On their TV show The Hairy Bikers’ Bakeation, Si and Dave traveled Europe to get the best baking recipes. Try this French-style vacherin for an impressive dessert
- For the hazelnut meringue
- 150g blanched hazelnuts
- sunflower oil, for greasing
- 5 large egg whites
- 275g caster sugar
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp cornflour
- For the filling
- 100g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
- 500ml double cream
- 1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
- 200ml crème fraiche
- 400g raspberries
- icing sugar, sifted, to decorate
Toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan for 4–5 minutes until golden, leave them to cool, then chop roughly. Cut out 3 large rectangles of baking parchment. With a dark pencil and using a plate as a template, draw a 25cm circle in the centre of 2 pieces and a 20cm circle on the third. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets and place the pieces of parchment with the 25cm circles on them, pencil-side down. You should be able to see the circles through the paper.
Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/Gas Mark 2. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until stiff but not dry. Gradually whisk in the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, whisking for a few seconds in between each addition. Finally whisk in the vanilla extract and the cornflour until well combined. Fold all but a few of the hazelnuts into the meringue. Set the rest aside for later.
Place large spoonfuls of the meringue on the 25cm circles. Spread the meringue to the edges with a rubber spatula to make 2 large, flattish meringue discs, using a little more than two-thirds of the meringue. Spread the rest of the meringue over the 20cm circle and put it on a third lightly greased baking tray if you have one. Turn the oven down to 120°C/240°F/Gas Mark ½. Bake the 2 larger meringues, 1 above the other, for 1½ hours, switching between the shelves after 45 minutes, until very lightly coloured. Reduce the oven temperature further if they begin to get too brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Cook the third meringue as above. (Alternating between top and bottom shelves).
Melt the chocolate in a small bowl over a pan of hot water. Stir until smooth, then leave to cool for a few minutes. Whip the cream with the icing sugar until soft peaks form. Stir the crème fraiche to soften it slightly and fold it into the cream.
Put a large meringue disc on a serving plate and spoon over half the cream. Drizzle with a little chocolate and scatter a third of raspberries on top. Drizzle with a little of the melted chocolate. Top with the second large meringue disc and repeat the layers, then top with the smaller meringue. Finish the vacherin by scattering with the remaining raspberries, drizzling with chocolate and sprinkling the reserved nuts on top. Dust with sifted icing sugar to serve.
If you haven't got time to wait for 3 layers of meringue to cook you could make a 2 layer version instead