Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse

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Back when I followed the recipe for a chocolate and nutella spread that was supposedly “better than Nutella,” I made three suggestions for utilizing the spread. One was to mix it with whipped cream and create a chocolate hazelnut mousse.

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So that’s just what I did. I’ve actually done it with real Nutella. It takes a little coaxing, but eventually the whipped cream and Nutella will blend into a wonderful mousse-like texture.

It’s so easy. The most important thing is to warm the Nutella to room temperature first.

Pour 2 cups of whipping cream into a large bowl. Whip the cream, using an electric mixer, until stiff peaks form.

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Place about 6 ounces of the chocolate-hazelnut spread in a large bowl.

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Add a few tablespoons of the whipped cream, and gently beat the two together until the spread softens.

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Then gently fold the remaining whipped cream in to the Nutella, taking your time.

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Save about 4 tablespoons of whipped cream for a topping, if desired.

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Place in 4 serving glasses.

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If you don’t mind deflating the mousse a bit, you can use your electric mixer to get a smoother blend.

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The mousse can be served immediately; it doesn’t require chilling.

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Serve with a dollop of the extra whipped cream, or marscapone or creme fraiche.

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Chocolate curls would be pretty too!

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Even though it was the middle of the afternoon, I enjoyed my mousse with a glass of sherry!

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Enjoy!

Better than Nutella?

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Many years go I purchased a Vitamix, Professional Series 300. Having gone through various brands of blenders, I was excited to finally get one with a strong reputation.
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I also purchased a smaller blender jar for dry ingredients. I’d always thought it would be fun as well as economical to make nut butters. But have I? No.

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While on a road trip in November, I read many food magazines (doesn’t everyone?) and came across this recipe. Chocolate hazelnut spread that is better than nutella. Nutella is pretty darn good, but home-made is always better of course. So I knew this would be the recipe to christen that dry blender jar.

I used my cell phone to photograph the recipe and unfortunately do not remember from which magazine this recipe came, but I did find it on Epicurious.com.

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Here’s what I did to make the “real” Nutella, based on the above ingredients; my verdict below.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, or Gianduja

2 cups (heaping) hazelnuts, preferably skinned (about 10 ounces)
1/4 cup sugar
1 pound semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1″ pieces, room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Toast the hazelnuts on the stove in a cast iron skillet. Let cool.

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Grind hazelnuts and sugar in a food processor until a fairly smooth, buttery paste forms, about 1 minute.

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Combine the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. Melt slowly and stir until smooth and shiny.

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So here’s the deal – my hazelnuts and sugar never formed a “buttery paste” like they were supposed to. So I added all of the cream to the blender. You can see from the photo, the blender was working hard to combine the hazelnut mixture with the cream.

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The resulting mixture was stiff and thick, but smooth and not gritty.

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The recipe says to “whisk in cream and salt, then hazelnut paste.” Since my hazelnut paste already contained the cream, I simply folded the hazelnut mixture into the chocolate, gradually, stirring well.

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Pour gianduja into four clean 8 ounce jars, dividing equally. Let cool.

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Gianduja can be made up to 4 weeks ahead; keep chilled.

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Let stand at room temperature for 4 hours to soften. Can stand at room temperature up to 4 days.

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If you don’t know what to do with chocolate hazelnut spread besides eat it with a spoon, I’ve got a few suggestions:

1. Spread in warm crepes, roll and eat.

2. Thin with cream and serve drizzled over a fresh-out-of-the-oven Dutch Baby or Crespella.

3. Fold gently with beaten whipped cream for an instant mousse.

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For a treat, I spread some chocolate-hazelnut spread on buttered toast.

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verdict: I’m befuddled as to why my hazelnuts didn’t grind into a hazelnut butter. Secondly, the recipe claims that the nutella will thicken; mine was already really thick, and definitely not “pourable.” My husband said that the spread reminded him of cupcake batter, which I think is an excellent comparison. Also, I would suggest 12 ounces of chocolate instead of 16 ounces, or use bittersweet chocolate instead of semi-sweet. It was too chocolatey for me.

So is this stuff good? Yes, but I will tweak the recipe next time.

Chocolate Cashew Truffle Balls

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There is really no great name for these little treats, because they’re a cross between truffles and rum balls. So I call them truffle balls. I love to make up recipes for these bite-sized treats because just about everything works. Real chocolate truffles aren’t difficult to make, but they’re more delicate in nature. These “balls” are sturdier, with a cookie crumb base, mixed with chocolate and spices and sometimes rum or other liqueurs.

I posted on one such rum ball, namely ginger spice truffles, made with a base of gingersnap cookies, spiced with cinnamon and ginger. I created that recipe for a holiday charity event many years ago, because the ingredients are inexpensive, but the individual truffle balls are great for serving hundreds of people. But it’s really easy to only make a couple of dozen truffle balls, too.

For a dinner party, something like truffle balls are a generous treat with espresso or sherry, without being an overbearing dessert like a huge slice of cake that one feels obligated to eat.

At the bottom of this post is a guideline for creating your own truffle ball recipe. For now, here’s my most recent creation that I made for my cashew-loving husband.

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Chocolate Cashew Truffle Balls
makes about 2 dozen

8 ounces chocolate, I used semi-sweet
4 ounces or 1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup or 6 ounces cashew butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 ounces, or approximately 6 graham cracker squares
2 heaping tablespoons cocoa
2 heaping tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

In the top of a double boiler, place the broken up chocolate, butter, cashew butter, and vanilla extract. Slowly, over medium heat, let the water heat up and allow the chocolate and butter to begin melting. At a certain point, if you’re worried that the water is close to a boil, reduce the heat. The melting will continue.
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Using a spatula, stir occasionally. Remember, you’re not trying to cook these ingredients, simply melt them.
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At the point the ingredients have blended smoothly together, remove the pan from atop the pot and set aside for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, place the graham crackers in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth, then place in a large bowl.


Pour the chocolate mixture into the graham crackers and begin to stir.
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Make sure the chocolate and graham crackers are uniformly combined. Cover the bowl with plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When you’re ready to make the balls, sift together the cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar together in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
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Scoop out the “dough” using a teaspoon or cookie scoop.

Roll them into similarly-sized balls, and then place them in the cocoa-confectioners’ sugar mixture. After you’ve made 4 or 5, toss them in the coating, then place them in a serving bowl, or a plastic bag. If you’re not serving immediately, they store very well in a sealable bag. In fact, they freeze well this way.

Right before serving, take them out of the freezer or refrigerator and let warm slightly. They are not as sensitive to melting as real truffles, but I wouldn’t put these out hours before a party, either. The texture should be firm, yet melt in your mouth.

I’m very pleased with this recipe. The cashew flavor is mild, so I’m glad I didn’t include a liqueur.

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Because of the cashew butter, there is a slight grainy texture to these truffle balls, which I don’t mind. If you prefer, simply use chopped cashews in the chocolate and butter mixture. There are so many choices.

If you want to create your own recipe for truffle balls, here are some guidelines:

1. Pick a cookie, either a flavored cookie (like gingersnaps) or a plain one (like shortbread). Make it seasonal!

2. Pick a chocolate – the sweetness of the chocolate depends on the other ingredients.

3. Pick a liqueur. Because these truffle balls are not cooked, don’t go overboard.

4. Butter is a must because it helps firm up the balls and add richness.

5. Extraneous ingredients can include nuts, crystallized ginger, chocolate chips, broken candies, dried fruits, or in this case, cashew butter. Plus, there’s coffee or orange juice concentrate. Even rosewater.

6. Seasoning, if desired, can be cinnamon, nutmeg, espresso powder, etc.

7. Pick a coating. Truffle balls need something to fancy them up a little, which can be melted chocolate into which they’re dipped, or a combination of cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar, like I used. Adjust the ratio depending on how sweet you want the coating; just cocoa, or even cocoa mix will work just as well. I prefer my truffle balls not cloyingly sweet.

Chocolate Pecan Mousse

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I’ve fallen in love with a product. Here it is. I buy it at Whole Foods in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and just now when I looked up their website, I realized that the company is in Oklahoma! We have a lot of pecans here.

It’s toasted pecan butter.

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Yes, I know. I finally have a Vitamix and I could so easily make this myself. It’s pecan butter, just like a peanut butter, but made from toasted pecans, and sweetened a little.

But instead of just spreading it on apples and overindulging, because it’s that good, (there’s a chunky version that is heavenly) I decided to use this stuff in a dessert, so I could really enjoy it.

I was having friends over for a pre-Thanksgiving dinner, and I had a disaster of sorts with the pumpkin roulade I’d planned on serving. Let’s face it – things don’t always work out in the kitchen.

So that morning I ran to the grocery store to get some last-minute produce, and bought chocolate to make a, wait for it… chocolate pecan mousse!

I had a good 7 hours of chill time in the refrigerator before I served dessert, so I was pretty sure this would fit the bill. A bit of chocolate and pecan indulgence, but not too much. Topped with whipped cream and candied pecans. Oh, and layered with a creamy pecan butter!

So I set to work but then got a phone call from my daughter. I hadn’t even gotten the chocolate melted yet, but I don’t get to talk to my busy daughter that often. Oh, and I should point out that phones don’t work in my kitchen, which is why I just had to run in, turn off the heat, and run out. But after about 30 minutes I told her that I really needed to go.

Then, I got a call from a friend, and we gossiped chatted for quite a while. I have to say that I was getting a little nervous, because I usually make chocolate mousse the day before I plan on serving it!

Let me just say that I made it, chilled it, served it, and it was fabulous. Here’s my recipe if you want to try it, too! (And it worked with only 5 hours of chill time!)

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Chocolate Pecan Mousse

8 eggs
12 ounces good, semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 cup white sugar
8 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
2 tablespoons cognac
1 – 10 ounce jar pecan butter, divided
Cream, about 1/2 cup
Whole pecans
Sugar, about 1/4 cup
Whipping cream, slightly sweetened

Firstly, separate the eggs. Place the yolks in a small bowl, and the whites in a larger bowl.

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Place the chocolate, butter, sugar, espresso powder and cognac in a pot that is over a pan filled halfway with water over medium heat. This is also called a “double boiler” system.

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This is tempering, or melting the chocolate. Often chocolate is tempered by itself, and one drop of water or anything can seize up the chocolate and you have to start over. However, if there’s a significant amount of other ingredients, like the butter, in the pot, it will work perfectly.

Pour the oil from the pecan oil into a small bowl and save it. I actually used it on the roasted Brussels sprouts I made that evening, plus a little bit of pomegranate molasses. They didn’t taste pecan-y, but they were mighty good. Save the oil. Oh, and I tasted it because I didn’t want a sweet oil on the Brussels sprouts, but the oil itself that had separated from the pecan butter wasn’t sweet at all.

Now, back to the recipe. Add about half of the jar – a little over 1/2 cup – of the pecan butter to the chocolate-butter mixture. Gradually, using a spatula, stir the ingredients together until the chocolate and butter are completely melted. Remove the pot from over the hot water and let it cool for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the remaining amount of pecan butter into a mini blender.
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Add cream and blend until it’s almost pourable, and set aside.
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Using an electric mixer on medium speed, begin adding one egg yolk at a time to the chocolate mixture, and beat it in well.
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The chocolate mixture starts out like this.
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And after all of the eggs are beaten in, it becomes thicker, very shiny and smooth.

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Because of the inclusion of the pecan butter, the chocolate-pecan mixture felt very differently than the traditional chocolate mixture does without pecan butter in it. I could tell it was much stiffer and would be more challenging to work with. But I kept going. Chin up.

Using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Then, begin folding in the chocolate into the egg whites.
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Be patient, because it will, eventually work.
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I decided to quit folding and folding and just deal with some chocolate streaks within the egg white mixture – I didn’t want to deflate the mousse. My friends don’t care.

First place some of the creamy pecan butter in the bottom of parfait glasses.
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Then top that with the mousse.
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Refrigerate the parfait glasses immediately. If they would have been refrigerated overnight, I would have covered them with plastic wrap; I’ve always read that chocolate can pick up flavors from the refrigerator.

To make the candied pecans, place some pecans in a skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle with white sugar.
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Eventually the sugar will melt. Don’t do what I did and completely forget that I’d just done this. I was playing on my ipad in another room when I started smelling burning pecans. The whole kitchen was full of smoke. Fortunately the smoke alarm didn’t go off, but it took about a half an hour to get the smoke out, clean the skillet, and start over.

So this is the sugar melting slightly.
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Use a spatula to move the pecans around and try to get them coated with what is essentially caramel – melted and caramelized sugar. When you’re happy with the color of the melted sugar, place the candied pecans on a plate to cool.
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Before serving, remove the parfait glasses from the refrigerator. You can do this up to an hour before if you like, but I like my chocolate mousse chilled. It’s your choice. Whip the cream and place a dollop on top each parfait glass.

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Chop the candied pecans coarsely and sprinkle them over the whipped cream. I’m sure there’s a more sophisticated way of “plating” this dessert, but plating is not my specialty. Again, my friends don’t care about such things!

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I was actually too full to have dessert that night, after all of the cheeses and other goodies I’d set out for hors d’oeuvres, so I enjoyed my mousse the next morning with an espresso. Don’t judge me. Desserts are fabulous for breakfast. As long as you can get past the heart beating extra fast for an hour or so.

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verdict: This mousse is even better than chocolate mousse. And chocolate mousse is heavenly. You can taste the toasted pecan flavor in the mousse itself, but having that layer of the bottom of creamy pecan butter really added to this dessert. A pretty tasty invention if I might say so!
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