A Christmas Kaffeeklatsch in Collingswood
This June, a slice of Germany came to Collingswood when Franziska (Franzi) and Stephen Kramer opened Amber Grain Bakery. The shop places European-style, naturally leavened bread center stage. Steven studied under master baker Thomas Johne in Franzi’s hometown of Dresden.
“Bread brings everyone together,” Franzi says.
Stephen’s rye bauernbrot, a hearty farmer’s bread, is alone worth a visit. Yet the warmth upon entering is the real reward. Regulars queue as much for friendly banter as for food. Listen in, and Franzi’s pride in her culture rings clear, especially come Christmastime. While the breads shine on, holiday treats now join their ranks.
This is the beginning of Germany’s sweetest season.
When Franzi thinks about Christmas back home, what stands out is a profuse sense of quiet. “Christmas in Germany is one of a kind,” she says, “It’s a time for reflection,” Yet it’s also a time for community. Friends gather during Advent for kaffeeklatsch, or “coffee chatter”—aka, afternoon coffee and cake. This December, Amber Grain is creating a Jersey version, serving warm conversation, hot coffee from Revolution Coffee Roasters and traditional Christmas cookies.
Chocolate-drizzled macaroons are served alongside rose-hip jam Linzer herzen and kardamomkugelm, a cardamom cookie. Honig pfeffernüssen perfume the air with pepper and warming spice. Crescent-shaped vanille kipferl are dressed in a wintry sugar dusting—and it wouldn’t be Christmas without lebkuchen. Stephen prepares the gingerbread in the old style, a long resting time helping the fiavors to develop. Pro tip: Should their molasses cookies be available, plan to get one or three. Baked by Sandra Grossmuller-Marrone, who came to Amber Grain by way of Frankfurt, they’re spectacular.
Stop in to savor the cheer, especially if you have a homesick German on your list. The room will be bedecked, and beginning around Thanksgiving, gift baskets packed with German specialties will be on offer. Amber Grain also plans specials for St. Nicholas Day, December 6. This is when children leave out shined shoes in the hopes of finding them filled with clementines and chocolates come morning. “I still do it,” Franzi laughs. “Me, too!” Grossmuller-Marrone exclaims. It’s tempting to join them. With laughter ringing and sweets in the bakery case, the merriment and coziness are infectious.
AMBER GRAIN BAKERY
325 Haddon Ave, Collingswood