For this decadent dessert, rich and creamy dark chocolate mousse is topped with caramel-y candied hazelnuts. Our testers are calling it the best chocolate mousse they’ve ever tried.
Adapted from Phil Rosenthal | Somebody Feed Phil the Book | Simon & Schuster, 2022
In the name of testing, our hardworking recipe testers have sampled and passed judgment on a lot of chocolate mousse recipes over the past 23 years. They’ve fallen in love with this easy chocolate mousse for one, and this blueberry-studded white chocolate mousse. They’ve even happily embraced this dairy-free chocolate, avocado, and coconut mousse.
However, after all that sampling, they’re calling this dark chocolate mousse, topped with crunchy caramelized hazelnuts, from Phil Rosenthal “the best chocolate mousse they’ve ever tried.” Even those testers who aren’t smitten with all things chocolate (yes, believe it or not, those people do exist) are raving about it. Go on. See what all the fuss is about.–Angie Zobkoff
Dark Chocolate Mousse FAQs
What does corn syrup do in this recipe?
Corn syrup may seem like an unlikely addition to chocolate mousse, but it’s used in many recipes to ensure a smooth, creamy consistency. You’ll see it in some ice cream recipes, such as this blueberry ice cream, for the same reason. It also adds a bit of sweetness.
Can I substitute pecans or walnuts for the hazelnuts?
Use whatever nuts you love, but the best substitutes for hazelnuts would be macadamias, cashews, or almonds. If nut allergies are a concern, skip the nut topping and serve the mousse with a dollop of whipped cream.
What can I do with leftover candied hazelnuts?
These crunchy sweet nuts make a great topping for salads, ice cream sundaes, and sweet potato casserole, or you can even serve them as part of a charcuterie platter.
Dark Chocolate Mousse with Candied Hazelnuts
For the dark chocolate mousse
- 1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream well chilled
- 1 cup roughly chopped 63% to 66% chocolate or good-quality dark chocolate chips such as Guittard Extra Dark
- 2 large egg yolks room temperature
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons corn syrup
- 2/3 cup whole milk
For the candied hazelnuts
- 3/4 cup whole blanched unsalted hazelnuts lightly toasted
- 3 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 generous pinches fine sea salt
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cocoa butter or 2 teaspoons coconut oil
Make the dark chocolate mousse
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream on medium-high speed until soft peaks form (the cream should be pillowy but not stiff), about 2 minutes. Transfer the whipped cream to a bowl and put it in the refrigerator while you make the chocolate custard.
- Put the chocolate in a large bowl and set a fine mesh strainer over the bowl.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and corn syrup and set the bowl on a kitchen towel.
- In a small saucepan, heat the milk over low heat just until tiny bubbles form (do not boil), 5 to 7 minutes. Very slowly pour about a quarter of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling. Slowly whisk in the remaining milk.
- Pour the milk mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until slightly thickened, 2 to 5 minutes. (Do not let the custard boil.) The custard is ready when your finger leaves a clean path when you run it across the spatula.
- Pour the hot custard through the strainer into the bowl with the chocolate. Let the chocolate melt, undisturbed, for about 1 minute, then stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
- Clean the stand mixer bowl with a paper towel. Add the warm chocolate custard and whip on low speed until glossy but still warm to the touch, or between 105º to 115ºF (40º to 45ºC) on a digital thermometer, about 1 minute.
- Remove the stand mixer bowl and scrape the chocolate custard off the whisk attachment. Add half of the whipped cream to the stand mixer bowl.
- Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the chocolate custard until just combined (there should still be streaks of whipped cream). Add the remaining whipped cream and gently fold the cream into the mousse until just combined.
- Divide the mousse among eight 1/2-cup (4-ounce | 120-ml) ramekins or small bowls, tap the ramekins lightly on the counter a few times to settle the mousse, and use teh back of a small spoon to smooth the top.
- Cover the ramekins with plastic wrap (do not let the plastic wrap touch the mousse) and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
Make the candied hazelnuts
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with a non-stick baking mat or parchment paper.
- Using a serrated knife, cut the hazelnuts in half along the seam. (It’s fine if some break into smaller pieces.)
- In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water (do not stir). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil, swirling the pan occasionally, just until the sugar begins to caramelize and turn golden brown around the edges of the pan, 4 to 6 minutes.
- Immediately add the hazelnuts to the sugar syrup and use a metal spoon or silicone spatula to stir the nuts until they're well coated in the syrup and just begin to turn light golden brown, 30 to 45 seconds.
- Stir in the cocoa butter or coconut oil and continue to stir until the cocoa butter has melted or the nuts are evenly coated with the oil, about 10 seconds, then scrape the hazelnuts onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Using two spoons, immediately begin breaking the hot nuts apart. When the nuts are cool enough to handle, use your fingers to separate the nuts.
- Serve the chilled chocolate mousse with a few candied nuts on top. Place any remaining hazelnuts on the side.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This is an excellent chocolate mousse. It is as rich and creamy as you would expect, and the hazelnuts make an excellent pairing with the chocolate. There are a number of steps involved in the recipe, but the result is truly worth the time and effort.
I’ve made many different chocolate mousse recipes and this is among the best, if not the best one I’ve had. I had exactly 8 servings and since there are only two of us in the household, I am planning to freeze a few of them for future consumption. I can’t tell you how that will work out but based on past experience, this should be a good way to extend the life of the extra portions.
To use them in the future, I will simply place them in the refrigerator and allow them to defrost slowly. You may have a few more caramelized hazelnuts than needed for your 8 mousse cups, but the leftovers make a great snack!
I usually reach for a much simpler version of chocolate mousse; this recipe had quite a few more steps than I’m accustomed to. That being said, the texture and flavor were excellent, and the hazelnuts were a lovely contrast. Definitely, a dessert for a special occasion and you can make this even if you’re not a baker (I am most decidedly not!).
This dark chocolate mousse is rich and chocolatey without being heavy. It feels like a decadent dessert, but it is so light and airy. I found the recipe simple to follow, and despite some issues with timing the result was delicious enough that this is still a TC for me and one that I would happily make again!
I highly recommend letting it chill overnight for the best texture. I had one serving just 2.5 hours after I put them in the fridge and another the next day, and the one that chilled overnight set further and had the perfect texture – light and almost foamy.
The candied hazelnuts add crunch and sweetness, and of course the hazelnut flavor pairs well with the chocolate, but I found the halves were too big in such a light dessert. For my second serving I chopped up the hazelnuts more finely and sprinkled them on top, the smaller pieces were the perfect accent with the mousse.
Though easy to make, this dark chocolate mousse is also versatile and elegant. The chocolate flavor is rich and overall, the mousse has a balanced sweetness with a nice pop of flavor from the hazelnut praline.
It has been a while since I have tested a recipe that screamed Tester’s Choice at first bite. I knew I was on to something when my husband asked for a second serving.
The dark chocolate mousse recipe is a custard-based mousse, which I found intriguing, as my go-to mousse recipe from my high school French teacher also includes whipped egg whites. I was also surprised that there was no splash of vanilla or rum or both. I need not have worried. This recipe is everything a chocolate mousse should be and more.
There are many possible options for topping the mousse if one does not want to bother with the hazelnuts. I served the mousse with the hazelnuts and on subsequent evenings served them with a dollop of crème fraiche and a raspberry or two.
This dark chocolate mousse with candied hazelnuts wowed my family and friends! Its decadence, simple prep, and individual portions make it the perfect dessert for a fancy dinner party or a weeknight treat.
I absolutely loved the mousse’s texture – a wonderful balance of richness and light fluffiness – and how the crunch of the hazelnuts contrasted with this. Adding a touch of salt and vanilla or other flavoring of your choice to the mousse could compliment the chocolate nicely, and next time I’ll top it with some slightly sweetened whipped cream as well.
While a stand mixer is nice to have for this recipe, you could absolutely make this without a problem using a hand mixer or by hand. Can’t wait to play with this chocolate mousse again very soon!
Originally published October 18, 2022
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
I was surprised at how much I loved this chocolate mousse with candied hazelnuts as I am not a diehard chocolate lover. I had never had mousse before – it just didn’t appeal to me, but the recipe seemed so quaint and retro that I decided to give it a try.
The finished dark chocolate mousse is velvety, light, and creamy, gorgeous in appearance and taste. Separately, the caramelized hazelnuts are divine (and I will be making a larger batch of these to use on salads and other desserts as well) but the combination with the chocolate mousse is sublime.
I am so happy I tried out this recipe! I’m planning to make more this weekend.
I did not fuss with cutting each nut in half individually; I merely did a quick coarse chop. Also, I recommend watching the sugar closely because it can burn quickly, set off your fire alarm and ruin your pan.