A Chocolate and Caramel Covered Treat from DeBrito Chocolate Factory

A Chocolate & Caramel Covered Treat from DeBrito Chocolate Factory

This Hollister, Calif. company makes outrageously delicious caramel apples, and we’re giving them to you free! Details below.

By Carmelo Sigona

"Rocky Road" caramel apples from DeBrito Chocolate Factory...a full pound of yum! Get one free this week with a special gift certificate (linked in this article). Valid Feb. 9-15, 2011.

At DeBrito Chocolate Factory in Hollister you’ll find chocolate covered apricots, chocolate & caramel covered apples, chocolate covered marshmallows and even chocolate covered…well, chocolate!

The DeBrito Chocolate Factory makes all things chocolate, and we’ve worked with them to create a very special treat for our customers this Valentine’s Day: an outrageously delicious gourmet chocolate & caramel covered apple. And here’s the best part…

Sigona’s has been shot with Cupid’s arrow and are now so full of love for our customers we’re offering these gourmet apple treats for free with a $30 purchase to the first 300 customers who bring in this gift certificate. Because we have a limited amount of these gifts, it is absolutely essential that you print out and bring the gift certificate (or show it to us on your phone).

DeBrito Chocolate Factory is nestled in the charming farming community of Hollister, Calif., just south of Morgan Hill and Gilroy. If you’re doing a day trip south of the Bay, to Carmel, Santa Cruz or even San Juan Bautista, I recommend taking a little detour through Hollister to visit DeBrito on-site store and chocolate factory. It’ll add a homey touch of nostalgia to your getaway as you drive through the farm land to reach Hollister.

All DeBrito products are outstanding. They’re made with the same care that has come to mean much to me and the way we conduct business at Sigona’s. I visited DeBrito Chocolate Factory last week and witnessed the making of some of their delectables. The care and pride that goes into each of their gourmet treats is truly heart warming; it’s that something special you can appreciate about a small, family business.

Alene DeBrito, before opening the factory, became well known throughout Hollister for her chocolate-dipped dried apricots and other chocolate-dipped goodies. She made the treats as gifts for friends, family and customers of her husband’s farm implement business. As demand grew for the chocolate dipped treats, the always entrepreneurial-minded Alene entertained the idea of opening a chocolate factory. Thus, in 1993, the DeBrito Chocolate Factory was founded.

DeBrito Chocolate Factory is located at 160 Briggs Road, Hollister, CA.

Alene DeBrito, Carmelo Sigona and Cathy (DeBrito) Larson at the DeBrito Chocolate Factory shop in Hollister.

The DeBrito Chocolate Factory, much like Sigona’s Farmers Market, is a family-owned and operated business. Alene’s husband, Arnold, their children and grandchildren are or have all been involved in the business, one way or another. Even some of the recipes, such as the perfectly creamy, smooth and rich caramel, are old family favorites.

Alene uses a blend of Guittard chocolates and that old family recipe for creamy, all-natural caramel to coat the treats, including the outrageous caramel apples, which put DeBrito on the map. Their loaded and coated apples, of which there are more than 35 varieties to choose, have even been featured in the Wall Street Journal as a unique treat for Halloween.

Their ‘designer collection’ of theme-named caramel apples, like what we’re gifting to you this week, include flavor combinations called Gold Rush (caramel, chopped dried Blenheim apricots and diced almonds drizzled in chocolate), Earthquake (a ‘seismic sensation’ of caramel, rice krispies, peanut butter and blankets of chocolates), and the infamous Apple Pie a La Mode (caramel with a yogurt coating and cinnamon sprinkles).

“The story of how I got into covering apples goes back to when I was a little girl,” said Alene. “When my three brothers and I were growing up our family was too poor to buy candy, so I would go in the kitchen, whip up a batch of caramel and cover an apple I’d stuck to the end of a dinner fork. The best part was I’d deliberately make [the caramel] too hard for my brothers to chew; I always get a kick out watching then try to chew the sticky caramel.”

After starting the chocolate factory, Alene and her family tried different apple varieties to find a perfect balance between sweet and tart. Ultimately, they selected the Granny Smith for its flavor, which is a good match for the sweetness of the chocolate and caramel. Other apples, such as the Fuji, were too sweet.

“I opened the factory with the mindset to create the best-quality products,” said Alene. “I went to confectionery school, learned about tempering chocolate, tried different chocolate combinations, and sought out only the best ingredients, such as real butter [vs. oil], as well as California-grown nuts and Blenheim apricots.

"Gold Rush" apple from DeBrito Chocolate Factory

We hope your Valentine's Day is as sweet as these outrageous caramel apple treats!

“We only use the heirloom Blenheims apricots because other varieties, when dried, taste too raisin-y,” said Alene. “When Blenheims are picked a little on the greenside they still have that tartness and complexity of flavor that pairs perfectly with sweet chocolate.”

Alene spends a lot of time on the road – you should see her calendar for the summer! – going to county fairs, such as the Alameda County Fair, food festivals and other food shows up and down the West Coast.

“Food show and fair coordinators will call and ask if DeBrito’s will come, and they’re always sure to ask if mom will be attending as the factory representative,” said Cathy Larson, Alene’s daughter and right-hand woman in the office. “They want to see ‘The Alene,’ so her calendar is booked for 10 weeks solid this summer, but she loves every minute of it.”

Coordinators will occasionally make special chocolate- or caramel-covered requests for different fairs. Alene has made fresh, chocolate-covered jalapenos on a stick, chocolate covered bacon and chocolate covered onion rings. She even created a truffle-like, garlic-shaped and garlic-infused chocolate when they participated in the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

As for the various caramel apple flavor combinations, Alene says ideas come at all times of the day. Friends, family, employees and fair-goers also submit ideas. Cathy says her mom will get a flavor idea and have the perfect recipe worked out in a week.

“The latest flavor added to our designer collection is the Californian, which has a mix of salted chili lime sprinkled over the caramel,” said Alene. “The combination was thought up by Maria, my wonderful lead chocolateer. The flavors work well together because the warm sensation from the chili is countered by the tartness of the apple and sweetness of the caramel. It’s one of my favorites right now, second to the Apple Pie a La Mode.”

In order to bring you, our customers, these amazing, handmade treats, our specialty foods buyer, John Nava, made a special trip to DeBrito Chocolate Factory to visit with Alene. What’s more is that moving forward we’ll get a once-a-month special delivery of the coated apples to sell in our stores. We were sure to set this up because we know once you eat one, you’ll be coming back for more!

For our special gift to you for Valentine’s Day we’ve brought in five different flavors:

  1. Rocky Road (caramel, pecans & globs of marshmallows, swimming in chocolate)
  2. Earthquake (a ‘seismic sensation’ of caramel, rice krispies, peanut butter and blankets of chocolates)
  3. Gold Rush (caramel, chopped dried Blenheim apricots and diced almonds drizzled in chocolate)
  4. Toffee Apple (caramel rolled in clumps of award-winning toffee, covered in rivers of chocolate)
  5. Apple Pie a La Mode (caramel with a yogurt coating & cinnamon sprinkles – DeBrito’s best-seller!)

Remember, in order to receive one of these gifts, you must print out and bring in this gift certificate. We only have 300 to give away, so you’ve gotta be quick! If you want to purchase a few more, we’ll have them on sale in the store for $9.99 each, reg. $12.99.

This is a treat you don’t want to miss…trust us! Happy Valentine’s Day, all!

Left to right: Marshmallow, toffee & caramel treats awaiting a dip in chocolate; DeBrito's award-winning toffee; fresh-dipped caramel apples; Alene's infamous chocolate-dipped dried Blenheim apricots

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