Recipes have long been one the most important things one can pass down to the next generation.

It wasn’t that long ago that most meals were made at home, and pastries, cookies, and other goodies were made in the family kitchen. Often these were family recipes, perfected over years, maybe starting decades ago from some simple original recipe, but over the years added to and adjusted to suit the tastes of a family.

In America, it’s been a long time since baking at home was the norm. The ready-made food explosion of the mid-century made it easy to throw a tray in the oven—later, the microwave—and have a full meal ready for the busy family in minutes.

Cakes, cookies, pastries—these have been at our fingertips in this country for longer than any of us remember. Why bake when you can get that box of ever-lasting cookies (that never go stale!) at the supermarket? Sure, you can’t pronounce half of the ingredients, and there is more corn than sugar in them, but no one can argue it was convenient.

Of course, a side effect of this glut of available goods is that many of us were never taught how to bake or prepare meals in any real way. An entire generation, or even two, have passed without many of us ever spending more time in the kitchen than absolutely necessary. How many can point to a old box full of index cards, each scribbled with custom recipes for cakes and muffins, hand written in hasty script, passed down to us from the generations that preceded us?

Yet, many of the goods offered in Brandenburg Bakery are made from just such cards.

A Different Place, A Different Time

Sarah, one of the two who own, and work at, Brandenburg Bakery, has just such a collection of recipes from a time long ago, and a childhood spent a world away from the Catskills location of the bakery.

Her mother and grandmother were very good in the kitchen—not an oddity at that time in Germany. Not having access to the same explosion of ready-made foods as we were at that time here in America, a family in Germany would keep the old ways alive, with fresh foods made in the home and shared by the family. Things were made at home, daily, in warm little kitchens, all by hand and with love.

Ursula and her grandkids, Sarah in the center, and her sister to the right, in Germany

All the little tweaks, the tiny changes and modifications of a recipe, survive to this day due to a grandmother’s love of baking, and a child’s love of helping. Nothing can bond the generations like time spent baking—a hands-on job made that much more enjoyable by good company, licking sweet batters from spoons, and chatting about the day’s events.

In a time before internet recipe sites, before corn syrup filled foods, when flour was bought fresh and bread made daily, these recipes were perfected to withstand the passage of time—and needed to be passed down from grandmother, to mother, to child, lest they be lost forever.

Oh, What a Difference!

The difference is in the taste.

These recipes, hand crafted, original, still carrying the personality and soul of previous generations, simply taste better.

A simple trick, an extra dash of brown sugar, maybe a special way of rolling the dough, these things make a difference between something good and something great… The kind of great that has you thinking about that pastry days after eating it. And these things can’t be replicated, not in some factory pumping out doughnuts in white boxes. They are earned through the skill and love of those that passed the recipe down to us.

The recipes passed down to Sarah from her grandmother, Ursula, are special, not just to her, but also to those who enjoy the goods made from them at the bakery. It’s a very rare thing, here in the Catskills, to find classic German recipes brought to life just the way it’s been done for a hundred years. This is something we are very proud of here at Brandenburg Bakery.

Ursula loved a full house, bustling with family, and of course, children. What better way to show love than pans of chocolate crumb cake for all to enjoy? The very same chocolate crumb cake made in our bakery, in fact—and a favorite of those who try it.

The Chocolate Crumb Cake, made just the way it's always been.

This warm home, a farm in Germany, was where Sarah was drawn into the joys of baking, and these memories are just another part of what makes a small-town bakery such a wonderful place. The lessons learned there, taught by a woman who loves to bake, made the lasting impression that still shapes everything baked at Brandenburg’s today. Everything has just a little extra oomph, a dash of the old ways of baking, a teaspoon of that love of family baking.

Another recipe perfected by Ursula, and dots the pastry case at Brandenburg Bakery, is the butter cake. Sweet dough topped with butter and cinnamon is baked just so, causing the butter to sink into the cake itself, taking the sugar with it, and creating the irresistible sweet and buttery pastry no one can say no to.

Apple cake, danish, almond fingers… everything in the bakery can be traced back to classic German baking and the memories of a loving grandmother, her daughter, and granddaughter, sharing moments in the kitchen.

The Next Generation

Ursula is still baking, even today. Her friends and neighbors benefit from her skill and classic recipes, and she makes the entire building where she lives smell like sweet, baked goods.

Ursula making doughnuts

And now, when visiting, Sarah and Ursula trade recipes, perfected by their love of the craft, Ursula learning something new, and Sarah bringing even more classic German baking to the Catskills. Baking is something that can always get just a little bit better, and there is always something new to learn.

And Sarah plans on continuing this with her child, in an unbroken chain of passing recipes from generation to generation.

It’s a beautiful thing, and the benefits speak—or, rather, make the mouth water—for themselves.