Nut Meringue Slices

Esterhazyschnitten

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    8 slices

Appears in

Rare is the central European coffeehouse or bakery that doesn’t serve Esterhazyschnitten. The nut layers (always six of them, no more and no less) are sometimes baked into rounds and made into a torte, but the rectangular version is the more popular by far. Sometimes the layers are created from either almond or hazelnut, but I like the resulting depth of flavor when they are combined. You may use one or the other if you prefer. The feathered glazed top is another constant design feature for this multilayered torte. This is a simple technique, but you must work quickly while the glaze and chocolate are wet and unset. Be sure that you have everything ready (warm melted chocolate in a paper cone, just-prepared icing at the proper temperature, clean offset spatula at your side) before you start. In appearance, this might remind you of the classic French Napoleon pastry, but when you taste it, all comparisons will be meaningless. The Esterhazy (as famous a historical name in Hungary as the name Bonaparte is in France) is in a class of its own.

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Ingredients

Nut Layers

  • ½ cup hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
  • ½ cup natural or blanched sliced almonds
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar

Kirsch Buttercream

  • 1 cup milk, divided
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons kirsch, Cognac, or golden rum

Assembly

Method

  1. To make the nut layers: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350°F. Lightly butter a 17 X 11-inch jelly-roll pan. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper. (Cut slashes in the corners of the paper to help them fold neatly.)
  2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the hazelnuts, almonds, and confectioners’ sugar until the nuts are very finely chopped, almost a flour. In a large grease-free bowl, using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Still beating, gradually add the granulated sugar and beat just until stiff, shiny peaks form. Fold in the nuts.
  3. Using an offset metal spatula, spread the nut batter evenly into the pan. Bake until golden brown and beginning to crisp around the edges, about 20 minutes. Hold a cutting board or flat platter over the pan, and invert together to unmold the cake. Carefully peel away the parchment and cool completely. Using a serrated knife, trim uneven edges, and cut the cake vertically into six 2¾-inch-wide strips. Don’t worry if any of the strips crack, as they can be pieced together when layered with the filling.
  4. To make the buttercream: Pour ¼ cup of the milk into a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, and add the cornstarch. Whisk to dissolve the cornstarch, then whisk in the sugar and yolks until smooth. Whisk in the remaining ¾ cup of the milk. Whisking constantly, being sure to reach into the corners of the saucepan, bring to a full boil over medium heat; the pastry cream will be thick. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water. Stirring often, cool the pastry cream.
  5. In a medium bowl, using a handheld electric mixer on high speed, beat the butter until smooth, about 1 minute. A tablespoon at a time, beat in the cooled pastry cream. Beat in the kirsch.
  6. To assemble: Place the best-looking nut layer, short end facing you, smooth side up, on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Using an offset metal spatula, spread the top of the layer evenly with the warm apricot glaze. Let stand until the glaze sets, about 15 minutes.
  7. Place the warm melted chocolate in a paper cone and snip off the point. Pour the warm fondant icing over the glazed nut layer, and smooth it evenly with a clean offset spatula (photograph 1), letting the excess drip over the sides. Immediately pipe four thin lines of chocolate about -M inch apart along the entire length of the glazed nut layer (2). (You will not use all the chocolate, but it is difficult to melt less.) At 1-inch intervals, draw a wooden toothpick in vertical straight lines from right to left across the glaze and chocolate. Then working left to right, draw vertical lines exactly between the first set of lines to make a feathered effect (3). Let stand until the glaze is set. Run a thin, sharp knife under the layer to free it from the rack.
  8. Meanwhile, place 1 nut layer on an 11 X 2½-inch cardboard rectangle, securing the layer to the board with a dab of buttercream. Spread the layer with about 3 tablespoons of the buttercream. Repeat with the remaining layers and buttercream, ending with the buttercream. Use the remaining buttercream to spread a thin layer around the sides of the cake. Press the almonds onto the sides. Top with the glazed layer.
  9. Refrigerate, uncovered, until the buttercream is firm and chilled, about 1 hour. To serve, use a thin, sharp knife to cut crosswise into 8 slices. Serve chilled.

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