Master baker: Cologne native brings European flavors to Palm Boulevard in Brownsville

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Jennie Baeckmann was a small child in her hometown of Cologne, Germany, when the path that would eventually lead her to Brownsville began to take shape.

In the mid 1980s, Brownsville’s former mayor Tony Martinez Baeckmann’s aunt, who died in 1991. Martinez stayed in touch with the family, including Baeckmann’s father, Alfonso Ortiz, who had left Brownsville and moved to Germany long before.

Fast forward a few decades and Martinez, owner of 1375 Palm Blvd., formerly home to Bates Cleaners and Dodici Wine & Provisions, tasted some potato bread Baeckmann had baked, compliments of her father, who was in town visiting from Cologne. Baeckmann, by this time, had relocated to Brownsville with her husband, Thomas, also from Cologne.

Martinez thought the bread was phenomenal, and then thought about 1375 Palm Blvd., which was without a tenant.

“I said, ‘Why don’t you come bake over here?’” Martinez said.

Pan de Cada Dia opened in February. Baeckmann, a self-taught baker with a passion for what she says is closer to art than science (though a successful baker must be able to follow a recipe), is up well before sunrise Tuesday through Saturday to create the day’s wares.

Tuesday’s menu includes sourdough scones and Nutella twists; Thursdays, sourdough surprise and cream horns; Saturdays, sourdough baguettes, focaccia, croissants and cheese cakes, not to mention five kinds of cookies, including gingerbread, shortbread and oatmeal, available throughout the week.

The bakery’s complete menu can be found on its website,, and its Instagram and Facebook pages. Pan de Cada Dia is open Tuesday-Friday from 7:30 a.m. to noon, and 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, though they tend to run out fast. The name is in Spanish, though the fare is like what you’d find at a corner bakery in Cologne or Paris, though they also have sweet empanadas — on Wednesdays.

Among Baeckmann’s solidly German delicacies are sourdough milk buns (milchbrötchen) and “nussecken,” a triangular delight featuring sourdough shortbread layers, apricot and nut filling, and chocolate-dipped corners.

“Translated it would be ‘nut corner,’ but I think it sounds weird, so I just stick with nussecken,” Baeckmann said. “I’m surprised how many people can say it right. They come in here and they learn it.”

Freshly baked sourdough bread is backlit by the rising sun Thursday, May 9, 2024, at Pan de Cada Dia bakery in Brownsville. (Miguel Roberts | The Brownsville Herald)

Nussecken isn’t on the menu, but Baeckmann likes to keep it interesting.

“A lot of times during the week I do something new, or a surprise that’s not there every day,” she said. “Lavender scones, for instance.”

Baeckmann said her client base is growing fast and that the bakery gets new customers every day. Oftentimes customers will leave, then come back 10 minutes later, she said.

“In the beginning I thought something is wrong, but they wanted more,” Baeckmann said. “They come back for more.”

The most important thing she wants people to know about her baking is that there are no preservatives or artificial ingredients of any kind, and no added sugar in her sourdough bread, which has only three ingredients: flour, water and salt. Baeckmann added that every dough and every fruit filling is made from scratch.

She and Thomas moved to Brownsville three years ago. A year in Brownsville as a foreign-exchange student in the mid-1990s made a big impression on her, and she always wanted to come back, a move Thomas encouraged, she said.

“It’s beautiful,” Baeckmann said. “The beach is close, and warmer weather. Very different than Germany.”

At the same time, it can be a real challenge finding healthy food in this country, and Thomas couldn’t eat the bread here without feeling sick, so Baeckmann started baking her own, she said. Plus, she loves eating bread — and pastries.

The French croissants, available only on Saturdays, get snatched up fast, Baeckmann said. She’s also getting a lot of traction with her lavender vanilla shortbread cookies and focaccia with figs, goat cheese and honey. Baeckmann has had to ramp up production to meet demand, but there are limitations, she said.

“It doesn’t make any sense to make even more and throw it away, because we don’t keep things for the next day,” Baeckmann said. “Everything you see here is made fresh, all the bread, all the pastries. Everything is made fresh that day.”

She said she doesn’t mind getting up before dawn five days a week and likes the operation just the way it is, with no desire to expand.

“I love it. It’s fun — when the sheeter is working,” Baeckmann said with a laugh. “We had some troubles with the croissant sheeter. This was not that fun. We got a new one, and since then the fun is back.”

Martinez calls Baeckmann “a star,” and thinks her success shows Brownsville has an appetite for new things, even if the new things in this case are old recipes from Europe.

“Brownsville is experiencing the kind of growth that we haven’t had in a long time,” he said. “We’re having a diversity of people with different tastes and who require different amenities.”

Martinez said he’s fine with small, and that Pan de Cada Dia, perched on the corner of Palm Boulevard he long ago christened “El rincon de la paz,” (The Corner of Peace), is having a positive impact.

“All of this is good for the neighborhood,” Martinez said. “I’m not a big franchise guy. I like mom and pop.”