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Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier - Fine Chocolates Made by Hand

608-249-3500 | Mon-Fri 10-6, Sat 11-3, Sun CLOSED

My mom, Lucille, with one of my cousins and three of my sisters. I’m the smallest one, second to the left.

The shop is always crazy around the holidays. We’re flying around the kitchen making seasonal treats like peppermint bark and truffles and chocolate snowmen (and women, too). I like to think I’m carrying on my mom’s holiday traditions on a larger scale.

That’s not to say that my mom, Lucille, didn’t cook on a grand scale. Feeding 10 kids and a husband is no small task! But at Christmas, our kitchen was truly a magical place. Mom made a mountain of cookies and candies. I remember helping decorate her soft sugar cookies. Her sugar-dusted, spicy Mexican cookies were a family favorite.

I especially loved her angel food candy (some know it as fairy food). It bubbled and boiled up to a lightly crunchy, sugary perfection on the stove. After it cooled, she coated the frothy chunks in chocolate. It was her secret recipe and I’ve never been able to replicate it.

Mom’s favorite was fudge. She liked to mix it up – adding nuts, crushed candy canes, maraschino cherries, whatever struck her fancy. Here’s her base recipe:

Lucille’s Chocolate Fudge

  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup white syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 heaping tablespoons good cocoa
  1. Stir all together in a saucepan, when it starts boiling don’t stir any longer.
  2. Cook until the mixture forms a soft ball in cold water.
  3. ADD: 1 tablespoon butter & 1 tablespoon vanilla.
  4. Cool and then stir until thick. Add 1 cup walnuts. Pour mixture into a buttered 8×8 pan.

My family was big on both sides, so during the holidays there was a week-long round robin of visits to aunts and uncles with literally hundreds of cousins. It was so much fun. We played board games and ate all that wonderful food. The adults enjoyed another holiday tradition, cherry bounce. Mom made it by soaking the Door County cherries we picked in the summer in jars with brandy for several months. I noticed that The Old Fashioned on the Square is serving it. It’s good stuff.

My mom passed away a few years ago. I miss her always, but especially at this time of year. When I see a customer’s face light up as they bite into one of my truffles, I know I’m following in her footsteps. That’s when I experience a bit of her magic again.

I hope you experience magic this holiday season, too.