Hazelnut Mousse with Caramelized Hazelnuts

Caramel and nuts (along with warm spices) are the flavours of fall and winter to me. Warm, comforting, earthy, and cozy flavours that evoke thoughts of thick sweaters, scarves, and steaming mugs of tea. The berries that packed a punch of flavour and brightness have come and gone with the warm, sunny days and nuts, caramel, apples, pears, and chocolate take a front seat to comfort you on a rainy afternoon. Hazelnuts appear fairly often on the blog in the colder months because they're one of my favourite flavours, no chocolate needed.

I've said it before many times, but I'm a winter girl. Summer is nice, but I am much happier wearing sweaters and scarves and drinking multiple mugs of tea in a day. I don't mind the rain at all (I grew up here in Vancouver - or Raincouver as we affectionately call it) and while the dark can be kind of gloomy, it makes it easier to go to bed at 7pm and wake up at 4am for work.

Another pro to the colder months is that you can turn the oven on without feeling like your kitchen has become one of the seven circles of hell. In fact, you'll most likely want to turn on your oven so you can have that comforting warmth and aroma of whatever it is you're cooking. A huge reason as to why I make my own hot apple cider is so that my apartment can smell like apples and warm spices for a day. Sometimes I open the door of my balcony so my apartment can be cold enough for me to warrant 5 hours of oven time (i.e. making a stew or baking bread).

While this recipe doesn't call for too much oven time, it does give back with the wonderful smell of roasting hazelnuts. You'll be hanging around the stove while you stir the caramelizing hazelnuts but once again, it'll be worth it for the smell. A bit of patience is required for the mousse to set, but all that waiting and stirring and roasting will be rewarded with a celebration of hazelnuts and caramel that will make you wonder why hazelnut butter isn't the new peanut butter.

Hazelnut Mousse with Caramelized Hazelnuts

Caramelized Hazelnuts

375 g hazelnuts
140 g granulated sugar
45 g water

Praline Paste

100 g caramelized hazelnuts

Hazelnut Mousse

161 g heavy cream
161 g whole milk
60 g praline paste
101 g yolks
30 g sugar
3 g gelatin sheets
322 g heavy cream

First, make the caramelized hazelnuts. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place the hazelnut on a parchment lined sheet pan and roast until golden brown and fragrant, about 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. The hazelnuts need to be warm and de-skinned when they are added to the caramel.

While the hazelnuts are roasting, combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and place over low heat to dissolve the sugar. Increase the heat to high and cook the syrup to 116 C. Add the warm hazelnuts now and stir to coat them evenly. Continue cooking the hazelnuts and syrup until they are a deep amber colour and no sandy white bits remain. Spread onto a silpat lined baking sheet to cool completely. Roughly chop around 150 g of hazelnuts into pieces the size of sunflower seeds. Reserve in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.

For the praline paste, put 100 g of caramelized hazelnut in a small food processor or vitamix. Blend until a smooth and liquidy paste forms, about 8 to 12 minutes.

For the mousse, combine the yolks and sugar in a small bowl and whisk until slightly paler in colour. Place the gelatin sheets in ice water to soften.

Place the cream, milk, and praline paste in a medium saucepan, set over medium heat, and stir to disperse the praline paste. When the milk is just below a simmer, remove the pan from the heat and, whisking constantly, pour it into the yolk mixture. Return the mixture to the pan and place over medium heat. Stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, bring to a gentle simmer and simmer for 1 minute, lowering the heat if necessary to prevent the mixture from curdling. It should be very thick. 

Remove from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Squeeze the excess water from the gelatin and add to the custard. Cool down to 24 C.

While the custard is cooling, whip the 322 g of cream to medium peaks. Reserve in the fridge until the custard is the right temperature.

When the custard had reached 24 C, gently fold in one-third of the cream into the custard. Fold in the remaining cream. 

Pour the custard into your desired glasses to the halfway point, then add a layer of chopped hazelnuts. Fill the glasses with more mousse. Refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.

To serve, garnish with whole and chopped caramelized hazelnuts.