Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Jun 4, 2014 09:50 AM

Is the traditional German bakery finished?

Goodness, I hope not. It has long been my contention that German breads are some of the best in the world (and I would sure love a Butterbrezel . Unfortunately, it seems that time and convenience may be helping to make the traditional bakery a rarity.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. The mediocre continues to drive out the good. The same trend exists in this country, where, with some exceptions, supermarket "bakery departments" are driving the local bake shops out of business, and only boutique bake-to-order shops turning out special occasion cakes and high-priced cupcakes can survive.

      Artisan bakers are still working out there in many cosmopolitan areas, but even they have an uphill struggle to compete with Ecce Panis "Bake at Home" products and "bakery-cafe" chains (think Panera for a higher-quality example).

      1. The original comment has been removed
        1. It's really a shame that Americans (I mean US folks) have embraced such mediocre food choices. Many of the great places have closed due to our acceptance of the "meh." Your thread title made me think of the once great German bakery in Chicago, Lutz. For generations it was one of the main go-to's for the most incredible pastries, wedding cakes, etc. They had a cafe where one could get lovely lunches not to mention desserts. Sadly they closed several years ago.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ChefJune

            In this case the article is talking about German bakeries in Germany. Maybe the US is at fault on some level - but not the direct problem

            1. re: cresyd

              I guess it would do me some good to read the article before I commented.

              1. re: jpc8015

                Another quick mention in the article is also that baguette consumption in France is on the downswing.

                While I get the idea of worrisome trends of traditional cuisine not being as popular - I wonder how much "globalization" is the culprit. There are growing populations in France and Germany where their background is not French or German many generations back (if any) and so the food sought out or most prized is not traditional French or German. Or it's just another case of the quick and cheap replacing the slower and more expensive.

            2. re: ChefJune

              Excellent German and/or Jewish bakeries flourished where I grew up in NY decades ago. Most are long-gone, and the bakeries near me in the Boston area, where I've lived most of my life, never compared.

              I have to admit that some of the best breads I've had since leaving Long Island are the multigrain and the roasted garlic loaves baked in-house at Costco. The roasted garlic is an excellent stand-in for the onion rye of my childhood. Too bad - I'd much prefer it if I could get breads like that at a local independent bakery.

              1. re: ChefJune

                I grew up with Lutz's pastries so sad to hear they've closed but not surprised the last time I was home to Chicago was 6 years ago at that time the family had already sold it,and I could tell the difference in the cakes.
                Haven't had any cakes like their's since.

              2. I know for a fact how many are lamenting the prevalence of pre-fab rolls and baked goods that have taken over the majority of 'bakeries', which at this point just heat up the factory crap.

                5 Replies
                1. re: linguafood

                  Years ago I worked in one of the few supermarket chains in my area which still had a mostly scratch bakery. I learned the craft from two older men who taught me everything they knew -- not just bread, but also pastries, decorating cakes, you name it. One took early retirement when the chain was bought out by a bigger chain with a semi-national presence because, as he said, "That's the end of the line as far as actual baking is concerned and I refuse to go that route."

                  I now work for another chain and it's true, we don't do any scratch baking. Frozen dough is brought in, thawed overnight, and I shape it into different loaves come morning. Muffin batter is already frozen pre-deposited into paper cups that must be thawed before baking. All of our "artisan" bread is par-baked.

                  From a corporate standpoint it makes sense, and I get that. OTOH it sometimes leaves me wondering if I still am truly a baker.

                  1. re: xo_kizzy_xo

                    I hate to be the one who brings you the bad are not a baker anymore.

                    1. re: jpc8015

                      I know. However, my official position is still listed as "baker". One still does need some finesse to shape dough into salable product :)

                      The other thing is, even as dumbed down everything has become, there are very few takers for any open position. It's not just with my chain -- it's everywhere.

                      1. re: xo_kizzy_xo

                        I know that's very co-worker's family owns a tiny French bakery and they have had struggles hiring anyone willing to work the weird hours, even in the midst of the economic downturn. When they do get someone, they leave for the chains because of the benefits.

                        1. re: coney with everything

                          Yep :nodding: I've worked with several decorators who had had their own shops and/or home businesses, and all of them came to work for us at various times. The problem now -- as with almost all retail corporations -- is getting enough hours to qualify for the benefits. Not many of them hire FT anymore, and if they do, it's almost always for management.

                          For several years I worked overnight shifts. I wasn't crazy about them, but I took them because I was guaranteed I'd never lose my position. Nowadays I can only think of a couple of places which might still have overnight bakers. If they don't, they probably go in around 4AM like I do.

                          It makes me wonder what's going to happen down the line...