This post was originally published on my old blog 25th July 2008
Firstly let me apologise for the long delay in finishing what has been for me a writing labour of love, I only hope by the time you have read and perhaps visited Zotter’s site you will understand the scale of this undertaking. I would like to stress most emphatically that I am not in any way receiving payment or goods for this review.
From time to time as a food writer I get offered lots of samples most of which I turn down for various reasons not to mention the fact I don’t want to put on 100lb in a year. Amongst the samples I’ve been sent the last two years have been some pretty wild chocolate combinations. Most of them put together by people who clearly did understand the ingredients or how to combine them.
Josef Zotter on the other hand in the last 10 years has been a trailblazer in the world of chocolate. A sheer magician that others try to copy, always somehow combining flavours that seem improbable or even impossible.
Whilst many others so called manufacturers either buy someone else’s chocolate and pour it into their own forms. Even worse some companies outsource every part of the manufacturing and solely concentrate on marketing, Zotter, on the other hand, makes his chocolate from start to finish.
Josef Zotter is now one of the few European chocolate producers and the only one exclusively producing in organic and fair quality. In this way, he clearly takes his position against standardised mass production and concentration of the chocolate market, which meanwhile comprises even some of the so-called finest chocolate producers.
Zotter has created a layering method in order to differentiate the various flavours. First, the coating melts and afterwards the filling, so that aromatic synergies blossom out in different phases. This is the secret of his hand-scooped chocolates.
More recently a new line of basic Couverture has been added to Zotter’s product range. Couverture is the French word for coating and this range is sold not just for eating but also for decorating cakes and other desserts with. But don’t be fooled by the name, Zotter uses only the finest ingredients for his Couverture making it anything but ordinary or basic.
Here Zotter’s format is to combine high-quality ingredients such dried fruit, roasted pieces of nuts and all sorts of grains to form the core of these chocolate nipples.
Following the same principle as the Hand-scooped Chocolate Bars: A coating and a filling, but much smaller and highly concentrated form. The core is then rolled in plenty of chocolate and dusted with a fruit powder or a sugar mixture to make a high-energy chocolate snack. The Balleros come in various stunning taste combinations to tease your senses. I will list just a few.
Blueberries-Honey in basic 30
Walnuts in Saffron in basic 50
Ginger with Turmeric in basic 60
The balleros are coated in the Couverture chocolate and the number refers to how high the percentage cocoa solids. So, for instance, basic 30 is an alpine milk chocolate, whereas basic 60 means you now in the realm of dark and bitter chocolate.
Hand-Scooped Chocolate Bars
Josef’s much sought after bars are culinary works of art.
Never resting on his laurels he is constantly updating and changing the lineup of flavours.
It’s hard to fairly review all 69 current varieties, indeed by the time the ink was dry and my notes complete there’s a good chance he will have revamped his lineup, I will therefore just give you a sample of the chocolates on offer.
Sour Cherries with Sesame
Dried sour cherries refined with marzipan and cherry brandy. The second layer of filling consists of almond nougat and caramelised sesame. All this is wrapped in milk chocolate. Just reading the list of ingredients you can tell this combination works. The sourness of the cherries counterbalances the sweetness of the marzipan in a sublime fashion.
Candied Cranberries with Ceps
Some years ago whilst in America, I tasted a mushroom cheesecake at one of Washington’s DC finest restaurants. Made by the legendary late Jean-Louis Pallandin, born in Gascony who was the youngest chef to be awarded two Michelin stars.
Just like then the combinations of earthy mushrooms make the dish more that just work, it dances on the tongue. The layers of this bar combine exquisite dark chocolate with an earthy wildness. Soft and tangy is the taste of the candied cranberries resting on a delicate ganache of dried ceps and grappa.
For the slightly less adventurous chocolate lovers perhaps you should try this tasty and traditional Lemon Curd.
This sweet and sour English elixir of life consisting of butter, eggs, sugar and lots of lemons is stirred into and wrapped in noblest of quality dark chocolate.
When you read the list of ingredients, instantly you can tell of the skill and care that has gone into this divine creation.
Pistachio nuts combined with marzipan rounded off with aniseed tea and dipped in delicate milk chocolate.
Coffee-Plum with Caramelised Bacon
Last year, when I began this project of reviewing Zotter chocolates they made a bar called Bacon Bits. And whilst the name was by Zotter’s high standards uninspirational the chocolate itself was a wonder to behold. Greaves of bacon roasted in a crispy fashion and then caramelised. Refined with a hazelnut nougat and a coating made of dark chocolate. When I found this was no longer on the list of products I felt like I’d lost something special but I shouldn’t have worried. Zotter has replaced it with perhaps my favourite of them all. An exceptional taste composition of plums marinated in red wine and coffee together with roasted and caramelised bacon are blended with a chocolate filling and covered with exquisite dark chocolate.
The Chocolate Theatre
Since 2007 if you visit the factory Zotter offers an exciting tasting expedition for everyone who fancies chocolate called the Chocolate Theatre. The guided tasting tour around the Zotter world of chocolate provides valuable information on chocolate as well as numerous creatively arranged titbit stations. They wander around the transparent Chocolate Factory along paths of glass and accompany the transformation of the cocoa bean into chocolate.
The Cocoa Cinema
Will whisk you away to Latin America, where the roots of the cocoa are located.
In the Chocolate Factory, you can learn all the production steps from the roasting, via the fine milling up to the conching and taste intermediate products such as cocoa nibs or roller powder. Recharge your basic cocoa percents from zero to 100.
The world’s smallest Doppelmayr cable car will serve you Drinking Chocolates, whilst on board and the balleros roulette will start your taste buds rolling.
Since 2004 Zotter has been a permanent licence partner of FAIRTRADE Austria. Zotter acquires the basic raw materials such as cocoa and cane sugar from fair trade in organic quality.
Since according to Josef Zotter, “As cocoa processing company we carry the responsibility for the living and working conditions of the cocoa farmers in Third World countries. Fair trade creates opportunities for small farmers and plantation workers in the producing countries. They are able to emancipate themselves from fluctuating world market prices and establish their own self-determined existence in which child labour and environmental exploitation are foreign words”.
Yes, indeed Willy Wonka is alive and well and living in Austria.