Tecumseh Bread & Pastry

On Tuesdays, I run errands.  The main reason I run errands on Tuesday is because I can stop by Tecumseh Bread & Pastry to get a chocolate croissant.  And bread.  And sometimes a cookie.  Or some other kind of pastry.

There are so many things I like about this place, I’m not sure where to start.  Last Tuesday was the first time I stopped by 3 Dudes & Dinner, the temporary home of Tecumseh Bread & Pastry.  Arlo Brandl greeted us and introduced himself, then walked us through the tantalizing display of pastries and breads.  Since I’d been dreaming about chocolate croissants every since I heard about this new bakery, I had to have one. 

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Baker Arlo Brandl

Arlo was a gem and picked out the two biggest ones for my aunt and me.  We made ourselves at home on the couch, even though it’s not really setup for people to hang out and linger.  That day we took home a loaf of sourdough bread and a chocolate cookie, you know, in case we got hungry later.  We waited until we were back in the car, only slightly full from eating our enormous croissants, to start tearing into the fragrant, still warm, loaf of bread.  This week, in addition to the usual chocolate croissant, we got a loaf of bread with caramelized onion & gruyere – absolutely fabulous.  We ate big hunks while finishing up all of our errands. 

chocolate-croissants

Best. Chocolate. Croissant. Ever.

Another thing I like about TB&P is that they use local fresh ingredients whenever possible and the grains are freshly ground.  Arlo doesn’t compromise quality to use local, but he does source his craft from our neighboring states, Ohio and Indiana, when a Michigan vendor is not available.

When I asked Arlo why he chose Tecumseh instead of a bigger city, he said that when he compared the quality of life for bakers in New York City to the quality of life for a small town baker, it was an easy choice. I love that he wants to be the village baker for this tiny little town!

Recently Arlo left his day job to pursue the bakery full time. When I asked if it was difficult to get the wholesale side of the business going (he currently provides breads to 3 Dudes & Dinner, Evans Street Station, Tecumseh Brewing Company, and Cotton Brewing Company in Adrian) he replied that it was actually pretty easy – he just shared a few samples and they were ready to order.  That’s all it would have taken for me!

breads

See that lonely little bun in the front row?  I wanted to stuff the entire thing into my mouth . . . 

The bakery is currently open for business on Tuesday and Thursday, 5:00 am – 11:00 am and Saturday and Sunday 5:00 am – 1:00 or while supplies last.  Arlo and his wife Alisyn are planning to open a downtown Tecumseh storefront this spring and will be open every day of the week.  If you have a chance to go Michigan’s east side, I highly recommend a stop at Tecumseh Bread & Pastry! Be sure to get there early – you don’t want to miss out on the best selection!

 

Gingerbread Houses

A really, really long time ago, at least twenty-five years, I took a class on how to make a gingerbread house, the elaborate kind that you see on magazine covers.  The class was held at the Methodist church in Manchester, Michigan, where I grew up.  My aunt, who is often my partner in crime, attended with me. 

The instructor walked us through how to make the spicy gingerbread (and I’ve never tasted better!), the royal icing (the glue that holds the house together), and the buttercream frosting that you use to decorate the house and any surrounding area.  Unfortunately, it was back in the day before there were cell phones or digital cameras or social media and even though I looked through all my old pictures, I couldn’t find a single one that commemorated the house I made in class or that I created in subsequent years. 

Making a creation of this caliber was quite an undertaking.  The dough (which required 15 cups of flour) had to be stirred by hand (I didn’t have a big ol’ Kitchen Aid mixer in those days) and refrigerated, then rolled out so that each sheet was exactly the same thickness, each section of the house meticulously cut and transferred to the baking sheet in the hope that it would retain it’s perfect shape for easier assembly once it was time to start putting it all together.  The royal icing (aka, cement) had to be mixed and covered with a towel lest it harden prematurely. 

As the kids got older, I stopped the tradition, unless I met someone who had never made a gingerbread house and wanted to share the full experience with them.  The last time was at least ten years ago and it turned into a competition between the men and the women and there were some who resorted to artificial means to get their house to stay together instead of following the proper process and letting the royal icing do all the work.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

This past weekend, several of my family members got together to make gingerbread houses – not the genuine, time consuming kind, but the kid friendly kind made out of graham crackers and a vast array of confections.  The little ones had such a great time, adding so many embellishments to their homes and yards that I’m sure each one weighed well over a pound by the time they were finished. 

candy-for-gingerbread-houses

All the embellishments a gingerbread house could ever need

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A blank slate

building-the-foundation

Start with a solid foundation

what-goes-next

Hmm, what goes next?

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There’s a lot going on at this house!

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Pink, definitely lots of pink

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A snowy house with a paddock

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When in doubt, use ALL the candy!

As I’ve worked to simplify my life over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed two things – I’ve quit doing things that I’ve decided are too complicated and sometimes I make things a lot more complicated than they need to be.  The point of making a gingerbread house from scratch is not to create a Pinterest worthy snapshot of a moment in time, the point is to make a gingerbread house with family or friends, laugh at the imperfections and things that go wrong, eat way too much candy and cookies, and enjoy the experience.

Do you ever make things more complicated than they need to be?  Have you missed out on simply enjoying something because of it?  Please let me know by clicking on the comment link above or by leaving a comment on Facebook.

Who’s Hungry?

It’s not who you might think. According to the AARP Bulletin, we live in a country that throws out between 30 and 40 percent of it’s food supply, an estimate of over one-hundred and sixty billion dollars.  In the US, we’re just days past the biggest meal of the year, searching Pinterest to find creative ways to use up the last of our Thanksgiving leftovers, though for many of us, we’re just done, and we’ve tossed out lots of snacks and side dishes right along with the turkey carcass.

turkey

This post isn’t about all of our excess for a change, though, it’s about the people in our country who are hungry, or what is known today as “food insecure.”  ‘Food insecure’ is a ridiculous term – it’s a euphemism so that we don’t have to admit that in America, the land of opportunity, there are people who don’t have enough to eat.  How many people?  According to statistics gathered in 2015, over thirteen percent of households or 43.1 million Americans. 

While it’s criminal and tragic that the majority of households that suffer from food insecurity hunger are households with children being parented by single mothers, what struck me is that in 2014, 5.4 million people over the age of sixty, a whopping nine percent, are hungry.  Three out of five seniors who qualify for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) do not participate in the program.  Lack of mobility, access and knowledge of technology and the stigma associated with needing assistance are some of the reasons for this lack of participation.

These are our parents and grandparents who don’t have enough to eat.  According to the National Council on Aging, their inability to purchase quality food that offers good nutrition leads to diseases like diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, heart attacks, gum disease, and asthma.

So what do we do about it?  How do we help those who are struggling?  First, pay attention.  Are there older adults living in your neighborhood? Going to your church? Get to know them and watch out for them, making sure that they are able to get to the store, offer to pick up groceries for them, drop off a meal or extra groceries, especially if the weather has been bad.  Next, research and let them know about programs that are available in your area or national programs, like Meals on Wheels or SNAP.  Lastly, invite them over for a meal or to join you for lunch or dinner and make sure there are some leftovers for them to take home.  And maybe the next time you see an older person in line behind you at the grocery store, you simply pay it forward.