Despite the sweltering summer, Janani Kannan is thankful for having on an extra layer in the form of her apron, along with a pair of gloves, hygiene cap and socks. It’s 16° Celsius inside her kitchen. “That’s the temperature I require when I am making my chocolates,” says Kannan, adding, “But given the soaring mercury levels here, it’s sometimes hard to maintain the temperature.”
The founder of chocolate brand Zitter has stacked her working area with large packets of couverture, and sits surrounded by around 70 moulds in 25 different designs. She’s filling the paisley-shaped ones with mango and chilli-flavoured pralines, while the petal-shaped mould is used only for chakkara pongalchocolate, one of her most popular creations. Bite into it and you get the refreshing taste of edible camphor. She’s secretive about what goes into making it, and only reveals, “The recipe includes everything that goes into sweet pongal, except dal and rice.”
She gives an Indian twist to pralines, enrobed chocolates and truffles, with flavours likemasalachai, sheer korma, gajar halwa, lassi, kulfi and paan. Then there are other varieties like lychee rose, salted caramel, salt and cranberry, peanut butter, coffee, passion fruit…40 flavours on the whole.
“I have a diploma in French Patisserie from Cordon Bleu in Kuala Lumpur. I also stayed in Singapore for a while and worked at a pastry store there. When I returned to India last year and took part in a few pop ups, I noticed people are crazy about any flavours they see on MasterChef. They enjoy new flavours. I knew I could create them: it helps that I have access to ingredients as my friends get them for me every time they travel,” says the 31-year-old, who started Zitter in April this year.
The double door refrigerator occupying one end of the room holds fruit purees, boxes of experimental flavours and 35 trays, each holding 24 pieces of chocolate: all made by her. “Right from ideating and executing to hand or spray-painting them, I prefer doing it myself. When I hire someone I’ll make sure they are well-trained,” she laughs.
Almost every night by 10 pm, after her little daughter is asleep, Kannan comes into her workspace and makes chocolates till about 4.30 am. “During the day the temperature is too hot for chocolates to be made,” she says.
Kannan plans to introduce her chakka pradhaman chocolates on Onam. Ever heard of chocolate bars in potato chip, matcha or pretzel flavour? Well, expect that next, followed by a Japanese line with yuzu, rasperry and wasabi and sakura and black sesame.
A former dessert addict, Kannan says that ever since she started Zitter she’s gotten over her love for all things sweet. “I can’t even taste my own chocolates.” And that’s why it’s great to be her friend and family, as they get to try out and give feedback. “Of late, everything comes out well and my friends are disappointed that they aren’t getting to reject flavours, as that’s something they take great joy in,” she laughs.