Chocolatiers have traditionally used liqueurs to flavor truffles. At Branson’s Chocolates, our Raspberry Chambord, Grand Marnier, Crème de Menthe, Frangelico Hazelnut, and Disaronno Amaretto truffles have been with us since the beginning. Over the years we’ve added Pacific Rum, Patron Tequila, Brandy Peak’s Blackberry, and Pama Pomegranate truffles. In September we’re adding a new flavor that sure to become another favorite—the Caldera Mogli® Truffle. Caldera Brewing Company is a local Ashland brewery, well known for its ales and lagers. We’ve chosen their Caldera Mogli® Bourbon Oak-Aged Chocolate Imperial Porter. Caldera Brewing says, “This is a chocolate, bourbon, oak-aged Imperial Porter. Mogli® is complex, sweet, chocolatey, big, and full of unconditional love! Sure to warm your heart.” Destined to be used to flavor chocolate, we’ve made turned this local craft beer into a deeply delicious truffle using our rich 58% semi-sweet chocolate, and it has earned its place as the Product of the Month for September. Chocolate and beer, two of life’s tastiest pleasures, brought together for you by Branson’s Chocolates. Caldera Mogli® Truffles are the perfect treat for fall picnics, backyard BBQs, and football games. It’s a big win for everyone! Come on in and take home a box today.
Be sure to catch September’s Chocolate Talk video on our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/BransonsChocolatesAshland , featuring, of course, our newest truffle, the Caldera Mogli® Truffle. Find out why we chose Caldera Mogli® Bourbon Oak-Aged Chocolate Imperial Porter, and pick up some chocolate tips. Brian Goodwin directs and shoots our Chocolate Talk videos every month, where I discuss our newest Product of the Month chocolate confection, chocolate tips, and how I make our products.
If you want to catch us out and about in September, here’s where we will be:
September 18-20, I will be at the Southern Oregon Harvest Festival and Brewfest at the Expo in Central Point. Admission is free, so come “Celebrate abundance and reap the rewards of harvest time” with us. Friday we’ll be there 5-10pm, Saturday 12-8pm, and Sunday 10am-5pm.
We’re often out and about at many of the local wineries pairing our delicious chocolate with local wines, but we don’t have a September schedule yet. For the latest updates, check out our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/bransonschocolates .
Warming up by blazing campfire, gazing up at the starry night, roasting corn on the cob on the barbeque – we love camping! And everybody’s favorite part of camping in S’mores – gooey marshmallows, crunchy graham crackers, and sweet chocolate. Eat them together, and they’re heaven on earth! At Branson’s Chocolate, we’ve got S’mores for you in August – made in both our rich Semi-Sweet Chocolate and our creamy Milk Chocolate. Of course, we only use gluten-free marshmallows and graham crackers. In fact, at Branson’s Chocolates, all of our delicious chocolate is gluten-free, allowing you to relax and enjoy our chocolate with all your friends and family.
Be sure to check out our Chocolate Talk videos on our YouTube channel www.youtube.com/c/BransonsChocolatesAshland. This month, of course, we are featuring S’mores, our Product of the Month for August. My brother-in-law Brian Goodwin directs and films our Chocolate Talk videos every month, where I discuss our Product of the Month, chocolate tips, and how I make our products. Each month we highlight a different chocolate confection, either a favorite classic or a new creation, and while S’mores are a new item at Branson’s Chocolates, they are definitely a summer classic.
If you want to catch us out and about in August, here’s where we will be:
August 15th, I will be at Troon Vineyard in the Applegate Valley, pairing our delicious chocolate with their award-winning wines.
August 22nd, we are providing dessert chocolates for the “extravagant, outdoor buffet created by popular local Chefs” for the Oregon Wine Experince Miracle Aution & Salmon Bake in Jacksonville, which benefits the Children’s Miracle Network. Make plans to attend this “Grand Auction featuring Live, Platinum, and Silent Auctions followed by music, dancing under the stars, and the opportunity to exchange stories and share wine around the fire embers.”
July is definitely summer, and summer in Ashland means being outdoors – hiking, waterskiing, mountain biking, and walking through Lithia Park. Branson’s Chocolates has the perfect treat for all this summertime fun – Chocolate Dipped Fruit, which just so happens to be our Product of the Month. We have dried bananas, apricots, apples and pineapple, crunchy freeze-dried raspberries – all hand-dipped in our famously delicious Belgian Chocolate, choose from either Milk Chocolate or Semi-Sweet Chocolate. Add Chocolate Dipped Fruit to Peanut or Hazelnut Chocolate Clusters and you’ve got yourself some gourmet trail mix. Chocolate Dipped Fruit is also perfect for bridal and bay showers, as an on-the-go snack, and especially for your “Everyday Indulgence”.
All of our Products of the Month, including this month’s Chocolate Dipped Fruit, are featured in Chocolate Talk videos on our Youtube Channel. My brother-in-law Brian Goodwin films a video every month of me talking about how we make our Product of the Month. We started making the videos in January, when we started featuring a Product of the Month. Each month I highlight a different chocolate confection, either a favorite, a classic or a new creation. Now at Branson’s Chocolates we’ve kicked it up a bit to include Chocolate Dipped Dried and Freeze-dried Fruit, for us these are tasty new creations.
I was so pleased to be asked to do a Locals Guide interview this month. Check out the interview and read all about MY favorite chocolate’s, our surprise best seller, and why chemistry is important. As an added bonus, discover our Locals Guide Readers Special for July. And then come on down to Branson’s Chocolates, get yourself some Chocolate Dipped Fruit, and have an amazing Ashland summer.
Born and raised right here in Ashland, Deena Branson had a love of chocolate from a very young age. After working at Ashland Fudge Company for a decade downtown, she never dreamed that she would one day have her very own chocolate company. “I always knew I would own my own business.” says Deena, “I just never thought it would be chocolate.” Nine years later, Branson’s Chocolates provides local businesses such as the Grange Co-op and Paddington Station with custom labeled bars and Deena’s list of wholesale clients just keeps growing. If you haven’t stopped by, you must. Branson’s Chocolates, located on Siskiyou Boulevard just past Walker Street, smells wonderful. With copper kettles bubbling and cooling pans of deliciousness within sight as well as display cases filled with truffles, bars and beautifully wrapped delights, the shop is an experience not to be missed. We met up with Deena recently to learn more about her sweet business.
Thanks so much for talking with us today Deena. Your shop is amazing. How are things going now that you have had the retail space open for over a year?
Things are good. We have always wanted a space where you could get our chocolate and confections. We are having fun this year with our Product of the Month that ties to our YouTube channel where we talk about and show the making of the product of the month.
You grew up here is Ashland and have a long family history here in town.
Yes, my dad (Rex Bounds) moved here when he was 4 years old and my entire family still lives in the valley. Dad has the oldest U-Haul dealership in Southern Oregon and mom (Jeri Bounds) has been doing hair for over 50 years. My youngest sister (Shelley Underhill) worked at the Ashland Branch of Umpqua Bank (formerly Sterling Bank and I have been told she knows everyone by name. My first job was at Big Al’s Drive In where I learned to make a killer milkshake.
How have you developed your recipes over the years?
When I create the many different products I always start with the best ingredients that I can find. Quite often I source directly from the growers. From there we carefully measure all the ingredients to ensure that every batch comes out to perfection every time. I have taken some of the old Ashland Fudge Co. recipes and tweaked them to make them our own, along with creating new recipes.
Chocolate making involves quite a bit of chemistry. Did you realize you would become such a scientist?
No, I never would have guest that I would use chemistry in my life. If I would have, I would have taken chemistry in school. Chocolate is very temperamental in temperatures and what you can mix with it and I think chemistry would have helped me understand more.
What did it take to get here Deena?
Lots of hard work and determination. Both my parents are self employed so I had an idea what it would take. The first 8 years I worked full time as a server here in Ashland while working full time making chocolate. With the support of my husband (Kevin Branson), family and friends the business grown to where we are now. Before taking on a new customer I always made sure we could handle the volume without compromising the product.
I understand that the Ashland Fudge Company had a lot to do with your beginnings.
Ashland Fudge Co. (where Mix is now) was a good place for me for 10 years. I worked for all three sets of owners and even helped train the last two. I learned about managing a staff and inventory control. During the tie I was at Ashland Fudge Co. I would hire an average of 12 high school students every year, many of them would come back for during the summer break from college. This is where I really learned to love chocolate and where I met my husband, Kevin Branson. I learned about chocolate making by watching and asking questions. I was never officially taught how to temper chocolate.
Tell us about some of the partnerships that you have established over the years with other local businesses.
One of Branson’s Chocolates first customers was Mix Sweet Shop, they carried our Peanut Butter Cups and Truffles. I then met Pam Hammond when planning a Mother’s Day fundraiser for the Ashland Rowing Club back in 2009. Shortly thereafter Paddington Station started carrying Branson’s Chocolates and now we are in all three of their locations. Ashland Springs Hotel asked if I would make Chocolate Bars for the, never having mad bars before, I said yes and now we make over 20 types of Chocolate Bars. We have proudly been making Chocolate Bars for Tudor Guild for tow years now and last year they started carrying our English Toffee last year. December 2012 we became the first Rogue branded food product with the Grange Co-op, which has been a perfect match.
Your wholesale clients keep you very busy. What are some of the ways that businesses use your chocolates in their marketing or promotions?
We can custom label just about any chocolate that we make. We also can make custom molded chocolates. I you have been to Blue Giraffe Day Spa and seen the chocolate with “BG” on it, that is and example of a custom molded chocolate. We can make custom chocolate that is given out as customer gifts. In the case of Anderson Auto Body, they give out a box of chocolate with each repair. AmeriTitle gives chocolate out when you sign documents with them. I even drop ship customers gifts for Butler Automotive Group; which means you give me the customer information and any note that you would like included and we ship chocolate to the customer year round (we have ways of shipping during the summer). We even have done fundraisers; the most recent one was with the Le Cirque Centre. We mad WONKA Bars for the Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory show last year.
What is your favorite chocolate?
I have always gone for the more traditional combinations of Peanut Butter and Chocolate (PB Cups) or Caramel, Almonds and Chocolate (Ashland Nugget). But I made something new recently that I am enjoying. It is a Smoked Sea Salt Caramel; the sea salt has a slight smoking flavor from the English Oak that just enhances the dark chocolate that surrounds a soft chewy caramel.
What chocolate has been a best seller that surprises you the most?
Tequila Truffles, my husband is a Tequila guy. He bugged me for three years to make a Tequila Truffle. I kept saying it won’t sell. When I finally deiced to make one I said we had to do it right. So I created the Tequila shot in a Truffle. It has the lime the sea salt and we use Patron in the center. The first show that we took it to they sold out. Now my husband gets to tell me “I told you so”.
Any specials to offer LocalsGuide readers?
Yes, when you come in mention that you read this interview in the Local’s Guide and get a free caramel, either plain or salted. (One per customer, offer good through the end of July).
Do you ever get tired of chocolate Deena?
No, I actually average a piece a day. There are some days that I don’t have any chocolate but others… well the piece is an entire chocolate bar. And yes I even have days where chocolate is lunch.
At Branson’s Chocolates, we make our caramel, and everything else, by hand. We use a very old recipe, the highest quality creams and sugars, and cook our caramel in cooper pots the old-fashion way, all to achieve the best blend of sweet and gooey, without being sticky, caramel.
We serve our caramel plain or sea-salt; dipped in milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, or nothing at all, in sticks, squares, bars, and in our turtles with pecans or cashews. In other words, there’s a caramel for everybody.
Our Product of the Month for June is Smoked Salted Caramels — five squares of delicious caramel, dipped in semi-sweet chocolate, and topped with smoked sea salt — simultaneously sweet and savory, all boxed up perfect for Father’s Day, or any day.
If you are a Father, or know a Father; or you might be going to a smoky, salty BBQ for Father’s Day; or maybe you just like smoky, salty BBQ’s or even smoky salty, sweet caramel, especially when they are dipped in delicious semi-sweet chocolate, you should definitely get yourself down to Branson’s Chocolates and pick up some of your soon-to-be-favorite caramels, for yourself and for your favorite Father.
If we haven’t convinced you yet to come in and buy some caramel for yourself, let these quotes from our customers convince you…
“If you haven’t tried Branson’s Chocolates, you should do so immediately. I bought some p-nut cups and turtles for my wife… shared them with the family this weekend. Quote from the mother-in-law: ‘that’s the best caramel I’ve ever had'” ~Dan McKillop
“I bought two turtles last spring and still drool when I think of how amazing they were — and my friend agreed completely. You have mastered the blend of caramel with amazing flavor and chocolate.” ~Joanne Turner
When we (Deena & Kevin Branson) started Branson’s Chocolates in 2005 we were working out of an industrial kitchen in a business complex producing mostly for wholesale customers. About 18 months ago we moved to, 1662 Siskiyou Blvd (where the Mongolian BBQ used to be). Now we have a retail space as well as production space, so you can get Branson’s Chocolates at our retail store or at your favorite stores around town.
We make everything by hand on site, which means when you walk in to buy chocolate you can smell the delicious chocolate, you can see all the production and packaging happening, and you can even talk to us while we work. We have kept some of the traditions from Ashland Fudge Co. (where Deena got her start in chocolate), and added many signature products. So you will find Ashland Nuggets (formerly Porkers) and the traditional clusters and caramel sticks along with some nontraditional items, like Tequila Truffles and Cayenne Cherry Chocolate Bars.
We strive to support other local small businesses so we buy our peppermint and lavender oils and some of our nuts directly from the growers. We also use as many natural ingredients as we can. The chocolate that we use is high quality Belgian chocolate that is extremely smooth and creamy. YUMMM!! We try very hard to keep our case Gluten Free as well as offer Dairy Free and Sugar Free options.
We get asked quite often if we have dark chocolate. Our response is always “Yes, we do! You can choose from 58% Semi-Sweet or 72% Bitter-Sweet.”
We price our chocolate for your “Everyday Indulgence” and not just that occasional gift. We love getting to know our long-time customers more every time they come in. we also love meeting new people that have “just found” us or have “been meaning to stop by” and finally did. We want to become the place you go for special occasions, that gifts, and especially the “Everyday Indulgence”.
Please stop by, say “Hi”, and get yourself a piece or two of chocolate for your own “Everyday Indulgence”.
We have the best customers in the world, and they say the nicest things…
“Oh my Gosh. YUMMMM. The best chocolate ever!!!!! So many kinds to choose from. This is high quality stuff, and the price is unbeatable.” ~Angela Rae
Back in the day when the Ashland Fudge Co. was all the rage on the Plaza, Deena Branson was the rock that held it together. “I worked there for ten years for all three owner,” Deena said. “I stepped away for a couple of years but realized that chocolate was my passion. When the opportunity came to purchase the production equipment and recipes from the owners of Ashland Fudge, my husband Kevin and I jumped at it.”
In December 2005 they opened Branson’s Chocolates, which is now located at 1662 Siskiyou.
Both Kevin and Deena grew up in the Rogue Valley. Kevin graduated from Crater High School and has worked in the Ashland area for 26 years with ASLCO (American Linen), while Deena was born and raised here, growing up on middle Clay Street.
“My father, Rex Bounds, has the oldest U-Haul business in Ashland, and I started doing his payroll 22 years ago and still do it to this day.” Deena said. “But it’s chocolate that is my primary focus. We are a chocolate shop that believes in using the highest quality products and local products in small batches. We believe in pricing our products in a way that you can have the “everyday indulgence” instead of the occasional piece/”
Branson’s Chocolates is definitely a family business, as everyone but one employee is family. “When you walk in the shop you immediately smell the chocolate we’re working with.” Deena said. “You’ll also see all the production and packaging happen right out front.”
They also custom label for sever business around the Rogue Valley, along with the places in other states. “That means you may have had our products without realizing it.” Kevin said. “Grange Co-op’s ‘Rogue’ Chocolate Bars, Paddington Station’s chocolate bars and Tudor Guild’s chocolate bars are just a few of the places where you can find our custom labeled products.”