Mozart Balls are among my absolute favorite of Austria’s original sweet treats. These circular chocolate candies are frequently made with a pistachio center surrounded by hazelnut nougat, coated with marzipan, dipped in milk chocolate, and wrapped in shiny foil. The face of Austria’s most infamous composer proudly sits atop this golden covering. I developed a fascination for these signature chocolates early on during my stay in the country. The vast ubiquity of wrapped candies as a staple of Vienna’s souvenir shops and grocery stores inspired me to act like a tourist and bring home a selection for family Christmas gifts.
Nonetheless, I did not develop a true appreciation for Mozart Balls until I took a taste from their original source in Salzburg. This Austrian city is well-known to be Mozart’s birthplace. However, I did not travel to Salzburg to learn about the life of this orchestral genius. I had another mission in mind when I reserved my ticket on a 15° Fahrenheit weekday morning. Despite the icy cold, I was propelled to experience the city’s second claim to fame as the infamous film location for The Sound of Music.
I grew up enthralled by this film. I recall emulating the characters’ waltz with doe-eyes, two left 5-year-old feet, and my dolls as dance partners while watching my mother’s favorite classic musical on summer nights. What’s more, since moving to Austria, I had gained tremendous empathy for the trouble-making protagonist Maria as I constantly blundered my way into social faux-pas. Just as Maria found herself upbraided for her bohemian attitude amidst a rule-driven society, as a free-spirited foreigner with limited German vocabulary I wound up in my fair share trouble from cultural misunderstandings. In pursuit of nurturing my connection with my on-screen singing soul sister, I beat all odds to sightsee on this bitingly cold winter day.
My deep-rooted whim to travel to Salzburg led me to experience the longest afternoon in my life. I sprinted to and from filming location after picturesque filming location for a self-guided tour. Amidst it all, I found respite from the cold within a few charming cafes, one of which was advertised to be the home of the original Mozart Ball. Cafe Konditorei Fürst was packed with an unpassable line of Asian tourists when I arrived. The workers behind the pastry counter glared impatiently at the group as they snapped photos of the many confections. When I finally made my way to the front of the line, I had gained enough sensation in my fingers to hand over my Euro coin for a single handmade Mozart Ball. I popped the chocolate pearl in my purse meandered on for another hour, too cold to think twice about my treat.
When I finally made my way back onto my early evening train with a reindeer nose, near-frostbitten toes, and a phone that had temporarily croaked from the low temp, the image of the chocolate delight floated back into my head. As the train slowly rolled into the snow-topped fields toward the setting sun, I unwrapped the foil of my Mozart Ball and lightly bit into the decadent treat. I savored each bite before nodding off to a catnap – my body shutting off from its richness that warmed my chilled limbs. In between wake and sleep, the sun retreated into darkness but the taste of dark chocolate lingered on my tongue. At that moment, I knew that my journey to meet my Austrian alter-ego’s home was accomplished and my daytrip was undeniably worth it.
From that day onward, the sight of Mozart Balls has made my heart sing. My eyes lit up each time I passed the chocolates in Viennese store windows, and my brain beamed with creative inspiration to create a version of my own. The recipe that follows for Vegan Mozart Balls is adapted from my original any-flavor decadent chocolate truffles recipe, and transformed to include 3 nutty layers of sweet indulgence. Try your hand at this creation, share the rich balls of joy around, and listen closely as your eaters’ hearts sing.
1 Cup pistachios
1 Cup hazelnuts
½ Cup medjol dates
1 Cup almond milk**
1 Tablespoon matcha powder***
2 bars (200 grams) dark craft chocolate****
1 Tablespoon coconut flakes
Soak de-shelled pistachios and hazelnuts in 2 small bowls filled with water at least 2 hours prior to baking. Drain the nuts, and grind them separately to a fine, flake-sized consistency. Mix the matcha powder into the ground pistachios, and set aside 1 Tablespoon of this pistachio matcha mixture for topping the chocolates.
Caramelize the dates by boiling 3/4 cup of your non-dairy milk on a stovetop, adding in the dates, and slowly stirring until they are a smooth, even, semi-solid consistency. Add the additional non-dairy milk as needed as the liquid starts to evaporate.
Melt 1 bar of chocolate using the double-boiling method: Place 1 bar of chocolate in a bowl placed over a pot of water on a stovetop. Slowly bring the water to a boil. Gently stir the chocolate and remove from heat when the chocolate begins to melt.
Once the dates have caramelized and the chocolate has melted, combine half of the caramelized dates with the melted chocolate and ground hazelnuts. In a separate bowl, combine the remaining half of caramelized dates with the ground pistachio matcha mixture. Mix each of the nut batters separately until they both form a velvety smooth consistency.
Use your hands (yes, get messy!) to roll the hazelnut mixture into small, round balls (about 16). Place each of these balls onto a cookie sheet. Coat the hazelnut balls with the pistachio mixture (you’ll be able to make 4-5 of these).
Once you’ve formed the nutty spheres, melt the second bar of chocolate using your DIY double-boiler. Use a spoon to pour the melted chocolate onto each of the nutty spheres, ensuring that each nook and cranny is coated (yes, your hands will be deep in more chocolaty mess!). Before the chocolates dry, top them with the reserved pistachio matcha nut grounds and coconut flakes.
Freeze your chocolates overnight, and use a knife to detach the chocolates from the cookie pan once they have fully frozen. These chocolates can keep at least a month in the freezer or up to a week at room temperature.
These chocolates will be RICH so one batch goes a long way. Share around your creations, and mindfully eat your delicious chocolate delights. As you do, listen closely to hear the singing hearts around you.
*Note: This recipe was adapted from my recipe for Any-Flavor Decadent Chocolate Truffles. It makes about 12 small hazelnut balls and 4 big pistachio hazelnut balls.
**Note: My favorite is Califia Farms Unsweetened Almond Milk.
***Note: I used Republic of Tea Matcha Powder.
****Note: I used Eza Mascao 85% dark fair trade chocolate.