Recipe 10 of 61: Japonais aux noisettes et à l’orange

Hazelnut and orange japonais ♥︎. Two flavors I’ve surprisingly never put together that are phenomenal together. I totally plan on making macarons or cupcakes with them soon. Definitely heaven in a bite. Crunchy meringue and toasted hazelnuts on the outside, with decadent hazelnut mousseline and orange marmalade on the inside that taste phenomenal after they’ve been in the fridge overnight, flavors melding together. So so good. Also, if you’ve never made hazelnut praline paste, what the heck are you doing??? Hazelnut praline paste that is used in this recipe for the mousseline is God’s gift to man. It’s the texture of peanut butter but made with caramelized hazelnuts and sugar and it. is. the. BEST. Any recipe I’ve ever made with hazelnut praline paste I have absolutely loved.

Hazelnut and Orange Japonais

Difficulty: 2/5 It’s a little time consuming, but overall is incredibly simple to make

Taste: 4/5

Time it took me: A little under 4 hours, over the course of 3 days***

*Day 1 took 45 minutes to make orange marmalade which has to be made a day in advance

*Day 2 took 1/2 an hour to make pastry cream and 2 hours to make hazelnut praline paste

*Day 3 took 5 minutes to make hazelnut mousseline, 1/2 hour to make the japonais disks and bake them and then 10 minutes to put it all together

***I could have finished this recipe in only 2 days; however, I got sucked into the K-Drama “Crash Landing on You”, and watched 15 episodes in 24 hours 🤣 Keep in mind each episode is about 1 hour and 20 minutes…it was a much needed day of rest lol.

Japonais (pronounced zha-po-nay. Say the “zha” like the ja in the song frére jacques, you know, the French nursery rhyme?). Now. Who has ever heard of Japonais? Not me! Anytime I make a new dessert I’ve never heard of, I always look it up online to see if I can find out any more details about it or photos besides what the recipe shows. Well, call me crazy, but I had the hardest time finding anything about Japonais! If you look up Japonais, you will get nothing but the French to English translation, which is “Japanese”, as well as information about a restaurant called Japonais that closed a while ago…not super helpful. Japonais is a French dessert, so that got me all sorts of confused. It’s only when I looked it up as “Japonais dessert” that any information popped up. Granted, it was only a few sites, but it was something!

I found one specific site called ChefTalk where back in 2004 a pastry student asked about the history of the word Japonais because none of his teachers could apparently explain the history, and someone responded that even when he graduated in 1986, it was not discussed. I guess I’m confused, but why does no one seem to know? I can’t be the only one that likes understanding what I make, and the word came from somewhere! The response said japonaise is an umbrella term for nut meringues but also refers to a Japanese culinary influence. He then added a link to a discussion board all about Japonaise, which, sadly, wasn’t a secure site, so I couldn’t go further.

There’s a lot more information regarding dacquoise (pronounced dah-kwaze), and a lot of discussion about whether certain desserts are considered japonais or dacquoise. From my understanding, dacquoise is made up of two layers of meringue with a filling between the two; however, japonais is a meringue made from nuts and sounds like it might have a lower ratio of sugar to egg whites, but other than that, it’s the same? Jacquy said that dacquoise is the best known type of meringue but that dacquoise is usually softer than japonais, more like a sponge.

There’s too many contradictory sites. King Arthur Flour calls it dacquoise, but their recipe calls for hazelnut flour in the meringue. Jacquy, if you ever read my blog, maybe you can help me understand this as it seems to be a very poorly discussed topic, and where it is being discussed, no one knows the answer. Is the only difference truly that dacquoise is softer? Have I confused everyone yet? Is anyone still reading lol? This could be a lot simpler if someone demystified it.

Luckily, the recipe for Jacquy’s japonais is incredibly simple. Let’s move on.

Day 1 is super easy as the only thing needing to be made is orange marmalade. All you need is an orange, water, sea salt, and less than a cup of sugar. After washing the orange to remove any chemicals, you boil it for 2 minutes, clean it again, then add it to fresh boiling water and sea salt and boil for the remaining 10 minutes. This made a mess on my stove haha! My orange was too tall for my 8-qt pan but I didn’t want to use anything larger because otherwise I’d have to add more salt, so I dealt with a small pan that splashed water all over the stove.

After 10 minutes, the orange is cut into 1-inch chunks, then placed into a food processor with sugar and pulsed until the orange pieces are small enough to be piped through a 1/4-inch tip.

It is then placed back on the stove and boiled for 3 minutes, then placed into the fridge covered with plastic wrap overnight.

Done ✓

Day 2 for me included making the pastry cream and the hazelnut praline paste. Hazelnut praline paste is made with hazelnuts, vanilla bean, water, sugar, and cocoa butter.

I made a mistake here. I accidentally made just caramelized hazelnuts, not the recipe for hazelnut praline paste. I noticed just as I was about to grind up the nuts that I hadn’t added enough sugar. So lucky you, you get to see the difference between caramelized hazelnuts and hazelnut praline paste :).

Put simply, the vanilla bean, sugar, and water are boiled into a clear syrup, then hazelnuts that have been warmed in the microwave are added and stirred until the syrup starts to crystallize around the nuts. When that happens, the temp is lowered and the nuts are mixed continuously but slowly for about 4-6 minutes, until the hazelnuts are toasted.

As you can see, the bottom photos are visibly covered with more sugar. That’s because hazelnut praline paste has about three times the amount of sugar than just regular caramelized hazelnuts! I’m so glad I realized my mistake!

Cocoa butter is added quickly and stirred, then the caramelized hazelnuts are placed on a silpat to cool.

Just look at the difference! Obviously the ones on the right are the ones with triple the amount of sugar.

The hazelnuts are then added to a food processor and blended for around 3 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom at every minute. This is hazelnut praline paste.

Again, the difference between just caramelized hazelnuts and when you make it into paste is the sugar content. The paste contains almost 3x the amount of sugar, and it. is. the. BEST.

Day 3 was super simple as well. It started out by toasting some hazelnuts that go on top of the japonais.

Next, powdered sugar, all-purpose flour and hazelnut flour are sifted together. Now, I’m a relatively cheap person, so I used Jacquy’s $50 tip and made my own hazelnut flour instead of spending $15 on a bag. Super simple: hazelnut flour is literally whole hazelnuts put into the food processor until ground. Jacquy recommends adding the powdered sugar to the hazelnuts while grinding, and then pulsing the flour for 1 second with it so no sifting is required.

Two 8-inch circles are then drawn onto parchment paper. My parchment paper wasn’t quite long enough, so you can see I had to tape a little extra piece to the side 🙂.

The next step is making the japonais disks, or the meringue. Egg whites, cream of tartar and salt are whisked together, then sugar is added until you get stiff peaks. At this point, the egg mixture and the dry ingredients are folded gently together, then scraped into a pastry bag.

Piping the disks is super simple. You start in the middle of the drawn circle and go outwards, piping a tight spiral. I just ran out of the meringue at the very end, so my disk to be used on the bottom was slightly smaller than the top. You can see that I just missed getting to the outer circle on the far back disk.

The toasted hazelnuts are sprinkled on top of one of the spirals, then powdered sugar is dusted on both.

Wait 5 minutes, then dusted again. Now, they go in the oven, about 35 minutes, until golden brown 🙂

Filling the japonais was where it went downhill for me.

I easily smoothed the orange marmalade over the first meringue, then piped the hazelnut mousseline on top. It looked so pretty.

Seriously, so pretty. I love piping ♥︎

Then disaster hit. I placed the last japonais disk on top. Jacquy said to Press down GENTLY, and I 100% did not do that. I lost all of my beautifully piped hazelnut mousseline, completely smearing it into blobs. UGH!!!

Womp womp. Such an embarrassment compared to what Jacquy’s looked like.

Oh well. I dusted the top with powdered sugar again, then placed it in the fridge overnight.

Tim surprisingly loved this. When I said it failed the night before and then showed him the next day, he couldn’t see what I meant. I think that’s where my perfectionism comes in. Jacquy has the most beautiful photo of his japonais in his book, and the mousseline is piped in perfect circles. I had that, and lost it when I accidentally squashed the meringue too hard.

Luckily, the only part where the piping was “important” was the outer-rim. The inside automatically gets kind of squashed together and doesn’t really matter as much what it looks like. So…as long as you don’t look on the outside, it’s perfect 🤣 Taste-wise, it was fantastic. The orange balanced out the sweetness of the mousseline and meringue, and the crunchy toasted hazelnuts on top are so yummy. I can’t explain how well orange and hazelnut go together!

Sooo…would I make this again? Maybe? It’s super easy to make and even though it has quite a few ingredients, it doesn’t break the bank. I think it’d be fun to try different flavors, like strawberry jam with vanilla bean mousseline? That sounds divine. Apparently it can be frozen for a month too, although you’re not supposed to freeze pastry cream, so I don’t know if I’d do that. I kept this in the fridge for 3 days, and it was still good.

Did I learn anything? Yes. Read the directions and do exactly what it says. Gently press down. I also learned how to make hazelnut flour, which will definitely save me money in the future!

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