Aoife Noonan: Chocolate, coffee and hazelnut? Sign me up – The Irish Times

This gorgeous little bake uses some of my favourite ingredients, and they just so happen to be perfectly harmonious when combined. Chocolate, coffee and hazelnut; is there a better combination?

I was very pleasantly surprised when I first created this recipe and tasted it. It has an opera cake nuance to it. That is a classic French patisserie cake with layered coffee-soaked sponge, chocolate ganache and coffee buttercream, but this recipe is so much simpler.

It has two main components, a hazelnut sponge and a chocolate cream spiked with coffee, and that’s it. Layered together, it is a perfect mix of sweet and bitter.

The sponge is a kind of meringue and a sponge hybrid, known in French as a dacquoise. It is a soft, thin sponge made with egg whites, sugar and ground hazelnuts, making it super simple to whip up (and gluten free, too). There are eight egg whites in the recipe. Don’t be alarmed, this will make two baking trays worth of dacquoise sponge, which are then cut into large squares and layered in a square tin with the chocolate cream. The ground hazelnuts give it a predominantly hazelnut flavour, which works so well with the mocha flavours of the cream.

The chocolate cream is not really a ganache, nor a custard, it’s kind of in between (using up most of the yolks from those eight eggs). The result is a decadent chocolate mix that is as soft and smooth as butter. I add some instant coffee to it, injecting a gorgeous mocha flavour to the dessert.

Both the sponge and mocha cream can be made in advance; the cream is best left to set at room temperature, which makes it easier to spread. Once layered, I freeze the whole thing before cutting into squares to serve (for less mess and a cleaner cut), but let them defrost a little before eating. You can grate a little chocolate on top, or sprinkle some cocoa nibs on top, for crunch. Some toasted chopped hazelnuts would be beautiful too.

Recipe: Mocha cream meringue squares

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