I Want Meringues Now, I Mean It... Maybe It's the Spanish Peanuts?: Peanut Dacquoise with Peanut Butter Mousse

I recently wrote about a lemon cloud tart that I served at a backyard BBQ, and I mentioned that I chose the dessert because it seemed perfect for a hot summery day. That's absolutely true, but I had more than one reason for deciding to make the tart. Namely, I had already planned to make a Peanut Dacquoise with Peanut Butter Mousse. It's a dessert that produces six extra egg yolks -- and the lemon tart would neatly use up five of them.

The dacquoise consists of peanut meringues layered with peanut butter mousse and chocolate glaze. The recipe specifically calls for Spanish peanuts in their skins, and I had to visit more than one grocery store to hunt them down (I finally found some private label Spanish peanuts at Harris Teeter). To make the meringue, you whip egg whites with cream of tartar, salt, and sugar until stiff, and fold in ground and chopped salted Spanish peanuts (skins and all). You spread the meringue out into rectangles and bake at low temperature until dry. I had some leftover meringue batter and I scooped it out into cookies (because there were chopped peanuts in the batter, I could not pipe out the meringue cookies into nice shapes because the nuts would have clogged a pastry tip).

While the meringues were in the oven, I made the peanut butter mousse. I mixed together crunchy peanut butter (the recipe calls for natural style but I only bake with Skippy), brown sugar, and salt, thinned out the mixture with cream, and folded in more heavy cream that had been beaten with sugar and vanilla to stiff peaks. To make the chocolate glaze, you simply heat cocoa powder, sugar, water, and heavy cream to a boil, add chocolate chips, and stir until melted.

When it was time to assemble the dacquoise, I used a sharp serrated knife to trim the three meringue rectangles to a uniform size. I spread cooled chocolate glaze on two of the meringues and chilled them until set, and then I spread peanut butter mousse on top of the glaze and stacked the layers, topping them off with the third meringue. I put a thin crumb coat of glaze over the top and sides of the dacquoise and chilled it until set (this was necessary because mousse was squeezing out between the layers and the mousse was getting mixed into the chocolate glaze); then I spread the remaining glaze over the crumb coat and sprinkled on a bit of fleur de sel. Because the crumb coat was cold, the remaining glaze set very quickly after coming into contact with it; the glaze didn't run or drip at all.

I assembled the dacquoise a day in advance, and when I took it out to serve it, it sliced easily and cleanly. The layers were neat and even, and it was an impressive-looking dessert. The dacquoise tasted delicious, although it was basically a nondescript mix of peanut butter and chocolate flavors. It was difficult to make out the individual components and the meringue had lost all of its crunch, so you couldn't really tell that meringue was even a component of the dacquoise (I'm not sure if this was because I assembled the dacquoise a full day in advance; the recipe says it can be made three days ahead).

There was a little bit of dacquoise left after the party and I stuck it in the freezer. It is equally delicious frozen! While this was a great dessert and our guests really enjoyed it, I was disappointed about the soggy meringue; the dessert looks like a showstopper, but the taste doesn't quite meet the same high standard. I think a textural contrast of crunchy meringue would improve the dacquoise immensely, so if I make this again, I would try to assemble it shortly before serving.

In contrast, the cookies I had baked with the leftover meringue batter stayed crisp and crunchy for days afterwards. And they were unbelievably delicious. Tom could not believe that the meringue contained only egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, salt, and peanuts -- the Spanish peanuts imparted remarkable flavor and the meringues tasted like caramel peanuts. I will definitely be making the meringue portion of this recipe again, because the peanut meringue cookies are awesome.

I'm thinking that if you wanted to shortcut this dessert, you could simply make Spanish peanut meringue cookie sandwiches and fill them with chocolate ganache or peanut butter filling. Or just make the cookies by themselves and call it a day -- because they are delicious enough to hold their own.

Recipe: "Peanut Dacquoise with Peanut Butter Mousse" from epicurious.com.


Louise said…
That's a terrific looking dessert. I would also be disappointed to find that the layers became cake-like.