Are you looking for a decadent Valentine’s Day treat? Look no further…
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 chocolates 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.”
For the crust
8 1/2 ounces chocolate wafer cookies
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the chocolate mousse
1 (16 ounce) package bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons strong brewed coffee
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 larage egg whites
4 teaspoons warm water
For the pecan-caramel layer
2 cups (8 ounces) pecans, coarsely chopped
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1/2 to 2/3 cup heavy (whipping) cream, divided
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) pecan halves
Make the crust
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan with foil; spray the pan with vegetable cooking spray. Process the wafer cookies and sugar in a food processor to fine crumbs. With the machine running, drizzle melted butter through the food tube. Scrape the sides of the bowl and process an additional 5 seconds.
2. Place the crumb mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Chill 5 minutes and then bake 5 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Make the chocolate mousse
1. Place half of the chocolate into 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 5 seconds or until blended.
2. 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.
3. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Combine the egg whites and water in bowl of 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
1. Put the chopped pecans into a bowl. Heat the brown sugar, butter, and salt in a small heavy saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Add 1/2 cup of the cream. Heat to boil and simmer until the caramel thickens enough to coat the back of spoon, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour half of the caramel over the chopped pecans; mix and then immediately pour over the crumb crust. Refrigerate until the caramel sets. (Reserve the remaining caramel in the saucepan.)
2. Spoon the chocolate mousse over the caramel layer; smooth the top. Refrigerate for several hours, until firmly set.
1. 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, the pour evenly on top. (Use pastry brush, if necessary, to spread the caramel.) Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
2. Remove the cake from the pan and place on a serving dish. To serve, cut with a hot knife.
Note: Torte freezes beautifully, well wrapped. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator.