I used to subscribe to a lot of weekly emails from life coaches, wellness gurus, motivational speakers and the like. I found some of the tidbits they offered lightly inspirational on a good day, but on a bad one…ooof. the pitches that involved a $1500++ investment disgusted me when I thought of all the decent people just trying to take control of the inevitably volatile parts of life. I removed myself from those lists a while ago because I’ve realized that in terms of age and personal progression, if you’re trying hard enough and your mind is right, everything is relentless forward and upward motion. But more importantly, and in a more everyday sense, the spaces/tones of feeling, commitments, the places we go… it’s all pretty circular.
I turned 29 yesterday and it’s true that the layers of our human existence become more defined as time rolls on. Bits of the past inform us in the here + now, and we grow or lie still in the ways we push or allow ourselves to. Our minds and postures shift as we learn and do more. The spots where we stall, deliberately or by accident, help us to be here now in a more defined way too I think.
I used to have this thing where I thought it might be advantageous, in some way, to get my nails done, wear some eyeliner, or to get a professional haircut for once. There’s a whole aura around grooming and personal maintenance that screams of having one’s shit together, right? I’d get a couple days off and and just when I had psyched myself up enough to call a salon or whatever, I’d see a little patch of redness on my hand from a burn or any number of calluses, scratches, deep wrinkles and rough spots. I enjoy working my ass off and eventually realized that reminders of that, in whatever form, were more important. Having the privilege to plug away at something that was meaningful enough was every indication that I had my shit together.
So there’s that, and the billion other ways of realization and growth. And there’s also cake because what would a birthday be without it? Pretty sure I’m taking liberties with the designation of “torte” here, but whatever. I’m pretty jazzed on chocolate and hazelnut together in almost anything, so I started with an incredibly dense brownie base and layered it up from there with a hazelnut mousse-ish cream and coconut whip. The date caramel has a tiny pinch of tang from some fresh lemon and I find it really makes all the flavours work together instead of the whole thing just being this overly rich experience. A hearty pile of toasty chopped hazelnuts on top and all’s good. Really, really good.
chocolate hazelnut torte w/ salty date caramel + coconut cream
serves: makes one 9 inch torte/cake
notes: I give the mousse + brownie/cake base a full 24 hour wrap-and-chill time. I figured the longer the setting time, the less possibility of heartbreak from a runny mousse or too-warm-in-the-middle cake. Also, I know that certain brands of coconut milk tend to be better than others for forming solid layers of cream at the top–this one has been consistently good for me.
chocolate brownie/cake base ingredients:
1 1/2 tbsp ground chia seeds + 1/4 cup water
3/4 cup almond meal/flour
3/4 cup hazelnut meal/flour (you could do another 3/4 cup almond meal if you don’t have hazelnut)
3/4 cup GF oat flour
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup maple sugar (or natural cane sugar)
1/4 cup coconut or almond milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips
hazelnut mousse ingredients:
1/2 cup toasted + skinned hazelnuts
1 400 ml can of full fat coconut milk, stirred
1 (scant) cup cashew butter (raw or roasted)
1/4 cup maple syrup
pinch of fine sea salt
2 tsp fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup melted coconut oil
salty date caramel ingredients:
7-8 soft pitted dates + boiling water to cover
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
fat pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
big splash of coconut or almond milk
coconut whipped cream (1/2 of this recipe)
chopped toasted hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan with coconut oil and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the chia seeds + 1/4 cup water. Stir and set aside so that it can all gel together.
In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, hazelnut meal, oat flour, arrowroot powder, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and to that add the maple sugar, coconut milk and vanilla extract. Add the chia gel to the bowl as well. Don’t stir it yet. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil. Melt the two while you stir constantly to avoid burning the chocolate. Once it’s all melted and smooth, add it to the dry + wet ingredients. Stir it all together until you have a stiff and unified batter.
Press the batter evenly into the prepared springform pan. Place the pan on top of a cookie sheet and slide it into the oven. Bake for 30-33 minutes or until the top is firm. Remove and allow to cool completely. At this point I wrap the cake tightly in cling film and place it in the fridge to totally set overnight.
Make the hazelnut mousse: soak the toasted + skinned hazelnuts in the coconut milk for about 20 minutes–just to soften them slightly and to perfume the milk a bit. Once they’re ready, pour the whole mess of it into your blender or food processor. Add all of the other ingredients to the blender pitcher/food processor bowl as well. Blend/process until you have a very smooth mixture. Scrape the runny mixture into a bowl and cover it with cling film, pressing the film onto the surface of the mousse/liquid. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until the mousse has firmed up considerably, preferably overnight.
Make the date caramel: soak the dates in the hot water for about 15 minutes, drain them (reserving the soaking water) and place them into your blender/food processor. Add the lemon juice, salt, vanilla, and coconut milk. Blend this up a bit just to break everything up. Add reserved date soaking water as needed and blend the mixture again until you have a runny, caramel-like consistency. Scrape into a jar and seal with a lid until you’re ready to use it.
Assemble the torte: place the brownie/cake base on your serving plate. Whisk the hazelnut mousse up a bit and scoop it onto the cake base, smoothing it out or fluffing it up however you like. Top the torte with coconut cream, date caramel, toasted chopped hazelnuts etc and serve immediately. Leftover torte can be covered and kept in the fridge for a couple days.