Allow egg whites to stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Draw 8 (3-inch) circles on each paper; turn paper over (circles will show through) and set aside. Preheat oven to 300 degree F.
In medium mixing bowl combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add granulated and powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight) and sugar is almost dissolved. Fold in ground hazelnuts.
Evenly spread meringue mixture over each circle drawn on paper. Place meringues in preheated oven; turn off oven. Let meringues stand in oven 1 hour. Remove from oven. Transfer meringues to wire rack to cool. When completely cool, place meringues in covered container. Store at room temperature up to 3 days.
To assemble, spread half of meringues with Pastry Cream. Top with remaining meringues. Pipe or dollop each with Brandy Whipped Cream and top with White Chocolate-Dipped Hazelnuts. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.
In heavy medium saucepan stir together sugar, all-purpose flour, and salt. Gradually stir in half-and-half or light cream. Add vanilla bean, split lengthwise. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 1 minute more. Very gradually stir about half of hot mixture into egg yolks. Return egg yolk mixture to saucepan. Bring to gentle boil; reduce heat. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Remove from heat. Remove and discard vanilla bean. (If desired, vanilla can be stirred in at this point to substitute for vanilla bean.) Cover with plastic wrap. To keep scum from forming, make sure plastic wrap lies directly on surface of mixture. Cool slightly, or chill in refrigerator until serving time. (Do not stir.) Makes 1 cup.
White Chocolate-Dipped Hazelnuts
In small saucepan, melt white chocolate with shortening. Dip hazelnuts in white chocolate mixture to coat. Place on waxed paper-lined baking sheet. Chill until set. Place in covered container to store. Store in refrigerator or freeze. Makes about 24.
Brandy Whipped Cream
Chill mixing bowl and beaters of electric mixer in refrigerator. In chilled bowl combine whipping cream, powdered sugar, Armagnac, cognac, or Calvados, and vanilla. Beat with chilled beaters on low speed until soft peaks form. Makes 2 cups.