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The Easter bunnies are ready for the tasting

April 09, 2006|By KRISTIN WILSON

MARTINSBURG, W.Va.

For Brenda and Charlie Casabona, the Easter season doesn't start with Palm Sunday, Lent or even Fat Tuesday.

No, this chocolate-making couple starts thinking thoughts of Easter baskets, chocolate bunnies and cream-filled eggs on Dec. 26.

"Right after Christmas, literally, we start molding bunnies," says Brenda Casabona.

That's good news for the oodles of children who hope to find a chocolate bunny or some chocolatey-sweet eggs in their Easter basket.

This Easter season, the Casabonas, owners of DeFluri's Fine Chocolates in Martinsburg, will sell about 5,000 molded chocolate bunnies and other specialty Easter chocolates. That doesn't count the chocolate eggs they sell or their year-round chocolate line.

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DeFluri's Fine Chocolates is one of several candy and chocolate businesses in the Tri-State area that produces specialty chocolates. Olympia Candy Kitchen, with locations in Chambersburg and Hagerstown, has been in operation since 1903. There's also the Candy Kitchen in Waynesboro and Cindy's Sweets and Supplies Inc. in Williamsport.

In order to be ready for the chocolate rush, they kick up their production the first few months of each year.

"For a couple of days, it's just mold, after mold, after mold," Casabona says.

The Casabonas pride themselves on offering Easter candies to suite every palate. Their chocolates not only come in a variety of bunny shapes and sizes, but they offer chocolate religious symbols like a pair of praying hands, a cross and even a chocolate replica of Leonardo da Vinci's painting, "The Last Supper."

Producing these chocolate treats starts with the Casabona's special chocolate recipe, which they say produces a "very chocolatey, very, very smooth" chocolate.

In their factory, behind the chocolate shop's Martinsburg storefront, workers fill dozens of molds with dark, milk and white chocolate. To work out air bubbles, the trays are passed through a machine to shake and settle the hardening chocolate.

Once the chocolates emerge from their molds, the Casabonas and their employees have some further refinements.

Excess chocolate is trimmed and edible adornments are added like jelly beans and lumps of edible green chocolate mixed with coconut that resembles grass.

Then, the Easter basket eggs and bunnies are ready for wrapping.

The most labor-intensive item the Casabonas produce for Easter is Big George, a 3-foot-tall chocolate bunny that weighs about 22 pounds - and that's all chocolate weight.

To make Big George, chocolate is poured into a three-dimensional mold. The hefty form must be turned by hand slowly for about a half-hour to evenly distribute all 22 pounds of chocolate.

When the larger-than-life bunny emerges, his chocolate shell will be about an inch thick, Casabona says. "We are a firm believer in lots of chocolate," Casabona says with a smile.

In order to be ready for the chocolate rush, they kick up their production the first few months of each year.

"For a couple of days, it's just mold after mold after mold," Casabona says.

The Casabonas pride themselves on offering Easter candies to suite every palate. Their chocolates not only come in a variety of bunny shapes and sizes, but they offer chocolate religious symbols like a pair of praying hands, a cross and even a chocolate replica of Leonardo da Vinci's painting, "The Last Supper."

Producing these chocolate treats starts with the Casabona's special chocolate recipe, which they say produces a "very chocolatey, very, very smooth" chocolate.

In their factory, behind the chocolate shop's Martinsburg storefront, workers fill dozens of molds with dark, milk and white chocolate. To work out air bubbles, the trays are passed through a machine to shake and settle the hardening chocolate.

Once the chocolates emerge from their molds, the Casabonas and their employees have some further refinements.

Excess chocolate is trimmed and edible adornments are added like jelly beans and lumps of edible green chocolate mixed with coconut that resembles grass.

Then, the Easter basket eggs and bunnies are ready for wrapping.

The most labor-intensive item the Casabonas produce for Easter is Big George, a 3-foot-tall chocolate bunny that weighs about 22 pounds - and that's all chocolate weight.

To make Big George, chocolate is poured into a three-dimensional mold. The hefty form must be turned by hand slowly for about a half-hour to evenly distribute all 22 pounds of chocolate.

When the larger-than-life bunny emerges, his chocolate shell will be about an inch thick, Casabona says. "We are a firm believer in lots of chocolate," Casabona says with a smile.

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