Pure Imagination: 11 Madison chocolates to melt for

Madison is rich with quality chocolate makers.
Pure Imagination: 11 Madison chocolates to melt for

1. The Dark Queen
Gail Ambrosius, Bittersweet bar and a dark chocolate-dipped caramel The Dark Queen
Gail Ambrosius, her royal highness of all things dark chocolate, has rolled out new single-origin chocolate bars in fancy new boxes. But her mainstay remains–the dipped caramels crowned with fleur de sel. 2083 Atwood Ave., 249-3500

2. Swiss Sweets
Candinas Chocolatier, Irish creme, champagne and herbal infusion truffles

Chocolate doesn’t need to be complicated, but it should be exceptional. That’s how Swiss-trained chocolatier Markus Candinas does things, and his truffles need no pretext–they’re divine. 11 W. Main St.; 2435 Old PB, Verona, 845-1545

3. Works of Art
Infusion Chocolates, S’mores and passion fruit-vanilla truffles

The jewels you’ll find in an Infusion box are some of the prettiest hand-painted truffles around. The s’mores truffle is made with Potter’s Crackers hazelnut graham bits and marshmallow for a true campfire taste, and the passion fruit-vanilla truffle features a bit of Malibu rum. 2503 Monroe St., 233-1600

4. Ooey Gooey
Chocolaterian, Monona Bar

This can’t-put-it-down bar at Chocolaterian is filled with layers of caramel, peanut butter, Rice Krispies and milk chocolate. And there’ll be more Chocolaterian to love! Another cafe is opening soon at 6637 University Ave. in Middleton. 6637 University Ave., 836-1156 [EDITOR’S NOTE: Chocolaterian closed for good in August 2019 after seven years in business.]

5. The Budding Hobbyist
Wm. Chocolate, Tasting squares

Newer to Madison’s chocolate scene is William Marx, a hobbyist-turned-one-man-show chocolate maker. He makes his own from single-origin raw cocoa bean to finished chocolate bar, free of additives, fillers and refined sweeteners. wmchocolate.com

6. Drool Worthy
CocoVaa, Saffron truffles

When Syovata Edari isn’t taking on court cases as a criminal defense attorney, she’s making chocolates with interesting flavor combinations like the white chocolate ganache truffle infused with saffron, orange zest and Madagascar vanilla bean covered in 70 percent dark chocolate. cocovaa.com

7. Get your share
Madison Chocolate Co., Sea salt caramel and ghost pepper caramel
Megan Hile brings to Madison a shop to melt for. Order a share online to get the sea salt caramel made with organic Wisconsin dairy and Maldon sea salt, or the bold-flavored ghost pepper caramel, which is a caramelized white chocolate filled with ghost pepper organic caramel. 729 Glenway St., 286-1154

8. Out-of-Town All Star
Mayana Chocolate, Kitchen Sink Bar

Mayana Chocolate, based in Spooner, Wisconsin, is showing up in many boutiques and local shops around town, especially these popular bars. Mayana has bragging rights–founder Daniel Herskovic was named a Top 10 Chocolatier in America by Dessert Professional Magazine in 2016. mayanachocolate.com, 715-635-4729

9. Delicious Desperado
The Chocolate Caper, Pralines

According to Daniel Donoghue, who co-owns The Chocolate Caper along with his wife Elizabeth Donoghue, this Oregon shop is likely the only chocolatier in the U.S. making traditional Swiss Pralines, which are rich, block-shaped chocolates made with a mix of nuts, all-natural nutbutters and a solid layer of chocolate on top. 105 S. Main St., Oregon, 835-9294; 107 N. Bristol St., Sun Prairie, 318-0443

10. Luxurious Bars
Sjölinds Chocolate House, Wisconsin butter chocolate bar

Not only does the Thompson family behind the 10-year-old Sjölinds (a family name) make outstanding artisan chocolate–this one’s made with real Wisconsin butter, too–their packaging is just as artisan, with a Scandinavian wax seal on each bar. 219 E. Main St., Mount Horeb, 437-0233; 150 Lillehammer Lane, Mount Horeb, 437-2462

11. Beloved Bark
Clasen’s European Bakery, Euro bark

Clasen’s hand-molded, German recipe bark that comes in multiple varieties is a hot seller at the bakery. Take your pick at a wall stocked with the signature sheets of delicious bark. 7610 Donna Drive, Middleton, 831-2032

UPDATE: Two other chocolate makers have popped up on our radar since this story first published:
Roots Chocolates in Wisconsin Dells
Driftless Chocolates in Paoli