1. Preheat the oven to 190˚C, gas mark 5; line 3 baking sheets with baking parchment and draw a 23cm-diameter circle on each piece of parchment using a cake tin as a guide. Tip the hazelnuts onto a small baking tray and the caster sugar onto another and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Toast the hazelnuts for about 4 minutes, until lightly golden, and the sugar for 5 minutes, until hot to the touch. Finely chop the hazelnuts and leave to cool.
2. Meanwhile, tip the egg whites and a pinch of salt into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fi tted with a whisk attachment, whisking until they will almost hold a stiff peak. Quickly and carefully tip the hot caster sugar into the beaten egg whites in one go; whisk for 1 minute, then scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the coffee and continue to whisk on a fast speed for about 3 minutes, until the meringue is stiff and glossy, and the hot sugar has dissolved.
3. Gradually add the brown sugar, a spoonful at a time, whisking constantly and scraping down the bowl with the rubber spatula to ensure everything is thoroughly combined. Continue to whisk on full speed for a further 2 minutes, until the sugar is fully incorporated and the meringue has cooled. It should be silky smooth. If the sugar hasn’t completely dissolved, mix for another minute or so.
4. Lower the oven temperature to 110ºC, gas mark ¼ - ½. Divide the meringue evenly between the 3 baking sheets and spread into 23cm discs using a palette knife; sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over each disc. Bake, swapping the trays from top to bottom halfway through cooking, for 1 hour 15 minutes- 1 hour 30 minutes, until crisp. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues inside for 45 minutes to cool.
5. While the meringues are cooling, prepare the filling. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, or in short bursts in the microwave. Stir until smooth and set aside to cool slightly.
6. Put the egg yolks in a medium-sized, heatproof glass or ceramic bowl and set aside. Tip the sugar and 3 tbsp water into a small saucepan and set over a low heat to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 seconds to thicken slightly. Add the coffee (or coffee liqueur), then pour the syrup over the egg yolks, whisking constantly until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water (the bottom shouldn’t be touching the water). Whisk for 2-3 minutes, until pale and thickened.
7. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk for a further 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is cool and the consistency of softly whipped cream. Add the melted chocolate and stir gently until smooth, then add 100ml double cream and mix gently to combine.
8. Whip the remaining 500ml double cream to soft peaks. Place one of the meringue discs onto a serving plate or cake stand and spread with ½ the chocolate cream. Top with ½ the whipped cream. Spread the second meringue with the remaining chocolate cream, followed by the remaining whipped double cream and gently place on top of the first meringue. Top with the final meringue and sprinkle with roughly chopped candied hazelnuts, if liked (see recipe, below). Dust with cocoa just before serving.
How to make candied hazelnuts
This meringue looks great decorated with candied hazelnuts. To make, tip 50g caster sugar into a small, heavy-based pan with 1 tbsp water and set over a low heat, until the sugar has dissolved.
Bring to the boil and cook for about 1-2 minutes, until the syrup turns amber. Add 50g whole toasted blanched hazelnuts, ½ tsp unsalted butter and a pinch of salt.
Stir to coat the hazelnuts in caramel and quickly tip out onto a sheet of baking parchment, trying to separate the hazelnuts as much as possible.
Leave to cool and harden, then chill for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt 50g dark chocolate and leave to cool slightly. Tip the nuts into the chocolate; stir to coat. Using a fork, transfer them to a parchment-lined baking tray and leave to set.
Make the meringue layers a day in advance and store them between layers of baking parchment in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Our thanks to Waitrose for providing this recipe. For more festive recipes see Waitrose.com/Christmas
Visit our dessert section for more delicious pudding ideas