Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Original Mozartkugeln

For the last 20 or 30 years (here my memory is not reliable at all so I'm approximating), I have received from my mother on Christmas morning a box of Mozartkugeln. I don't know why she first bought me these chocolates but I'm guessing it is because they contained marzipan, which I loved as a kid growing up in England but which we struggled to find after we moved to the United States.

For the uninitiated, a Mozartkugeln (literally "Mozart ball") is a chocolate containing pistachio marzipan covered in a layer of nougat coated with dark chocolate and they are absolutely delicious. I love getting these chocolates for Christmas and they don't last long. I'd say mid-January at the latest and they are all gone. Just so I am clear on this, German nougat is traditionally a chocolate and hazelnut praline which is different than the term sometimes used to describe other candy in the United States; this ain't the same stuff in Snickers.

The Mozartkugeln my mother buys me are made by the Reber company located in Bad Reichenall in southeast Bavaria. But the origin of the Mozartkugeln is in the chocolates' namesake Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's home town of Salzburg, Austria. The chocolates were introduced to the world in 1890 by Paul Fürst, a Salzburg chocolatier. The original Mozartkugeln were a sensation if for no other reason than they were spherical, which Fürst achieved by placing the marzipan and nougat ball on a stick, dipping it in chocolate and setting it to dry vertically on the stick. When the chocolate had dried, the stick was removed and the hole filled with chocolate. The Mozartkugeln was then wrapped in Fürst's signature blue and silver foil for sale. I know the method of achieving spherical chocolates is not revolutionary, but we're talking 1890 here.

The contenders: the original Mozartkugeln in my right hand; the Reber version in my left.
Until this month, I had never had a Mozartkugeln other than the ones my mother buys me. But on July 4 of this year, I visited Cafe Fürst in Salzburg to sample an original Mozartkugeln or two. I came to Europe equipped with a few Reber Mozartkugeln, afraid that I would be unable to find these in Salzburg, so I could compare. My fears in this regard were completely unfounded. In addition to being able to purchase them in a ton of stores, Reber actually has at least two stores of their own in Salzburg's altstadt. The taste test was on!

I started with the incumbent and very familiar Reber that I had brought with me (purchased at Cafe Mozart in D.C. in case you live near Washington and want to go get some of your own).  The original Mozartkugeln, as I mentioned before, contains pistachio marzipan wrapped in nougat. The Reber version is a departure from the original. It actually has three layers below the chocolate coating: a center of nougat, the marzipan which makes up way more than 50% of the candy's volume, and a final layer of nougat outside the marzipan. It's sort of a Mozartkugeln in reverse.

Because of the proportion of the ingredients, the Reber Mozarkugeln tastes almost entirely of the pistachio marzipan, with only a faint hint of chocolate flavor. For the marzipan lover, it's always a delicious bite and satisfies very well the craving for this ingredient that I brought with me as a kid to the United States.

The Reber Mozartkugeln.
After I devoured the Reber candy in two quick bites, the Fürst Mozartkugeln was next, freshly purchased from the Cafe Fürst on the Alter Markt for one Euro. Biting into the Fürst version is quite different than the Reber candy. It is a true Mozartkugeln, containing the traditional pistachio marzipan center wrapped in a hazelnut and chocolate nougat.

The taste is sweeter and way more chocolate forward, a conclusion easily drawn from comparing the amount of chocolate in the picture below to the chocolate above. The taste of hazelnut is also prominent and who doesn't love hazelnut and chocolate? Overall the flavor is more complex. You can taste the chocolate first and foremost, followed by the hazelnut and then finally the pistachio marzipan. It's way more layered than the Reber version, rather than being all about the marzipan. It also has the nostalgic charm of being the original, rather than an imitation. Authenticity appeals to me.

Cafe Fürst's original Mozarkugeln.
I intended to visit Salzburg to find the true Mozartkugeln and declare a winner in my taste test. To this end, I enlisted my friends Mike and Bryan, giving them each one Mozartkugeln from each contender. I believe I did find the true Mozartkugeln but I can't declare a winner. I am a complete sucker for original things and usually disdain copies. But while the Fürst is undoubtedly richer and more complex, it was a little sweet for me and doesn't hit you over the head with marzipan flavor, which for me is what eating these chocolates is all about. I liked both, but if I could only have one for the rest of my life, I'd opt for the Reber. I just love them too much.

The original Mozartkugeln was well liked by our taste test panel. Mike and Bryan actually both preferred the Fürst Mozartkugeln. That doesn't make it a 2-1 victory. It's my blog after all.

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