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Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009

Valentine’s Treats

Amy’s apples sweeten the deal

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While Valentine’s Day still celebrates romantic love, it is no longer defined by it. The holiday has broadened to include the love we have for our friends, our family and even ourselves. It’s the one day on our calendar devoted to such a worthy cause and it would be a shame to let it pass by without acknowledgement. So on Feb. 14, allow yourself at least one sweet treat to honor the love in your life. If you’re going to take advantage of that one sugarcoated freebie, make it worthwhile. If you’re giving yourself an inch, go ahead and take a mile with one of the decadent gourmet apples from Amy’s Candy Kitchen.

Located on Washington Avenue, Cedarburg’s main thoroughfare, Amy’s Candy Kitchen is a warm and fragrant small-town shop selling carefully made chocolate delicacies and assorted confections. The open-concept kitchen, complete with a ceiling-mounted mirror, invites visitors to observe while the chocolatiers make art out of candy. Of all the sinfully delicious goodies, Amy’s behemoth caramel apples have garnered the most attention. They have been featured by Al Roker on the Food Network and were recognized by The Wall Street Journal as the best caramel apple in the country. One taste, and you’ll know why.

A caramel apple can only be as good as the caramel it’s made with, and that is where Amy’s success lies. To ensure quality and freshness, Amy’s Candy Kitchen makes small handmade batches of caramel daily. Unlike most manufactured caramels, Amy’s is free of preservatives, artificial colors and hydrogenated oils.

“I’m a food purist,” owner John Lillegren explains. “I’ll never allow modified oils, cheap food stabilizers and imitation caramel coloring in our recipe. Our caramel only has five basic ingredients.”

While Lillegren is close-lipped about specifics, he attributes the caramel’s quality to using premium ingredients like Grade AA Wisconsin butter, pure cane sugar, U.S.-manufactured evaporated milk, and Madagascar bourbon vanilla. For its unmatched buttery flavor, Lillegren cooks his caramel in old-world copper kettles that maintain an even temperature and allow slow consistency.

Amy’s Candy Kitchen uses fresh, oversized Granny Smith apples, which remain crisp even after the warm caramel treatment. Some are sold with a simple caramel coating, while others are creatively dipped in Belgian couverture chocolate. This highquality chocolate contains more cocoa butter than normal, between 32% and 39%, which creates a creamy, subtle flavor. There are caramel apples rolled in any number of toppings, like Snickers, M&M’s, Reese’s Pieces, Butterfinger, sprinkles, slow-roasted chopped peanuts, walnuts, cashews and pecans. After the generous candy coating, some are then dipped again in dark or milk couverture chocolate. Pans of these magnificent marvels are displayed on racks in the store’s picture windows, seducing all who pass by to venture in and try one. Amy’s gourmet apples can also be purchased online, with the guarantee that they will be shipped the same day they are made.

Amy’s apples have become a popular choice for brides and grooms to give as wedding favors because a.) they are unique, b.) they are memorable and c.) they are out of this world. These reasons, plus red bows and pink and white sprinkles, make them a perfect Valentine’s Day gift as well.

Amy’s Candy Kitchen is located at W62N579 Washington Ave., Cedarburg. For more information, call (800) 513-8889 or go to www.amyscandykitchen.com.

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