Coffee, pecan & salted caramel truffle torte

This incredibly indulgent treat is my take on a marvellous cake I ate at a patisserie on holiday ages ago and as soon as I got home I set out to try to recreate its flavours and textures.

I was delighted for my original recipe to be published in Sainsbury’s Magazine (Sept 2014 issue), along with a couple of other dessert creations of mine. It was then re-published in their wonderful Bake magazine (and a lovely surprise that it featured on the front cover):

The recipe below, however, is a slight change to the published recipe in that I have gone for an even lighter, almost moussey ganache. I have also added a slight touch of coffee to the ganache which goes so well with chocolate. It is still a rich cake, so small slices are the order of the day!

I often make this using walnuts instead of the pecans for a coffee and walnut “vibe”. This can also be made gluten-free by replacing the flour in the brownies with gluten-free flour.

Assembling the torte:

Most of the cake can be made in advance so that it is mostly about easy assembly: the brownie base can be made ahead and frozen, the salted caramel will keep in a jar for a few weeks and the chocolate crunch can be kept in an airtight container for a few weeks.

The ganache itself takes moments to make up and any surplus can be covered, put in the fridge and made into divine chocolate truffles: simply take a teaspoon of the ganache and roll gently in cocoa powder before returning to the fridge to firm up!

Finishing it off:

The first few times I made this, I poured over a very simple glaze for a shiny effect and sprinkled over some of the crushed caramelised nuts but with some on my subsequent recreations I have made it without the glaze, instead drizzling over some of the salted caramel and melted dark chocolate, with a shrinking of the crushed caramelised nuts.

Basically, either works equally well: it just depends how over-the-top you want to go…….But small slices, remember!

Coffee, pecan & salted caramel truffle torte (makes about 40 small squares)

Brownie base:

  • 170g unsalted butter
  • 170g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) or a mixture of milk and dark, broken into smallish pieces
  • 80g chopped pecans (or any nuts…or even a mixture!)
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 50g plain white flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 190g golden caster sugar
  • 3 large free-range eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon best quality vanilla extract

Caramelised pecans:

  • 80g caster sugar
  • 50g pecans
  • 20ml water

Coffee essence:

  • 3 teaspoons instant coffee granules dissolved in about 1 teaspoon boiling water

Ganache:

  • 100ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt plus an extra pinch
  • 80g dark chocolate
  • 150g milk chocolate
  • 100ml double cream
  • 4 tablespoons salted caramel such as lightly salted dulce du leche or use a salted caramel recipe
  • 4 teaspoons coffee essence (see above)

Chocolate crisp:

  • 20g milk chocolate, melted
  • 30g cornflakes, well crushed but not powdered
  • a couple of tablespoons of the crushed caramelised pecans

Glaze (optional)

  • 2 tablespoon salted caramel
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 2 tablespoon liquid glucose
  • 2 tablespoons water

To finish:

  • a few of the crushed caramelised pecans
  • a little of the salted caramel sauce to drizzle over
  • a little dark chocolate to drizzle over

You will also need a small rectangular cake tin (approx. 26cm by 18cm), lined with greaseproof to help remove the finished cake out of the tin just before slicing.

For the brownie base:

(1) Preheat the oven to 160C(fan). Melt the butter and 100g of the chocolate together in a small bowl either over a pan of barely simmering water or in short bursts in the microwave (10-15 seconds at a time, wait a little, then repeat: once the butter has heated up and melted, you can stir the chocolate and it will melt quickly).

(2) Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together in a medium bowl. Stir in the sugar. Pour in the melted chocolate mixture, the eggs, nuts and stir to incorporate fully. Stir in the dark chocolate chunks.

(3) Pour into a rectangular tin, lined with greaseproof (I used a 30cm by 20cm tin). Bake for 15-20 minutes: it will have a nice crust but should feel soft underneath. Leave to cool fully in the tin before slicing.

Make the caramelised pecans:

(4) Make up the caramelised pecans: put the sugar with a little water in a small pan (not a non-stick pan ideally) and bring to the boil without stirring. You can gently shake the pan from time to time to help dissolve the sugar, Boil until a deep golden colour is obtained. Add the pecans, stir well and turn onto greaseproof paper or a silicon sheet to cool. Crush roughly. This works equally well with any other nuts.

Make up the chocolate crisp layer:

(5) Mix the ingredients together until well combined. Pour onto greaseproof, spread out and leave to set. Once set, crush well to give “crumbs” of chocolate crisp.

Make the ganache:

(6) Heat the milk in a pan until it comes to the boil. Pour over the chocolate and the salt. Stir until melted. Mix in the salted caramel and most of the coffee essence until you get a smooth glossy ganache. Taste to check the level of coffee flavour: you want a subtle coffer flavour, but you can add more as needed. Leave to cool before whisking the remaining cream until it reaches the soft peak stage and folding it into the ganache.

Assemble:

(7) Spoon a few tablespoons of the ganache over the brownie base and spread thinly – this will act as a glue for the chocolate crisp. With your thumb and forefinger sprinkle over a literal pinch of sea salt: you do need to be sparing here so don’t over-do it. Sprinkle over a couple of tablespoons of the chocolate crisp.

(8) Pour the rest of the ganache over the base. If you have any ganache left over, cover it and chill it: this is excellent made into instant chocolate truffles! Smooth the ganache and leave to set in the fridge for a few hours to set before glazing (if using) or finishing with melted chocolate and salted caramel drizzled over, along with a few crushed caramelised nuts – as the mood takes! Trim the edges before cutting into squares of whatever size you want.

If using a glaze: heat the glaze ingredients gently until melted and smooth. Leave to cool and pour this over the ganache once it has set. Gently tilt the tin so the glaze flattens over the surface: there should be a lovely shine to the glaze. Lift the torte from the tin and cut into squares once the glaze has set.

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