No matter how many explanations and videos you watch – a research project that is far too hypnotic and salivation inducing for mere mortals – the most fascinating thing about the DeBrand Fine Chocolates Giant Carmel Apples is that they’re still handmade. It’s not surprising, when your well-deserved fame as a luxury brand chocolatier is taking an artisanal approach. But something is charming, even reassuring about DeBrands’ painstaking process in a hyperkinetic world.
“Growing up in a family deeply involved in the confectionery arts, I began working with chocolate at the age of eight,” founder and owner Cathy Brand-Beere writes on the DeBrands website. “I always loved the creative process of making fine chocolates and dreamt of opening a ‘real chocolate shop” when I grew up.”
A dream that began in October 1987 has grown into a 100-person operation with a 30,000-square-foot corporate and manufacturing headquarters with four retail locations in Fort Wayne and one in Indianapolis. It’s also established an international reputation. It is a family business, with her husband, Tim, and daughter, Audree, having joined DeBrands after college.
“The highest quality ingredients are used as a foundation for our art, from imported Belgian, Swiss, and other chocolates to fresh local ingredients and inclusions from all over the globe,” Cathy Brand-Beere writes. “Each product is carefully and beautifully packaged and presented in retail stores that deliver first-class ambiance and outstanding customer service centered on ‘The Golden Rule'”.
Making a DeBrands Giant Caramel Apple begins with the apple. DeBrands buys Granny Smiths from Washington state. Nature makes its own time, so the exact date of availability hinges on when the trees are ready to bear fruit. Apples must be crisp, tart and juicy. Granny Smiths are also known for their distinctive crunch.
DeBrand makes its own buttery caramel. A large pot takes an hour-and-a-half; a small one can be done in an hour. The caramel is then transferred to a stock pot. A team of workers clad from head to toe in clean suits take cleansed apples, each with a large stick poked inside, and start the transformation by coating them in the caramel. The apple is then immersed in DeBrands rich milk or dark chocolate, then dipped yet again in the caramel.
Meanwhile, in creating its famous caramel apples with nuts, DeBrands coats very fine deluxe roasted pecan halves and whole roasted almonds in caramel. The apple is dipped in caramel, then a worker covers each apple in the caramel and nut mixture. Then the apple is dipped in chocolate, then garnished with nuts.
The apples are priced by the pound, with most costing between $20 and $36. While it might be tempting to tackle this magnificent beast while it’s on the stick, do yourself a favor and cut it into smaller pieces. And be sure to invite a friend or two or five or six … you get the point. 10105 Auburn Park Drive, 260.969.8333; 5608 Coldwater Road, 260.482.4373; Jefferson Point Shopping Center, 260.432.5050; 878 Harrison Street, 260.969.8353, debrand.com