This chocolate pecan caramel torte recipe is made with chocolate, caramel, and pecans and topped with pears and a caramel sauce.
The late Elaine Sherman, founder of Les Dames Chicago and known as Madame Chocolate by her colleagues, used her culinary skills to teach cooking in people’s homes and to introduce them to fine chocolate and quality cookware. This recipe is adapted from her 1984 cookbook, Madame Chocolate’s Book of Divine Indulgences. A quote from Elaine typifies her devotion to this ingredient: “Chocolate is heavenly, mellow, sensual, deep, dark, sumptuous, gratifying, potent, dense, creamy, seductive, suggestive, rich, excessive, silky, smooth, luxurious, celestial. Chocolate is downfall, happiness, pleasure, love, ecstasy, fantasy…chocolate makes us wicked, guilty, sinful, healthy, chic, happy.”–Les Dames d’Escoffier Chicago
LC EATING TOUR EMOTIONS NOTE
Uh, we respectfully differ from Elaine, er, Madame Chocolate on a couple critical words in her above musings over chocolate. Excessive? Downfall? Guilty? Sinful? Please. These words aren’t in our food vocabulary. Now “wicked” we understand. This is one of those recipes that oughtta come with the kitchen equivalent of “Explicit Lyrics.” Wowsa, is this chocolate pecan caramel torte wicked!
Chocolate Caramel Torte
For the crust
- 8 1/2 ounces chocolate wafer cookies
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter melted
For the chocolate mousse
- One 16-ounce package bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
- 4 large egg yolks
- 6 tablespoons strongly brewed coffee
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter cut into pieces
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 6 large egg whites
- 4 teaspoons warm water
For the pecan-caramel layer
- 2 cups (8 ounces) pecans coarsely chopped
- 2 cups packed light brown sugar
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 to 2/3 cup heavy cream divided
- 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) pecan halves
Make the crust
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with foil and spray the pan with vegetable cooking spray.
- Process the wafer cookies and sugar in a food processor until fine crumbs form. With the machine running, drizzle the melted butter through the food tube. Scrape the sides of the bowl and process an additional 5 seconds. Dump the crumb mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan and spread it into an even layer. Refrigerate for 5 minutes and then bake for 5 minutes. Let the crust cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
Make the chocolate mousse
- Place half the chocolate in the dry bowl of a food processor. With the machine running, add the remaining chocolate through the food tube and process until the chocolate is ground to small beads. Add the egg yolks and process until blended, about 5 seconds.
- Heat the coffee, butter, and sugar in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is simmering. With the processor running, pour the hot coffee mixture through the food tube. Stop the machine to scrape the sides and process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.
- Combine the egg whites and water in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until the whites are whipped to firm peaks. With a large spatula, fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and refrigerate until almost set, about 30 minutes.
Make the pecan-caramel layer
- Place the chopped pecans in a bowl. Heat the brown sugar, butter, and salt in a small heavy saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Add 1/2 cup cream. Heat to a boil and simmer until the caramel thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Pour half the caramel over the chopped pecans and immediately mix to coat the pecans and then scrape them in an even layer over the crumb crust. Refrigerate until the caramel sets. Reserve the remaining caramel in the saucepan.
- Spoon the chocolate mousse over the caramel layer; smooth the top. Refrigerate for several hours, until firmly set.
- To finish, arrange the pecan halves in a decorative pattern over the top of the mousse. Reheat the reserved caramel over low heat, adding the remaining cream to thin, if necessary. Cool the caramel slightly, then pour evenly on top. (Use a pastry brush, if necessary, to spread the caramel.) Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. Remove the cake from the pan and place on a serving dish. To serve, cut with a hot knife. (The torte freezes beautifully when wrapped well with plastic wrap and foil. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator prior to slicing and serving.)
Originally published October 21, 2007