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Bakeries bring taste of the Old World to Central Texas

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Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2007 12:00 pm | Updated: 4:53 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Don Bolding

Killeen Daily Herald

Now, bring us some figgy pudding;

Now, bring us some figgy pudding;

Now, bring us some figgy pudding and bring some out here!

... and while you're at it, a cake or two, and a few dozen cookies baked with real butter. We'll have a VERY merry Christmas, especially when it's spiked by one or two of Heidi's rum balls stout enough to make you remember what the old grog tastes like.

German Killeen is no place for dieters, and German natives and those with a taste for the old country gather around a couple of local bakeries with recipes from the Old World.

Killeen has a substantial first- and second-generation German population because of Army marriages that found their way to Fort Hood, adding to the 19th-century heritage around Fredericksburg and New Braunfels, but the newcomers could teach the older culture a thing or two.

Margit Spriggs, who moved here as an Army wife and now operates the Killeen branch of the family business, Heidi's German Bakery, once spent an afternoon looking for a real bratwurst in Fredericksburg and was amazed that she couldn't find one.

But except for meats, she and her family generate enough "kuchen" – or sweet desserts – of their own.

The family, here once before when Spriggs' husband was stationed at Fort Hood, returned from Alaska after he retired and began working for a civilian firm. They had a choice between Killeen and Oceanside, Calif., and settled on Killeen because of the cost of living. She worked in food service for the Killeen Independent School District until 1989. In 1994, the couple's son, Ralph, started Heidi's in Town Square in Copperas Cove and opened the branch in Killeen two years later.

The whole staff now consists of Ralph, his wife, Crissy, Spriggs and two part-timers. Both stores will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. the Sunday and Monday before Christmas.

The Killeen shop is in part of a strip mall at 2501 S. W.S. Young Drive that faces away from W.S. Young. Shortly after it opened, a new building went up right in front of it that houses a Sprint store and Exit Homevets Realty.

"One day, a man came to the shop and told me I had to move my van," she said. "It was in the way of the new building going in right in front of us. I asked if the building would face us or away from us. He said it would face away. That killed us."

If the little shop is dead, though, it does a great job of staying above ground. This is Christmastime, but the showcases are loaded with pastry displays of all kinds, and Spriggs says special orders for parties pour in.

On a recent weekday morning, Desiree Hewitt of Gold Star Real Estate in Cove walked in for her first visit and said she had sampled the shop's wares at a title company's Christmas party and had to check out the source.

So word-of-mouth does a lot, but both Spriggs and Patrick Pfeifer of Pfeifer's German Bakery in Harker Heights say their bread and butter is the German community that knows without asking what the exotic goodies are.

A Christmas staple at Pfeifer's is Christstollen, a cake made with fruit and nuts, baked with real butter and liberally sprinkled with powdered sugar. Heidi's has it, too, but Pfeifer turns them out dozen after dozen.

Uncle Sam had nothing to do with Pfeifer's arrival here.

Pfeifer visited here at the invitation of friends in 1998, went back home, then returned to work in Ken Garrett's Wurstmarkt, a former German restaurant in Harker Heights Plaza. In 2001, he started his own bakery on Veterans Memorial Boulevard and built the business up until he could move to a bigger location in the new shopping center on the southwest corner of the intersection of U.S. 190 and Indian Trail earlier this year. He said the clientele that followed him is more important to his business than the more central location.

"The most important improvement was the increased space," he said.

He carries a wide variety of bread and devotes a lot of shelf space to packaged baked goods imported from Europe. The shop is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The center is pretty aromatic all year around because Russell and Katherine Robbins opened The Cookie Addiction a few doors away about the same time Pfeifer moved there. Russell was an Army helicopter mechanic with Iraq service, and Katherine drew on the heritage of her mother's bakery in California to get the new business started when he got out. This is the store's first Christmas.

"Business has been great," Katherine said. "We've been attracting people by word of mouth, by advertising, and just walk-in business by people who have just noticed us here."

She said they've been doing a lot of mail business for service personnel overseas and a lot of party business.

"We do party trays up to five dozen, but we supplied 800 cookies for a party at the Veterans Administration," Katherine said.

Their products are almost all cookies with some muffins and brownies, but they're doing gingerbread men and pumpkin bars for Christmas, and this week they'll offer frosted holiday cookies every day. There's also a pecan pie muffin "that tastes just like pecan pie," Katherine said.

At this season, nobody mentions anything "light." Pfeifer said of his Christstollen, "Just stay away from it if you're on a diet."

Contact Don Bolding at dbolding@kdhnews.com or call (254) 501-7557

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