A few weeks ago, as I was standing in the checkout line with my groceries, I spotted a special issue of Cook’s Illustrated in the magazine stands: Cook’s Illustrated Make-Ahead Desserts. I put it in my basket immediately, further thought not required. I eagerly poured through each page when I got back home, delighted by everything I saw, but there was one recipe in particular that captured my attention.
It’s slightly perplexing, actually, because dacquoise contains multiple things that I do not like, notably nuts and coffee (in this recipe, at least). But still, I was longing to make it.
I talked myself out of making it for my Christmas party, which was only a few days away, but nothing could stop me from making it for New Year’s. I was determined.
It took two days, and we ended up eating it on New Year’s Day rather than New Year’s Eve, but, ultimately, victory was mine.
I’m sure my friends were amused by my sheer joy when I presented them with the dacquoise, though perhaps a bit annoyed that they had to wait for me to take pictures before we could eat it. Jared was a very good sport and, instead of teasing me about Instagramming my masterpiece, set up a tea towel as a backdrop and held a light at different angles to try to make my pictures look as good as possible. He’s pretty much the best.
It was, of course, completely delicious. It was also the fanciest dessert I’ve ever made by far, and it reminded me how much I love to bake. It also sparked my interest in continuing to venture out of my culinary comfort zone. Who knows, maybe this time next year I’ll be blogging about baked Alaska!
In some ways, this was the perfect next step in fancy desserts for me. Although the dacquoise contains a lot of steps and requires a lot of time, its three main components were all familiar to me. I’ve made meringue multiple times before and have been steadily improving at it. Ganache and I are old friends, after years of making and selling truffles for Valentine’s Day. And although I’d never made this particular type of buttercream before, which starts with a pastry cream, I had made pastry cream once before, and it wasn’t much of a leap to add butter.
Another plus was the inherent beauty of the dacquoise. Decorating has always been my weakness when it comes to baking—something I hope to change soon—but the dacquoise didn’t ask for much in that arena. Even I can manage to stick some toasted nuts onto a ganache coating.
If you’d like to try it out yourself, you can find the recipe I used here. It does require a subscription to the Cook’s Illustrated website, but personally, I’ve really liked having a subscription—it’s a great resource.
As a side note, I’m not sure I could tell you why I love these special edition magazines from the America’s Test Kitchen / Cook’s Illustrated so much, but I do. I also have their Baking for Two magazine, which I adore and would highly recommend except that it seems to be out of print. That one makes a little bit more sense, because those recipes aren’t included on the websites, but the Make-Ahead Desserts recipes for sure are. I suppose I find the smaller collection of recipes less overwhelming, and I enjoy that they go more in depth with the testing notes in the magazine than they do on the website.
What’s taken you out of your comfort zone lately? Were you happy with the results?