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.”

Hazelnut Toffee

Locals Guide: January

Hazelnut Toffee

Hazelnut Toffee–those words instantly conjure up Oregon deliciousness and chocolate delight, all in two little words. At Branson’s Chocolates we love our toffee, so we dressed it up with Oregon-grown hazelnuts for a tasty start to the New Year. We melt rich creamy butter in a giant copper pot, sweeten it up with cane sugar, and let them cook together for a while. Then we add the hazelnuts and let the flavors blend before pouring it all out on our cooling table where it is cut into squares. While the toffee cools, we temper some of our Semi-Sweet Chocolate and hand-dip each toffee piece, followed by a generous sprinkle of chopped hazelnuts, just for you.

Branson’s Chocolates, your home of Hazelnut Toffee Squares and all chocolate deliciousness, is right here in Ashland at 1662 Siskiyou Boulevard.  We’re just a block south of 7-11, in the Minute Market shopping center. We won’t be out and about in January, so come visit us in our store and get some Hazelnut Toffee Squares while they’re here. We’re open Monday-Friday 10-6, and Saturday 11-5.

You can also find Branson’s Chocolates on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and at bransonschocolates.com for online chocolate shopping.

English Toffee

Local’s Guide: April 2017

English Toffee

We are featuring English Toffee this month at Branson’s Chocolates. Our Old-Fashioned English Toffee is cooked in a copper kettle and poured onto a table to cool, then each piece is hand-dipped in creamy Milk Chocolate or rich Semi-Sweet 58% (Dark) Chocolate and topped with bits of roasted, salted, almonds.

 

Crunchy, buttery caramelized sugar with nuts and chocolate—what’s not to love? As it turns out, only its name. The English Toffee so many of us prize is actually an American invention. What the English call Toffee is a plain candy made of sugar and butter, sometimes with added nuts. But what Americans call English Toffee is actually what the English call Buttercrunch. Either way, this crunchy chocolaty confection is one of our best sellers! Come on in, get some for yourself, and find out why.

 

Easter Sunday is April 16th, and even though we always make chocolate bunnies till we’re bursting at the seams, they are so popular that we always manage to run out. This year, in order to guarantee your bunnies in the chocolate of your choice, we are accepting pre-orders. Please call 541-488-7493.

 

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

  • April 6th, Thursday 7:30-10:30pm, I will be at the 16th Annual Ashland Independent Film Festival’s Opening Night Bash – Savor the Rogue®. This event includes delicious tastings of local foods and beverages, and a no-host bar. Tickets are required. ashlandfilm.org

 

  • April 7th-8th, Friday 3-10pm and Saturday 10-5pm, I will be at the Pear-a-Fare in downtown Medford during the Pear Blossom Festival. This event includes vineyards, breweries, distillers, local artisan food makers are all under the festival canopy serving tastes, and selling products. Tasting glasses and tickets to sample the flavors will be for sale at the Pear-a-Fare entrance. Vendors will also be selling wine, beer, coffee, and other local drinks by the glass. Our artisan food makers will have a wide variety of products for sale as well as samples available.org

 

You can find Branson’s Chocolates on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, and at bransonschocolates.com for online chocolate shopping.

 

(Thanks to http://www.sallybernstein.com/food/columns/zonis/toffee-buttercrunch.html)