Orange dacquoise biscuits, halfway between a macaron and a meringue with a nod towards a soft sponge, are the most fabulous way of using leftover egg whites.
What is dacquoise?
Dacquoise is a cheffy-sounding type of pastry made by folding almond or hazelnut powder into perfectly beaten meringue. It is a meringue which changed its mind at the last moment and decided to be a sponge.
The texture sits between a classic macaron, really chewy meringue and airy, nutty sponge. Dacquoise batter can be fashioned into biscuits or baked as one large cake base, stacked and layered with frosting into a surreally divine torte.
My Grandmother's dacquoise
When I first tasted it, I had a purely Proustian moment: what when? The taste, the texture? With a superhuman recall I remembered that my grandmother used to make such a torte, filled with almond buttercream.
That was the dessert which I in my child’s stupidity would usually spurn (I probably only ever wanted jam tarts) and years later tried hard to trace with no success - until I met dacquoise.
Where does the name 'dacquoise' come from?
Curiously enough, my Grandma called it ‘Provençal torte’. Now dacquoise claims its name from the city of Dax in south-western France, which is not a million miles away from Provence but isn’t exactly THERE. And Granny was an educated, sophisticated lady so I wouldn’t want to call her knowledge of geography into question.
It must have been an example of shifting food names in different localities: viz. Danish pastries are called viennoiserie in France.
Dacquoise biscuits and how to make them
My recipe, as usual, is the result of researching what is there and combining the best elements of a few sources. I won't pretend it's the easiest, as the step of processing the sugar with ground almonds into perfectly homogenous powder I consider to be essential.
In France you can buy ready-made mix called tant pout tant, so they may be allowed to call dacquoise recipes 'easy' - not here. Furthermore, that mix has to be gently folded into perfectly beaten meringue so no, it's not a quick and simple dessert. But it's worth every minute of the effort.
To pipe or not to pipe?
My recipe also tells you to pipe the mixture onto the baking sheet. Now I completely agree that piping is a major pain, waste of batter and always makes you feel the outcome isn’t worth the bother.
I think you can very well dollop the dacquoise batter with a spoon, but considering it’s a French confection, closely related to macarons (those MUST be piped), I would feel irreverent ladling it nonchalantly with a tablespoon. Noblesse oblige, you see.
But if you’re convinced life’s too short to pipe, skip it and spoon the mix right onto the baking sheet.
The dacquoise biscuits bake for ten minutes and then dry in switched-off oven for a few minutes longer, similarly to meringues. Feel free to experiment with different flavours - I am currently so enamoured with everything orange though that it was my first and the best choice.