. With rubber spatula, fold in the reserved sugar mixture in three batches. Fold in the vanilla. Fold in the ground almonds in 3 batches.

Spoon the meringue onto the paper circles (about 2 2/3 cups per disk) and smooth with a spatula; you want them to be level on the top, not domed.  Bake the meringues for 3 hours, or until medium golden brown, switching the baking sheets halfway through cooking.  transfer the meringues, still on the parchment paper, to a wire rack and cool completely.  Increase oven to 350ºF.

Ganache

1 Cup Heavy Cream
8 Ounces dark chocolate, chopped

Toast the sliced almonds on a large baking sheet, for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Bring the cream just to the boil in a medium saucepan, over medium heat. remove from heat and add the chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes.  Whisk until smooth, then transfer to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, tightly covered, until thick enough to spread, about 30 minutes.

Buttercream

6 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 TBL instant espresso powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temp.

Meanwhile make the buttercream. With an electric mixer on high-speed, beat the egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar, in a medium deep bowl, until very thick and pale (about 5 minutes)

Bring the cream, the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the espresso powder to a boil, in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Beating on medium-high speed, slowly pour half of the hot cream mixture into the yolks. Return the yolk mixture to the saucepan, with the remaining cream and whisk in the salt.  Cook over medium heat whisking constantly, for 6 minutes, or until the custard registers 170ºF, on a candy thermometer. Do not allow to boil.

Immediately transfer the mixture to a large deep bowl and, with an electric mixer, on high-speed, beat for about 6 minutes, until cooled to room temperature. Beating on high-speed, add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate, tightly covered, for about 45 minutes, until firm enough to spread. If buttercream gets too cold to spread, beat on high-speed until spreadable.

Peel of the parchment, from the meringues. Reserve the best one, for the top layer. Place the remaining 2 layers on a baking sheet and  spread half of the ganache over each one, stopping 1/2 inch from the edge. refrigerate for about 10 minutes, to set the chocolate.

Spread a scant cup of buttercream over the chocolate on each layer. Stack the 2 meringues, and place the reserved layer on top. Spread the remaining buttercream over the top and sides of the cake. Press some of the sliced almonds into the sides of the cake and sprinkle the rest over the top. refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 12 hours, to allow the buttercream to chill and set.

To serve, dust the top of the cake with confectioners sugar. Cut into slices, with a serrated knife, using a gentle sawing motion.

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