Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse
I’ve never thought of mousse as particularly Mediterranean. Sure – to me it invokes “fancy French” but not the casual French’s of the Mediterranean coast.
But then I remember when I was a kid. We used go to this Italian bakery (Funicelli’s) in my home town. They didn’t always have them, but on special occasions they made a treat the called Tazza. Now Tazza was a small bowl made from chocolate and filled with a delicious chocolate mousse. I didn’t know it was called mousse then, I just knew I loved it. The fluffy creamy chocolate was such a delight
Whenever Funicelli’s had them – Christmas, Easter, a couple more times during the year – I would beg my parents to get me one. They usually relented and it was heaven for an eight year old. Tazza’s occasionally popped up at weddings and other family events (on my mothers side). I would always grab one then too.
Funicelli’s is long gone. They closed sometime while I was in college. So is d’Amici’s – the Italian bakery we used after Funicelli’s closed. D’Amici;s had tazzas too – and I still got one whenever I had the chance. But now there are no Italian bakeries left in my home town. Not all change is good.
Making My Own
Looking back I wonder when I began associating mousse with fancy French. My Italian family – mostly from Naples and Sicily – considered mousse a “special occasion” treat. And although the Tazza of my is just a memory, I still consider mousse a special treat.
What I have always associated with my Italian heritage is the combination of chocolate and hazelnut. This combination is one of my personal favorites. It makes frequent appearance in my choice of desserts. Although the Elegant Baker always goes for pistachio gelato, I always choose chocolate hazelnut. You’ll always find a jar of Nutella in my pantry. My chocolate hazelnut biscotti is a holiday staple.
So it is no surprise that when I learned how to make mousse, I quickly turned to working out a chocolate hazelnut version. There are many versions to be found on the internet. Some are easier than others and some are more difficult.
I’ll share the one that I’ve pieced together form many others. It is my go to version and has made appearances in cake fillings, trifles, pie fillings, petit fours, and just plain bowls of mousse.
Let’s get to Valentine’s Day. Does it qualify as a special occasion? Check! Do chocolate and Valentine’s Day go together? Check! Would this be a great opportunity to make chocolate hazelnut mousse? Absolutely check!!
Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse is Simple & Elegant, but NOT Lite!
Chocolate hazelnut mousse is deceptively simple to make. Yes, it’s easier if you have an electric mixer of some sort. But even without one you can make this by hand. This mousse skips the eggs and gelatin that you sometimes find in classic recipes. And yet it is still quite elegant!
It is not,however, a “lite” dessert, which is why you should save it for special occasions. It uses a chocolate whipped cream (!) and a creamy Nutella and mascarpone blend. You make the two parts individually then gently fold them together for your final chocolate hazelnut mousse.
To help ensure success, it is important that you keep everything cold throughout the process. Bowls, whisks, cream, mascarpone. The only thing to keep room temperature is the Nutella (until its whisked into the mascarpone). I put my work bowls and whisks (I do use two, but you don’t have to) in the freezer about 15 minutes before I start working.
Let’s start with the Nutella blend. This is of course the basis of the chocolate hazelnut flavor comes from. But I whip it up with some mascarpone cheese to make it creamier.
Mascarpone is an Italian style cream cheese that is similar to but different from American cream cheeses. It is made from all cream and has a higher fat content than American cream cheese . This makes it richer and creamy blend when mixed with the Nutella
If you can’t find mascarpone, you can substitute regular cream cheese. I wouldn’t use a whipped cheese- the volumes would be wrong since they already have a lot of air added to them. I also wouldn’t use a light cream cheese. In my experience it doesn’t whip as well because of the lighter fat content. I told you this wasn’t a “light” dessert
Making the Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse
Put the Nutella and mascarpone in a large bowl for mixing. I add a tablespoon of hazelnut liquor – Frangelico – but if would rather use vanilla that’s OK too. The liquid is important to loosen up these two creams to whip easily. Use a whisk and run on high speed until fully combined and light and airy.
Move the bowl with the Nutella mix to the refrigerator, and start on the chocolate whipped cream. Using your second chilled bowl, add the cream and begin whisking slowly at first. The cream will start to slightly thicken, and when it does, you can increase your speed without risk. Starting at full speed is a sure way to give everything in the vicinity a cream shower.
After a few minutes, it will begin to become an airy semi solid. At this point, look for ’soft peaks’ in the cream. When you pull the whisk from the cream, a small peak of cream comes with it. But it doesn’t much hold its shape – it is just round and formless. This is a ‘soft peak’. At this point I add cocoa powder and confectionary sugar. Beat on a medium high speed until the whipped cream is a uniform chocolatey color and thickens up a bit more.
Now is time to combine the chocolate whipped cream with the Nutella mix. Put the Nutella bowl back on the mixer. Using a large rubber spatula, transfer about a quarter of the whipped cream to the Nutella mix. Turn the mixer on to a medium low speed (I go one notch above the lowest speed). Whisk the whipped cream into the Nutella mix until uniformly combined. This lightens up the Nutella mix so it will combine more easily with the rest of the whipped cream to make mousse.
Folding to Finish
At this point, you can put the mixer away — everything after this is done by hand. Transfer one spatula full at a time of the whipped cream into the Nutella bowl – which is becoming mousse. Then gently fold it into the mousse until fully incorporated. Keep repeating this process until all the whipped cream becomes part of the mousse.
It is important to know that “Folding” is not “Stirring”. In fact you want slow, gently motions at this time to keep the mousse from deflating. “Folding” means carefully slipping your spatula to the bottom of the bowl and gently lifting. Then turn what you lift over the top. As you keep working around the bowl, the mixture will begin to fold in on itself, and combine. Carefully keep folding until the mixture becomes a uniform color. At that point, add a fresh spatula full of whipped cream.
I promise you it sounds harder than it is. The entire process took me about 15 minutes. From the first mixing of the Nutella and mascarpone until the last bit of folding. When done, chill the mousse for several hours before serving.
Every time that I make the chocolate hazelnut mousse, I am transported back to my younger days. Makes me wistful for the simple joy of it all. Even though the mousse of my youth didn’t include hazelnut flavors, my modern adaptation still brings me back.
So when you are looking for a dessert that looks elegant but is easy to prepare, give chocolate hazelnut mousse a try. Valentin’s Day seems to make a great exuse to try this for the first time. And once you’ve done it, you’ll be surprised at all the ways you will think of to give you an excuse to make it again!
Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse
- 8 oz Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread
- 8 oz mascarpone cheese
- 1 TBS hazelnut liquor or vanilla
- 1 cup heavy/whipping cream
- 3 TBS dutch processed cocoa powder
- 3 TBS confectionary sugar
- 2 TBS chopped hazelnuts optional
- Shaved chocolate optional
- In large bowl, combine Nutella, mascarpone and hazelnut liquor
- Whisk at high speed until fully combined and fluffy
- Place in refrigerator to chill while making whipped cream
- Put heavy cream in a separate bowl and start whisking on low speed until it just begins to set
- Increase speed to medium high until soft peaks begin to form
- Add cocoa powder and confectionary sugar and whisk on low at low speed until just combined
- Increase speed to high and beat until cream just holds firm peaks.
- Return Nutella mascarpone mixture to the mixer. Add about one quarter of the whipped cream to the Nutella mascarpone mixture and whisk to lighten
- Fold in remaining whipped cream until well combined.
- Place in serving cups and top with chopped hazelnuts and/or shaved chocolate if desired