Food lovers who spend 353 days of the year dreaming of their gorge-worthy favorites available during the 12-day run of the State Fair, wake up and smell the coffee.
The new Turkey To Go truck sells those mouth-watering sandwiches on the street, and the Chef Shack can cure your mini-doughnut craving. Sweet Martha’s cookies, in frozen, bite-size, oven-ready globs, can be found in most groceries. Deep-fried cheese curds are on the menu at burger joints ranging from The Blue Door to The Bulldog to Culver’s.
And soon, you will be able to enjoy a fudge puppy without waiting for the dog days of summer. “People are already telling me they plan to throw fudge puppy parties,” says Pat Braun, who brought the chocolate covered Belgian-waffle — on a stick, of course — to the State Fair. Starting October 1, puppy lovers will be able to get the treat online. Braun will accumulate orders for a few weeks and then will get busy in a commercial kitchen she’s renting in Blaine.
“I’m only selling in seven Midwestern states, so the product will arrive quickly enough to taste fresh, like it ought to,” says Braun, who describes herself as “very fussy” about quality. “When people get them, they should bake them and eat them right away or freeze them. They come with chocolate to melt in the microwave. I looked into selling them frozen, but that would make shipping too expensive and complicated.”
The puppies have an introductory price of $2.50 each, half the price of what they sell for at the State Fair. A minimum order of 14 is required.
“I’m not sure how often we will bake and ship, but we’ll do it at least once a month,” Braun explains. “That’s why we tell people to allow one to four weeks for delivery. If it goes gangbusters, we’ll bake all the time.”
Braun doesn’t just own the Granny’s Kitchen Fudge Puppies booth that has become a staple outside the Food Building on Underwood Street — she essentially invented the product.
More than two decades ago, she began experimenting with the machine that produces the puppies. She spent years perfecting the grease-free, baked, filled, twisted and dipped-in-chocolate dessert.
Like every successful entrepreneur, Braun continually looks for ways to evolve the product. This year she debuted the White Razzy (right), a waffle filled with white chocolate, covered in dark chocolate, then drizzled with raspberry sauce.
“It was a major hit,” says Braun. “It outsold everything. I’m already fooling around to come up with the next variation. How about Bananas Foster for next year? Or Reese’s Peanut Butter pups?”
Braun’s knowledge and inventiveness is now for sale. She offers Granny’s Kitchen Fudge Puppies dealership rights to vendors around the country. But she won’t sell to just anyone.
“It’s a touchy product,” she explains. “There’s a lot to it, very labor intensive. I just talked to a guy in Texas, but I won’t sell to him. He just wanted the money. I could tell he didn’t have what it takes to make a go of it.”
Braun’s success as she launches her new venture is bittersweet. She’s firing up the online mail-order business without the real-life Granny at her side.
When Braun first began selling fudge puppies at regional fairs, she tagged her booth with a “Granny’s Kitchen” sign, in honor of her mother, Irene Foster, a farm wife who was known in southwestern Minnesota for her skill as a baker.
Around the time the business began taking off, however, Braun lost two of her sisters in quick succession. Judy died from ovarian cancer and, two weeks later, Pam was killed in a car accident. Looking for a way to lift her mother’s spirits, Braun had a brainstorm — to pull her into the business as the sweet-little-old-lady face of the fudge puppy. Often wearing a bonnet and shawl, the always-game Foster has been a constant presence, preparing the puppies, greeting the customers, and cheering on her fellow workers.
“She was the beauty and I was the brains,” says Braun. “Being around the people and having fun with the fudge puppies brought her back to life.” Braun recently moved Granny, now 93, into assisted living.
“She keeps saying she wishes she could still work. Now she takes a lot of naps and can’t keep up anymore. But she is so there with me in spirit.”