On the first crisp morning of fall in the Lowcountry, Lauren Mitterer has a timely challenge before her: what to do with a peck of gorgeous green Mutsu apples, fresh from the mountains of North Carolina….apple pie? No…No….
“I have an issue with slices,” says the pastry chef and owner of the new WildFlour Pastry shop at 73 Spring St. As desserts go, “I think everything should be individual.”
So 24 hours later, Mitterer stays faithful to her muse. She caramelizes some of the apples in brown butter and spiced sugar, then tucks them into small phyllo purses for baking. Warm, golden and ready out of the oven, each purse is surrounded with caramel sauce and topped with bits of aged cheddar cheese.
Other apples are cored and sliced into thick rings, then roasted. The rings go atop a molasses crisp and the hollow centers are filled with apple cider and caramel. A sprinkle of sea salt gives the dessert a sweet-salty-crunchy finish.
Her insistence on individual creations isn’t food snobbery, it’s her artistic side.
Mitterer went to the University of Virginia on a rowing scholarship and graduated with a degree in studio arts. Then she had the rare opportunity to work as a pastry cook at the famous Tavern on the Green restaurant in New York City. Within a year she was off to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., graduating in 2004.
“I really wanted to continue in art, wanted to keep that as my passion,” Mitterer says of her decision to go to culinary school. “I felt I could do the same sort of creative stuff with pastry, both with texture and taste.”
A Chicago native who later lived in Seattle, Mitterer continues to show the spunk and inspiration that earned her a James Beard award nomination in 2008. At 28, she is striking out on her own after building a reputation at the acclaimed Red Drum Gastropub in Mount Pleasant.
It’s a matter of getting back to baking, her love. Hired by Red Drum as pastry chef in 2005, she had taken on the additional job of manager and found herself spending more and more time on the business operations.
But it turned out to be a good learning experience, one that enabled Mitterer to return to pastry and take a chance on a charming 700-square-foot space with big windows and a courtyard garden. She opened WildFlour in September.
Mitterer is enticing the neighborhood with gourmet coffees and teas, sweet and savory turnovers, tarts, coffeecake and a rotating variety of cookies. She also is doing special “Sticky Bun Sundays” 8 a.m.-1 p.m.
She’s not counting on walk-in business to pay the bills, however. Mitterer will focus on catering, including wedding cakes and dessert bars for events. She also wants to sell desserts to local restaurants.
She prides herself on coming up with fun, clever names for her desserts as she did with the name of her shop.
“It was my dog’s fault,” she explains. “I had a hard time figuring it out. I wanted a cool name and had this whole list.”
One day she took Calla to the beach. As they were walking along, Mitterer thought to herself, “What pretty wildflowers. … Oh! That’s it!” WildFlour was conceived.
Mitterer loves the friendliness of the Lowcountry. “The Red Drum was like a family for so long,” she says. “From the first day everybody gave me a hug. It’s a very welcoming place.”
She’s also grateful for the support she’s received here. “Everything I know I learned at Red Drum. I got to see so many sides … it helped me develop a better sense” of business.
Mitterer is finding that working on your own is exhilarating but does have its drawbacks.
“I have learned that sleep doesn’t happen.”
Teresa Taylor is the food editor. Reach her at email@example.com or 937-4886.