Monday, March 16, 2009
Almond Sans Rival Part I - Meringue layers
This is the first in the sans rival series.
I got into this obsessive desire to try making sans rival after my correspondence with retired pastry chef, EQ, who loved my supersoft ensaymada. I asked for his recipe for sans rival, but he could not find it, so he pointed me instead to two sites that will help me create them.
Sans rival ("no rival") is a very sinfully delicious dessert that I encountered first, I believe, in a bakeshop within UP campus during my college days. I cannot remember the name of the building (not an academic building but one of the administrative type of buildings, I think). In any case, since introduction to it, I had been enjoying it whenever and wherever I saw it (together with another favorite dessert, Sambo). I can't buy them where I am now.
The most common flavor then was cashew. Nowadays, browsing through the net, there are also other flavors such as pistachio and other nuts, and pandan. I made almond, based on the recipe pointed out to me. I am not too keen anymore on the pandan...somehow, the essence/extract/flavoring tastes too artificial to me. Nothing like the real leaves boiled in water.
As I said in the previous post, I will post this in a series (like my hopia series). If you have plenty of egg whites (maybe you make your leche flan only with yolks, or you are making runny ensaymada dough using 20 egg yolks), you might want to make sans rival. Both meringue and buttercream recipes I used as reference make use of egg whites.
Now, I don't know what the origin of the term is, but this particular wafer has its own name (which it deserves to have, in my opinion): Dacquoise. I don't have the least idea how to pronounce that. This is what makes the meringue layers of sans rival. Plain or used in sans rival, these have become a big hit in my family, including my hubby.
The way I prepared the meringue layer was as individual servings of round flat "cookies" or wafers which everyone in my family also loves plain. I have experimented in the past by baking one whole flat sheet then using a biscuit cutter, but I ended up with crumbs and broken pieces. The site I referred to here gave me the idea about using patterns, although it did not elaborate much on how to easily peel off the meringue from the parchment paper. Some sites say to use greased and floured baking pans. I remember when I made the frozen brazo de mercedes, I greased the wax paper. At the edges where I missed some spots, the meringue stuck. So I experimented doing these two things: greased only, and greased and floured.
2/3 cup egg white, in room temp for 30 minutes
2/3 cup almond meal (I had sliced almonds chopped finely in food processor)
1/4 cup sugar, mixed with almond meal
2 tbsp sugar, mixed with egg whites during foaming
2/3 cup sugar, mixed with egg whites during soft peaks
EDITED 3/19/09: Take out your eggs from the fridge and separate the whites if you don't have them ready yet (easier to separate them while cold). Use a small bowl/cup to catch the egg white. Once you are sure you are not gonna break the yolk, transfer the white to the mixing bowl, preferably glass or metal, not plastic. If you break the yolk, reserve that whole egg for another recipe and use another egg to avoid contamination of the whites). Let the egg whites sit out at room temp (better for whipping) while you prepare the pans.
A. Prepare the pan . Follow these steps carefully or you will end up breaking all your dacquoise trying to remove from the pan, then you will end up with crumbs.
1. Make patterns of circles on one side (the side that will touch the pan later) of wax or parchment paper. (I used sharpie and a plastic cup.)
2. Apply a thin layer of shortening onto baking sheet. (I dip paper towel into a bucket of Crisco to get about a tbsp of shortening. I then wipe this onto the baking sheet.)
3. Place the patterned wax/parchment paper onto the greased sheet.
4. Grease the paper also (like in step 2).
Note: I attempted to try sprinkling with flour one of them greased paper. I compared the two after baking. The floured ones stuck more. So just be satisfied with greasing the paper. I don't think that greasing the pan under the paper will also help, but I do it anyway so my paper sticks to the pan and not slide.)
B. Prepare the batter and bake. Pre-heat the oven to 225 deg F. (Recipe courtesy of Zoe).
1. Mix the almond meal with 1/4 cup sugar.
2. Start whipping the egg white under medium speed.
3. When whites start to foam, add the 2 tbsp sugar. Continue whipping.
4. When soft peaks form, gradually add 2/3 cup sugar while continuing to whip the whites. Stop when stiff peaks form. [Note that in the slideshow I changed from glass bowl to the metal bowl. I did this because my hand mixer did not seem to have enough power to beat once the sugar made the mixture sticky. The motor was running but the beaters were not. So I immediately transferred to my clean metal bowl and continued whipping there. It is important that there is no trace of water, oil or even egg yolks when whipping egg whites.]
5. Add half of the sugar+almond mixture by folding* this into whipped egg whites. Repeat with the remaining half.
6. Place in ziploc bag. Cut a corner and pipe out thin layers onto prepared pan, following the patterns.
7. Bake for 1 hr. Peel off paper and let dry out some more on cooling racks while making the buttercream. [Note: Maybe a shorter time will do, since this is very thin, maybe 20 minutes? maybe increasing the temp will help also? Then just let dry out some more on wire racks, if your air is as dry as mine here. If not (like in the Philippines, where it is always humid), maybe stick to the temp as above, bake for 20 mins, turn off heat and let residual heat dry out the cookies/wafers some more.)
*If any of my readers would be interested to make this (and other recipes with "folding" step) but do not really know exactly what folding is (if you are a newbie in baking), I will try my best to upload a video as an example, if requested. I may not be an officially trained baker, but I do know what "folding" means in baking terms. It was demonstrated to me by my ex-MIL, who is a home economics graduate. One thing to remember: YOU DO NOT USE A WIRE WHISK TO GENTLY FOLD something into the batter; rather, you use a spatula or spoon. The folding is a means to incorporate ingredients into an airy/bubbly batter without breaking up all the air bubbles, because you want to maintain the airy-ness and fluffiness of the batter for "volume" and sponginess upon baking.
UPDATE as of 3-27-09:
I made this again today, but basing on other recipes, i tried to do short cut by baking at 350 deg F for 20 minutes. Well guess what...after about 10 minutes, I sniffed the burnt smell! It was too late! I already ruined this batch...I will have to wait again for egg whites...