Chocolate hearts are works of art at William Dean Chocolates

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If you're still looking for a good Valentine's Day gift, the way to your sweetheart's heart may be chocolate hearts. But William Dean Chocolates isn't selling ordinary sweets; they are individual works of art that may be too good to eat.

“If you look, every one is different.  They’re painted by hand. There’s a tremendous amount of time and energy spent doing that,” owner Bill Brown said. “Every chocolate, every single one – if we make 50,000 – gets this kind of work on it.”

The Belleair Bluffs shop was named after its founder’s father William and grandfather, Dean. In elementary school, William Dean Brown began exploring his artistic talents. Later in life, he co-founded a software company, but began making truffles for his employees. Eventually he learned how to decorate the treats.

“A lot of people think we paint chocolates; we don’t. We paint molds,” Brown explained as pastry chef Katie Beers showed off her paintbrush and airbrush technique.  “The color is colored cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is the fat that’s in chocolate. And when you add a fat-soluble color, it’s like the effect you’d get with icing on a cake.”

“I love it because you can be so creative,” Beers offered. “Each chocolate has a different design and different shape contrast to it.”

According to Brown, the Valentine’s Day chocolates feature the shop’s custom 64-percent blend of dark chocolate.

The unique treats have become a tradition for many customers this time of year.

“I know we have a woman that’s been here multiple times, that her husband, this is the last gift he gave her before he passed, and so she brought it back,” Brown continued. “I feel good that we’re somehow part of that memory she has with her husband.”

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