March 23, 2010

Sweet Treat - Coffee-Pecan Torte

Sweet tooth? C'est pas moi. Given a choice between chocolate and cheese, I'll choose cheese every time. And yet...and yet... There is something about a really good, intense sweet treat. Something like this Coffee Pecan Torte, photocopied from a magazine years ago. I've changed the shortening-laden glaze to a rich ganache, and kept the gooey chocolate graham crust and rich mocha layer. No bake, make-ahead and freezable, this is the ultimate easy and delectable dessert that impresses every time.

Coffee Pecan Torte
serves 14 to 16 (Really! Don't be tempted to cut the pieces too big - this cake is rich)

1 c. pecan pieces
1 9" springform pan

Mocha Layer
½ c. butter
½ c. granulated sugar
½ c. sifted cocoa powder
1 tsp instant espresso dissolved in 1 tsp hot water
1 egg
2 c. graham wafer crumbs

Coffee Pecan Layer
½ c. softened butter
2½ c. sifted icing sugar
2 tbsp instant espresso dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
1 tsp vanilla
Pinch salt
Chocolate Ganache Glaze
10 oz bittersweet chocolate
8 oz heavy cream, preferably organic

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Arrange pecans on baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. Cool slightly, chop finely, divide into two ½ cup portions, and set aside.        
2. Prepare pan. (I hate trying to line a springform pan.  The easiest way I know is to open the band, cut a piece of parchment paper slightly bigger than the bottom, place the band back on top and close it.  The paper is usually very taut and easy to trim). Open spring and release bottom of pan.  Grease sides of pan "band" with butter.  Cut a piece of waxed or parchment paper that is slightly bigger than the bottom of the springform pan.  Place the paper on the bottom of the pan, place the band on top and close the latch.  Trim excess paper with scissors.

Mocha Layer                                                                                  
1. In a double boiler, melt butter; stir in sugar, cocoa powder, instant espresso/water mixture and egg.  Cook, whisking constantly, about 1 minute or until mixture is thickened and smooth.

2. Stir in graham wafer crumbs and ½ c. of the chopped pecans. Pack mixture into prepared cake pan. Place in freezer to cool.

Coffee Pecan Layer

1.  In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter until fluffy.  Gradually beat in icing sugar, instant espresso, vanilla, salt and remaining chopped pecans. 

2.  Continue beating until mixture is fluffy and a deep caramel colour.

3.  Spread evenly over cooled mocha layer.  Cover torte tightly and return to freezer for at least one hour.  Cake can be prepared ahead to this point.  Wrap well, and store in freezer for up to one month.

Chocolate Ganache Glaze

1. Break the chocolate into small pieces and grind in a food processor until fine.  Set aside in a small heavy bowl.

2.  Heat the cream until it is just about boiling; be careful not to scorch it.  Pour about three quarters over the chocolate and cover.  After 5 minutes, stir gently until smooth. Once the ganache has cooled slightly, check for consistency. If it's too thick to pour in a gentle stream, add additional cream a bit at a time until the right consistency is reached. 

To assemble:

1.  Remove torte from pan, but leave the cake on the base of the pan.  Line a cookie sheet with waxed or parchment paper.  Place the cake on a raised surface (eg an overturned tray or bowl) to elevate it; place on the tray. 

2.  Pour chocolate ganache evenly over torte, spreading smoothly over top and sides (or not so evenly in my case!).  While ganache is still soft, decorate cake; I used pecan halves.

3.  Once ganache has hardened, cover torte loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Torte can be stored in the freezer for up to one month.  If storing, double wrap tightly.    

4.  For easy slicing and best flavour, let the cake stand at room temperature for one hour before serving.  Use a knife dipped in hot water to cut cake.