Ringing in the New Year is a sweet treat to many German Americans. One family celebrates its German heritage with thousands of families … by baking.
Stephen Weinrich and his family, owners of Weinrich’s Bakery and Kaffeehaus in Willow Grove, bake hundreds of heffekranz and sell them this time of year through New Year’s Eve. The bakery will be open Dec. 31 from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. It’s a sweet pastry glazed and covered with slivered almonds that his family, as well as many German Americans, have been diving into for decades.
“We’ve had it forever, well at least since before I was here, so that’s longer than 50 years,” Weinrich said with a laugh.
The Weinrich family began its 90-year history of baking in 1919 when Herman Weinrich arrived at Ellis Island from Germany, according to the website www.weinrichbakery.com. The family established the Willow Grove location in 1952.
“The tradition carried over from the old country to here and we’ve shared it with people of America,” he said.
But the recipe is a family secret, a proprietary blend of just the right ingredients to get a flaky crust, a sweet dough, and a great glaze.
There is also some symbolism involved in the heffekranz.
“It’s shaped in a ring or a pretzel, which is a good luck symbol in the German culture. The ring means eternity – no beginning or end, so you continue on. It all has to do with the brand new start with the New Year,” Weinrich said.
Unlike other cultures, which have a distinct meal to serve on New Year’s, Weinrich said people should enjoy heffekranz with whatever they like. His family doesn’t have a traditional meal or festive party they throw to eat it. Instead, for the Weinrich clan, the entire holiday season is one big get together after another.
“When you work in a family business, you get to see your whole family the whole holiday. We get to spend more time together than most families,” he said.
From mid-November through late December, the Weinrich family works together in the bakery making other families’ baked good traditions. They roll, ice and glaze pastries, petit fours, cakes and more this time of year to make parties complete.
“We spend every single day at the bakery together, and that is the tradition to our family. That’s what’s very special to me — four generations working side by side and creating the same things we’ve made for the last 80 years,” Weinrich said.
Traditionally, people don’t eat heffekranz much past the first few days of the New Year, and not many people are eating pastries, either. After all that family time, January is a slow month for bakeries, he said.
“It’s a time to rest. It’s national diet month,” Weinrich said.
Instead of focusing on whole grains and other trends in the industry in January, Weinrich Bakery sticks to the classics its known for – pastries, sweets, cakes and other baked goods.
“In January, certainly you can’t get a parking spot at LA Fitness like you couldn’t get a spot at the mall a month before hand. The American culture is that everybody has good intentions of making resolutions and gives it up for a few weeks this time of year,” he said.
That translates to a time when the bakery stays open, but the family takes turns going on vacation and planning the next year, which is full of busy times to come in February for Valentine’s Day and March for St. Patrick’s Day.
Plum is the decorator of the petitefours in the picture.
Weinrich’s Bakery & Kaffeehaus
55 Easton Road, Willow Grove