Pecans

  (Robert Durell / Los Angeles Times)

 

2 cups chopped pecans

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons water

14 ounces semisweet chocolate

2 tablespoons oil

2 cups whipping cream

Whipped cream, optional

Whole pecan halves, optional

Toffee Sauce

Grind pecans in food processor until fine. Melt butter in saucepan. Add sugar and heat, stirring with wire whisk, to thick smooth paste.

Remove from heat and add water, stirring constantly. Pour syrup over pecans and mix thoroughly. Let cool slightly.

Butter 1 (12-inch) tart pan with removable bottom. Press pecan mixture over bottom and up sides of pan. Bake at 325 degrees 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and let cool at room temperature.

Melt chocolate in top of double boiler. Stir in oil until mixture is smooth and almost liquid.

Whip cream until soft peaks form. Add hot chocolate, folding gently until well blended. Refrigerate 2 hours.

Remove mousse from refrigerator and stir to check mixture is smooth. Spoon into pastry bag and pipe into pecan crust, or spoon evenly into crust. Refrigerate. Before serving, decorate with whipped cream and whole pecan halves. To serve, spoon Toffee Sauce onto bottom of dessert plate and top with tart. Or serve sauce separately. Makes 16 to 20 servings.

Toffee Sauce

1/2 pound unsalted butter

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 cups whipping cream

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and stir frequently until mixture is deep caramel color. (Doesn't matter if butter and sugar separate at this point.)

Remove from heat and slowly add whipping cream, stirring constantly. Strain sauce and let cool. Heat before serving. Makes about 3 1/2 cups sauce.

Note: Mixture will bubble up and release very hot steam when cream is added. Use whisk with long handle or wear oven mitt.