This year, I am celebrating Valentine’s Day with my favourite sweet treat: Nutella. Growing up in an Italian family, Nutella was definitely one of my most favourite treats as a kid. I would have it on about anything: on ice cream, straight out of the jar with a spoon (the best way), with cookies, but mainly spread across warm toast with some fresh sliced strawberries. Yum!
I thought that this Valentine’s day would be a perfect way to bring my childhood favourite treat back into my life, but with an adult twist in my recipe for Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse. While making homemade mousse may seem daunting and complex, there are just a few ingredients involved in this recipe and it is relatively easy if you plan ahead (and maybe if you have an electric mixer). Plus, it turns out wonderfully if you use the freshest and best available ingredients that you can find—which is particularly important in this recipe. But once everything is combined and is light and fluffy, you will have a lush, decadent, chocolatey dessert that is perfect for sharing with your loved one this Valentine’s Day.
Now, I have made mousse a few dozen times in my life and let’s just say that not all of my attempts were successful. Sometimes my mousse was too dense, too sweet, not sweet enough, didn’t set properly…the list goes on. But this recipe is the product of all those years of testing out different recipes for mousse and it is definitely the best one I have made so far!
In my extensive mousse-making experience, I have found that the keys to making a great mousse comes down to: 1) keeping the whipped cream chilled, 2) using fresh, high-quality ingredients, and, 3) having some basic baking skills in your repertoire. Keeping the whipped cream chilled is key to making mousse since it doesn’t tend to deflate as much while you are incorporating it and the rest of the ingredients together. Using fresh ingredients is also a must in this recipe, especially since we are using raw eggs. You definitely do not want to be using old eggs since there is a greater chance that bacteria is present in the eggs, which can make you really sick. That’s so not romantic on Valentine’s Day! So go out and get the freshest ingredients that you can find and you should have no problem with this dessert. Finally, having some basic baking skills, like how to melt chocolate over a double boiler, how to whip egg whites and how to fold in ingredients really helps out with creating a fantastic mousse. If you have these skills, then great- you’re halfway there! But if not, don’t fear! I will walk you through these techniques below!
Again, the ingredients in this recipe are pretty straight forward (eggs, whipping cream, chocolate, butter, Nutella, coffee and sugar) but the process in which you transform and incorporate the ingredients is what makes these everyday ingredients turn into a fluffy chocolate cloud. First, I begin by melting my chocolate (I use Ghirardelli chocolate since it is the best) and butter over a double boiler until the chocolate is fully melted. A double boiler is simply a bowl placed over the mouth of a pot that has about an inch of simmering (not boiling) water in it. The heat from the steam reaches up to the bottom of the bowl, warms it, and thereby melts the chocolate and butter. You want to make sure that your bowl is not touching the water at all, or else the chocolate can burn and your mousse will not taste good at all. Once the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl from the pot and add the Nutella. The Nutella will help the chocolate cool down before we add the rest of our ingredients.
Melting chocolate and butter over a double boiler. Don’t let the water touch the bowl!
While the chocolate is cooling, I go ahead and make my whipped cream. Don’t even think about using the canned stuff— it needs to me made from scratch. I simply take the whipping cream straight from the fridge, add it to a large bowl and whip it up on high speed until “stiff peaks” form. This baking term, “stiff peaks”, refers to the stage at which the whipped cream can hold itself up when the beaters are lifted from the mixture. It shouldn’t droop down at all—that is called a “soft peak” and it won’t hold up the mousse that well. Likewise, you shouldn’t whip the cream too much or else it gets really thick and almost butter-like and clumpy. If your whipped cream gets to this stage, it means you have over-whipped it, which is not good as it will make the mousse lumpy. To avoid this, just simply monitor the whipped cream once you can see that it begins to thicken up and you should be fine! After the whipped cream has reached “stiff peaks” I set the bowl in the fridge to keep cool while we are preparing our other ingredients.
Stiff peaks- as depicted with egg whites
But before moving on, make sure to wash your beaters very well with soap and water and dry them completely. Any trace of fat from the whipped cream in with the egg whites will prevent them from whipping properly in the next step.
Next, I move on to whip my egg whites. The egg whites must be at room temperature or else they will not mix well and must be very fresh! I simply add the egg whites to a large bowl and begin to whip them up on medium-high speed using my electric mixer until they begin to get foamy on top. Once that happens, I drizzle in the sugar and beat the egg whites on high speed until they become opaque white, have quadrupled in size, and are at the “stiff peak” stage- just like the whipped cream. Once my egg whites are at this stage, I set the bowl aside and move back to finish the chocolate mixture.
Finally, I add the cold coffee and egg yolk to the chocolate mixture and mix to combine. You want to wait until the chocolate has cooled down a bit to add the egg yolk, since if it is too hot, it may accidentally cook the egg and you will end up with little chunks of egg in the mixture. Not good for a mousse!
Now let’s get to folding!
Take a scoop of the freshly beaten egg whites and add it into the chocolate mixture. Use a whisk to incorporate it fully until there are not streaks of white. The egg whites will work to lighten up the denser chocolate base, which will make it easier to fold in the egg whites. Next, use a rubber spatula to scoop half of the remaining egg white mixture into the chocolate and fold in the egg whites. “Folding in” refers to a technique used to lightly incorporating two ingredients together. To fold, simply use the edge of the spatula to cut through the centre of the bowl, turn the spatula and lift the mixture up and over itself back to the centre. Rotate the bowl ¼ of a turn and continue to fold in the egg whites until there are a few white streaks left. Next, add in the whipped cream in the same manner, half a bowl at a time until there are no white streaks left. The mixture should be light and airy and should almost fill up your bowl at this point!
In the middle of the folding process. Lots of white streaks but the mixture is still light and airy!
Finally, use an ice-cream scoop or a smaller measuring cup (1/2 to 1/3 cup) to fill your bowls up with mousse. Once all the bowls are filled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Letting the mousse set overnight is best so that it gets firm and airy.
Once your Chocolate-Hazelnut Mousse has set for at least 8 hours, you are ready to serve. Take the chilled mousse from the fridge and top with a dollop of freshly made whipped cream and a few shards of my Chocolate-Hazelnut Bark for decoration (see the recipe for this easy decoration).
Serve right away and enjoy! Happy Valentine’s Day <3