Made in Northwest Indiana

MADE IN NORTHWEST INDIANA: Branya's Bakery, St. John

2013-02-02T17:44:00Z MADE IN NORTHWEST INDIANA: Branya's Bakery, St. JohnBy Melanie Csepiga Times Correspondent
February 02, 2013 5:44 pm  • 

ST. JOHN | Stepping inside Branya's Bakery is, for many, a step back into their grandmother's kitchen in which real butter, real sugar, cream and whole eggs were the stuff of which dream creations were made.

Owners Jean and Dennis Theile eschew the common use of advanced preparations for baked goods and instead prepare "from scratch."

"We appeal to the people moving back to wanting to know what's in their food. ... The recipe for our Easter lamb cake is 150 years old," Jean Theile said proudly."

Both products of the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (now Le Cordon Bleu) Dennis Theile is a pastry chef while Jean Theile's degrees are on the culinary side.

She cut her culinary teeth in Cannes, France, working in the American Pavilion during the famed film festival. They both sharpened their skills working for award-winning chef Wolfgang Puck at Spago and Wolfgang Puck Catering until he sold.

After the birth of their twins, Brandon and Anya, for whom the bakery is named, the Theiles moved closer to her extended family. Watching as bakeries closed in the Tri-Town area, they opted to establish themselves in St. John four years ago.

A redesign in August added a lunch area, with queued seating reminiscent of that Jean Theile appreciated in Europe. They made the tabletops themselves.

The lunch area faces glass display cases filled with a vast variety of breakfast and dessert pastries.

The couple enjoys the happy faces of customers and frequently customize or add items to please them.

A new creation that grew from Jean Theile and the twins cooking in their kitchen is pasketti bread; that is, bread to go with a spaghetti-focused dinner. Her homemade spaghetti sauce is used instead of water and gooey mozzarella is melted on top.

Such whimsy is evidenced in their displayed goods as well as in specialty cakes Dennis Theile creates.

"People bring in their ideas, and we put them on the cake," Dennis Theile said. "We like it when they (other bakeries) say it can't be done, and people come to us," he said with a smile.

The Theiles' wedding and specialty cakes are as inventive as customers' imaginations. One "Barbie" birthday cake came with a real Barbie Doll in the midst of the cake. More recently, Dennis Theile said he was pleased to create a patriotic cake with a U.S. Flag for a young soldier being deployed to the Middle East.

On any given day, Branya's offers 12 varieties of Danish pastries, myriad doughnuts and breakfast rolls, cupcakes, mini-cakes, muffins and artisan breads. The roasted garlic Asiago bread is a popular offering.

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