SPRING HILL — She’s part chemist, part inventor, part Willie Wonka. She’s Kathie Strozzi, “The Chocolate Lady,” who dashes to her slot Fridays and Saturdays in Towne Square Mall, where customers await, slathering to satisfy their sweet tooths.
A recent Saturday was her normal. Before she’d unpacked, regulars grabbed up hand-dipped chocolate-and-nut candies, oatmeal cookies half-dipped in chocolate, cocoa-heavy tiramisu and scratch-baked chocolate biscotti. They inquired of the day’s specials.
For 20 years, Strozzi, 67, worked in restaurants. She waited tables, managed the premises and sometimes stirring up their pastries and cakes. When a broken shoulder sent her home for a period of time, the “I-love-to-cook” woman began playing with chocolate.
“It took me six months and 65 pounds of chocolate to find the right combination,” Strozzi said. She referred to the melding of bittersweet, semisweet and dark chocolates into the mid-sweet taste she prefers. And she dithered over its tempering to yield a silky, toothsome coating when cooled to room temperature.
Today, her New Jersey distributor provides processed cacaos from Great Britain, Canada and California, according to her specifications.
In her year-and-a-half as chocolatier, Strozzi’s decided, “I like being an inventor and creator.” Last weekend, her specials included chocolate-covered bacon and dried apricots, plus tiramisu. This weekend, she’ll have different surprises.
“I like to mix and match,” Strozzi said. Her Danish pudding is just that, Danish pastry mixed with pudding. She’s transposed chocolate candy “turtles” into “walleys,” swapping walnuts in place of standard pecans.
And there’s her banana bread.
“She puts pineapple in it,” said regular customer Dan Brown of Brooksville, at the ready with his credit card. “I didn’t think I’d like it, but I did, so I’m back for more.”
Last Christmas, Brown asked Strozzi to make up gift baskets of her goodies, which he gave to employees of his internet marketing firm. On this day, Brown paid homage to Strozzi’s chocolate-covered caramel brownies, chocolate and nut biscotti and chocolate-dipped macaroni from Strozzi’s sometimes-I-go-crazy department.
The Chocolate Lady believes in fresh.
“I’d rather be up a couple of all nights than holding things over,” she said. Treats still warm from the oven or the dipping vat make the trip to her outlet.
On this day, Strozzi lifted a form tray of still-hardening chocolates from under wrap. With tiny tongs, she plucked a nut-laden concoction for sampling by mall manager Richard Sanbenero. He nodded.
“Everybody loves her personality," he said, "and her chocolate, even better.”
The Chocolate Lady and More! is open noon to 3 p.m. or until she sells out Fridays and Saturdays at Towne Square Mall, 3021 Commercial Way, Spring Hill. She takes orders from a menu of chocolates, cakes, cheesecakes, baskets and platters for special occasions, made to order. Phone (352) 346-8383.
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