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The Sweet Life in Ashland

Southern Oregon Makers: Deena Branson of Branson’s Chocolates

Travel Southern Oregon

By Eddie Wallace

Photographer Jak Wonderly

For confectioner Deena Branson, owner of Branson’s Chocolates in Ashland, there was always a dream that she would someday own and operate a successful small business, but it wasn’t until 2005 that she dared to imagine turning her passion for creating delectable chocolate confections into that business.

Fast forward to 2018, when the talented and endlessly creative lifelong Ashland resident has a thriving wholesale and retail business, featuring only the best Belgian chocolate that goes into such mouth-watering treats as Anjou pear creams, lavender squares, wasabi ginger squares and blood orange creams, as well as your more standard treats like toffees and caramels.

After spending ten years in the late 90’s and early aughts learning everything there was to know at the Ashland Fudge Company – she even trained two sets of new owners during that time  Deena and her husband Kevin leapt at the chance to purchase the equipment and recipes when the company went out of business in 2005.

Since that time, through dogged determination and countless hours of hard work, Branson’s Chocolates has steadily grown its business and burnished its reputation as Ashland’s only locally-owned, locally-produced chocolate business, culminating in the opening of their retail space in 2014.

The early years of the business were spent working out of a production facility in a business complex, producing mostly for wholesale customers. Ashland’s Paddington Station and Grange Co-op were early supporters who sold not just the chocolates, but also the custom packaging that Deena created for each wholesale customer. Today’s customers include Butler Ford, the Ashland Springs Hotel, Anderson Auto Body and many others. In addition to making the chocolates, Deena’s ability to do custom molds and packaging has been a huge selling point for clients.

“I SOURCE LOCALLY AND DIRECTLY FROM THE FARMERS AND DISTILLERS WHENEVER POSSIBLE,” SHE SAYS. “FOR EXAMPLE, OUR MACADAMIA NUTS AND HAZELNUTS COME DIRECTLY FROM THE FARMERS. I CHOOSE OREGON-PRODUCED PRODUCTS AND LIQUORS OVER NATIONALLY PRODUCED PRODUCTS. THE MINT OIL THAT I USE COMES DIRECTLY FROM THE FARMER IN CLATSKANIE, OREGON. AND WE MAKE EVERYTHING IN SMALL BATCHES WITH CARE TO ENSURE THE QUALITY OF OUR PRODUCTS.”

Luckily, for the past five years, one hasn’t needed to be a wholesale client to enjoy the dazzling, mouthwatering array of treats that Deena, Kevin and their hard-working crew create. The retail location for Branson’s Chocolates is 1662 Siskiyou Boulevard in Ashland, and is open Monday through Saturday 10:00 AM – 5:30 PM.

Visitors to the retail shop will be greeted with a selection of chocolates that is impressive not only in taste but in variety. The ever-popular toffees and caramels are always available, but adventurous types will also find port wine ganache squares, truffles flavored with tequila (lime, sea salt and Patrón tequila), pomegranate, espresso, toasted coconut porter, pumpkin, raspberry Chambord, amaretto and so much more. Product sourcing and quality are important considerations that go into all of Deena’s creations.

A lifelong Ashland resident, Deena cherishes the supportive atmosphere for small-town businesses that Ashland offers. “We deliberately chose Ashland as the home for our business,” she says. “This is a community that is dedicated to supporting small businesses, and we are also fortunate enough to attract the kind of visitors who support local artisans and locally-owned businesses. We have people who stop by our store every year on their way out of town after their annual Ashland visit.”

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Whiskey Caramels

Local’s Guide: June 2016

Immortal Spirits Single Barrel Whiskey Caramels

For June, we are featuring our Immortal Spirits Whiskey Caramels, which are dipped in our delicious and rich Dark Chocolate. They are made with Immortal Spirits Single Barrel Whiskey, which is a four year, limited numbers whiskey. From their website, “It’s rested three years on new charcoaled American Oak, and finished for one year on our used Oregon Oak whiskey barrels. This is a very dark whiskey and a fine treat to offer.” http://www.immortalspirits.com/products Immortal Spirits Whiskey Caramels are a delicious addition to our Gourmet Line.

Be sure to catch our June Chocolate Talk video on our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/BransonsChocolatesAshland . Our videos are directed and shot, as always, by Brian Goodwin, and feature our Item of the Month—Immortal Spirits Whiskey Caramels. Check us out every month to catch me making our latest product and talking, of course, about chocolate. You can also find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bransonschocolates , where you’ll find out all about our latest events and happenings, and if you follow us on Instagram at https://instagram.com/bransonschocolates/ or @bransonschocolates, you know that’s where we post mouth-watering photos of our delicious chocolates.

If you want to catch us out and about in June, here’s where we will be:

  • Sunday June 5th, 12pm – 6pm, we will be at the Southern Oregon Grape Fair in downtown Talent. “Southern Oregon Grape Fair is a walking fair of wine, food, art, and entertainment: wine tasting from the region’s best wine producers; delicious food from our area’s most talented purveyors (that’s where we will be); live music from some of the valley’s most loved entertainers; People’s Choice and juried wine competition; and a chance to meet winemakers.” http://southernoregongrapefair.com/ Come enjoy the best of the valley, and pick up some of our chocolate; it’s especially delicious when paired with wine. See you there!
  • And the most important event of June is, of course, Father’s Day, on Sunday the 19th! Be sure to stop by during the week to get some chocolate for your dad because we will be closed on Father’s Day so that our staff can celebrate this special day with their fathers. We want to wish everyone a wonderful Father’s Day!
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Caramel Apples

Local’s Guide: October 2015

Caramel Apples

One of the best parts of fall is all the seasonal treats, and one of the best fall treats is Caramel Apples. Of course the best place to buy Gourmet Caramel Apples is at your local Branson’s Chocolates, because all of our caramel is handmade. We use a very old recipe, the highest quality creams and sugars, and cook our caramel in copper pots the old-fashioned way, all to achieve the best blend of sweet and gooey caramel. According to our customers–

“That’s the best caramel I’ve ever had.” –Dan McKillop

“You have mastered the blend of caramel with amazing flavor and chocolate.” –Joanne Turner

For our Gourmet Caramel Apples, we start with crisp, tart Granny Smith apples, dip them in our handmade caramel, and top them with either chocolate chips, chocolate stripes, chopped peanuts, chopped Oregon hazelnuts, or sea salt. If you’re a caramel apple purist, don’t worry, we’ll have a few original-style apples just for you.

We are proud to announce that in the very near future, Branson’s Chocolates is expanding! We’ve grown so much in the two years that we have been at our current location, 1662 Siskiyou Boulevard, that we need more space. But we love where we are, so instead of moving, we are expanding into the space next to us (formerly The Rogue Bicycle) which will double our shop space. We will keep our retail area, and have more room for all the creating, cooking, and packaging of our delicious chocolates and confections, including, of course, our Gourmet Caramel Apples.

Be sure to catch October’s Chocolate Talk video on our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/BransonsChocolatesAshland , and pick up some of my Gourmet Caramel Apple secrets. Brian Goodwin directs and shoots our Chocolate Talk videos every month, where I discuss our newest Product of the Month confection, chocolate tips, and how I make our products.

We’re often out and about at many of the local wineries and events. For the latest updates and schedules, check us out athttps://www.facebook.com/bransonschocolates . If you’d like to see us at one of your favorite local events, you can contact us on our Facebook page or email us at info@bransonschocolates.com . We’d love to hear from you!

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Caramel

Local’s Guide: June 2015

Caramel

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