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Candy makers sweet on Milwaukee

It's that time of year when decorated eggs and chocolate bunnies are multiplying like, well, like rabbits. Jelly beans, Peeps and other treats are bulging in the aisles of your local grocery. Some kids cry if they witness you chomping the ears off a chocolate bunny, others devour the entire rabbit like Scooby and Shaggy with a snack.

With Easter comes traditional treats; we're surrounded by sweets and those who make them. Wisconsin as a whole makes a load of candy and chocolate: those tasty little Andes candies roll out of Brach's Delavan factory at a feverish pace; Nestle has a huge plant in Burlington, which takes the nickname "Chocolate City."

But here in the Brew City, known better for beer and sausages, you may be surprised at how much candy and chocolate are produced right here. From gargantuan Ambrosia -- now part of Archer Daniels Midland -- to smaller companies run by sugar-loving entrepreneurs, this city's sweet tooth never lacks for those lining up to satisfy.

Some confectionary companies will let you see, and sometimes tour, their facility, so you can watch it all happen. Touring a candy or chocolate manufacturer gives you flashbacks to the Willy Wonka movie, with its flowing rivers of chocolate and large vats filled with caramel and marshmallow. You can almost picture Augustus Gloop heading over to the river of chocolate before falling in.

Call it the "Anti-Atkins Tour," if you will... here's a look at some of Milwaukee's foremost candy makers (not just sellers, mind you, but makers):

Ambrosia Chocolate (a.k.a. ADM Cocoa)
12500 W. Carmen Ave.
(414) 358-5700

Since 1894, Ambrosia Chocolate has been making and distributing chocolate all over Milwaukee and the world, especially now that they're a subsidiary of Archer Daniels Midland. The 1992 relocation of their plant also relocated the scent of bubbling cocoa from downtown to the northwest side, but its output from the outskirts still means Milwaukee makes a sizeable share of the chocolate that makes its way into products distributed worldwide.

For example, Stone Mountain Gourmet Fudge, a Colorado-based fudge maker, brags that their chocolate is Ambrosia's, proclaiming it "one of the finest chocolates in the world." Chocolatiers from all over use the chocolate produced on Carmen Avenue to provide the base for the products they sell.

Burke Candy
3840 N. Fratney St.,
(414) 964-7327
From its origin as a Chicago company that moved to Kenosha and then in 1998 finally moved to its present Riverwest location in Milwaukee, Burke has focused first on creating the raw ingredients, then crafting them into a multitude of confections for the anti-Atkins sweet tooth.

Tim Burke and his wife Julia followed their lineage when it came to making confections of all kinds, and Burke Candy follows recipes that in some cases date back generations within the family. One specialty is Grandma Reilly's English Toffee, named after Julia's grandmother (yes, the Reilly one.)

Other specialties include Flying Turtles (named as such because one customer reported that they were "flying" out the door), gourmet truffles, gourmet covered pretzels, almond bark, cranberry bark, even candy apples and personalized orders, including chocolate, maple, coconut, or caramel Easter eggs decorated with custom names or designs. If you want to get your significant other eggs with his or her name on it, they'll make them.

Burke has a small retail store in its facility on North Fratney Street, two blocks south of Capitol Drive and two blocks west of Humboldt. The place where it's all made from scratch -- to the tune of one million pounds annually - is visible through the windows. You can also see the "enrober," a machine that enrobes pretzels and graham crackers in a sea of white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, yogurt -- you name it. One sight of the chocolate waterfall cascading down on crackers and pretzels effectively breaks any will power you can muster.

If you'd like to try your hand at making your own specialty candy but don't know where to go to buy some Nukreme, Gelatin 225 Bloom or desiccated coconut to make it, Burke can help you there, too. They offer basic ingredients for candy-making both at the store and on their Web site.

Some of their products are also available in area candy stores and at their booth at the Wisconsin State Fair every August. All of their products are certified Kosher.

Store hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

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poproc | April 27, 2011 at 7:59 p.m. (report)

You missed one big time. Freese's Candy Shoppe in West Allis. Awesome place. Takes the cake.

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LisaW | Nov. 21, 2009 at 10:25 p.m. (report)

I just read this article about 1 of my favorite subjects - CANDY! (brings out the kid in me) ... 2 more places I think of for a superb selection are: APPLES OF EDEN in Greendale (414.421.7011, 5612 Broad Street in the downtown section of Greendale)...independently owned and absolutely the BEST chocolate I've ever had. Also, FRANKLINS FINE CHOCOLATES in Bay View (2474 S. Kinnickinnic Ave, phone # is "so yummy"- has an incredible selection of mouth watering chocolate treats. Franklin's is the perfect place to go if you're looking for a sweet treat for someone for the holidays.

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