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Divas on a Dime: Showstopping dessert perfect for Valentine’s Day

Dazzle your loved ones with this luxurious meringue-based French pastry. It’s simply ethereal. You’d pay a fortune for this at a bakery but it’s easy and exceptionally frugal to make yourself.

Traditionally, dacquoise (da’kwaz) is defined as nut meringue. Made from egg whites whipped to billowy clouds, dacquoise can be used as the base for many desserts. Classic dacquoise are filled with whipped cream or ganache and stacked in layers. As they sit, the crisp interior melts to a decadently soft center. Divine!

You won’t find a better frugal and fabulous bang for your buck than meringue. All it takes is egg whites and sugar. Save the yolks for other recipes.

With meringue, there are a few things you need to know. The bowl and beater must be completely free of fat. Use 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar for each egg white and you won’t risk overbeating them. Start slow and once begun, don’t stop.

Cream of tartar is a wonderful thing. A byproduct of winemaking, the mild acid denatures some of the egg white proteins making the eggs froth up faster, creating a stiffer, more stable meringue. If you don’t have any, substitute 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar for every ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar in the recipe.

This recipe is completely gluten-free.

STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM

DACQUIOSE

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Time: 4 hours to overnight Active: 1 hour

What You’ll Need:

For Dacquoise:

6 egg whites – at room temperature

¾ teaspoon cream of tartar

¾ cups granulated sugar

¾ cup nut flour – almond or hazelnut

For the filling:

2 cups cold heavy whipping cream

½ cup powdered sugar

1 cup (8 oz.) mascarpone cheese – optional

1 pound fresh strawberries

Here’s How:

Preheat the oven to 225°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Draw four (7-inch) rounds on paper.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on low until fine bubbles form. Add cream of tartar and gradually increase speed to medium-high, whipping until soft peaks form. Slowly add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time and whip until the meringue holds stiff peaks.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a wide spatula, gently fold in the nut flour, stopping as soon as it’s incorporated. Don’t over-mix!

Load the meringue into a piping bag with a large tip or a gallon-sized zip top baggie with the corner snipped off. Pipe in a spiral onto your parchment, forming discs.

Bake the discs for 60 minutes then turn the oven off. Resist the urge to peek! Leave them in the oven to dry for at least four hours, or better, overnight.

To assemble: Whip the heavy cream with the sugar to soft peaks. Add the mascarpone, if using, and blend. The mascarpone adds thickness making it more stable. Layer the dacquoise with cream and sliced berries.

Besides Valentine’s Day, remember this recipe for Mother’s Day and summer parties when the berries are perfectly ripe and in season. See you next week!

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime – Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com

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