“Sticky Bun Sunday” has such a nice ring to it. Join the happy crowd smacking sticky fingers at this neighborhood treasure in historic Charleston.
story & photos by Bakery Boy
The Sunday morning line at WildFlour Pastry stretches out the door and down Spring Street, but nobody standing in it seems to mind waiting. In chatty groups or as cuddly pairs or alone, people laugh and talk or read newspapers or thumb iPhone keypads in the shade of breeze-ruffled palmetto trees as they anticipate the treat ahead.
It’s Sticky Bun Sunday at WildFlour Pastry, a weekly tradition just three years old, like the bakery itself, but about as established as any upstart tradition can be in city as steeped in them as is historic old Charleston, South Carolina.
The line gradually moves forward each time someone emerges sporting a satisfied smile or toting a to-go box, disappearing on foot or by bicycle or in a car that has been idling nearby or circling the block.
Once inside the close quarters of this narrow storefront operation, I find a tiny seating area including a pair of tables wedged into twin alcoves with broad windows facing the street. There’s a somewhat roomier courtyard just out a side door with more tables tucked among garden greenery. Finally reaching the service counter at the front of the line, I trade $3 for a red plate bearing a fine specimen of Sticky Bun Sunday’s glorious signature pastry: a WildFlour Sticky Bun.
It’s a delightfully gooey (because it’s loaded with butter) sweet roll coated with cinnamon-sugar and topped with about as many pecans as can fit. It’s served warm and with an optional thick blob of creamy white icing on top.
Looking around as I eat, I spy a few neatniks approaching this delicacy with a fork and knife, performing a sort of culinary surgery and carving off small bites like they’re savoring fine steaks. Others, like me, just pick it up and let the sweet ooze drip, happy to lick sticky fingers later. I even see a few quick tongues tidying up sticky plates, messy chins be damned.
All Hail Pastry Chef Lauren Mitterer
Behind the counter leading her small team of fellow bakers (currently WildFlour has four employees) is owner and sticky-bun queen Lauren Mitterer.
A Chicago native and former Seattle-area resident, Lauren went to the University of Virginia on a rowing scholarship (earning a seat on the U.S. Rowing Junior National Team), took a degree in studio arts, and went on to develop her creative bent in the food world, graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 2004. She has worked as a pasty chef at Tavern on the Green in New York City, Larkspur Restaurant in Vail, Colorado, and Red Drum Gastropub in Mount Pleasant across the Cooper River from Charleston. She’s been nominated twice for awards in the pastry chef category from the prestigious James Beard Foundation, once while working at Red Drum and once at her own WildFlour Pastry.
Lauren struck out on her own by opening WildFlour Pastry in September 2009, leasing a 700-square-foot space on the first floor of a petite two-story cottage in Charleston’s Cannonborough/Elliotborough area, a delightful old neighborhood tucked between the city’s bustling King Street commercial district, the Medical University of South Carolina, and The Citadel — The Military College of South Carolina.
She introduced Sticky Bun Sundays soon after opening, and at last count was making around 200 of the hefty sweet rolls for the occasion each week, frequently running out of them before the 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. serving hours end. (Hint: go early!)
The walk-in retail side took off quickly enough, but to bolster the operation Lauren also set up a catering business, creating wedding cakes and setting up dessert bars at special events. Through WildFlour Pastry she also supplies baked good to such noteworthy Charleston restaurants as The Macintosh nearby on King Street, Next Door in Mount Pleasant, and her former employer Red Drum, also in Mount Pleasant.
But Wait, There’s More
Like most of the Sunday morning crowd, I was at WildFlour for the always-satisfying Stick Buns. But many other choices crowd the showcases. Such as:
• Apples caramelized in brown butter and spiced sugar, nestled into phyllo pouches, baked, garnished with caramel sauce, and topped with aged cheddar
• Double chocolate cookies made with cocoa powder and dark bittersweet chocolate
• Double chocolate brownies, likewise combining cocoa power and dark chocolate and cut into large squares
• Scones, both sweet and savory varieties, in a constantly changing lineup that recently including strawberry jam, blueberry lemon curd, ham and cheddar, pesto and mozzarella, goat cheese and roasted red pepper
• Plus a host of biscuits, cookies, cupcakes, custards, turnovers, tarts, cakes, sweet breads, croissants, and more
What does Lauren love most about running her bakery? “Everything!” she says. “It’s been such a challenging and rewarding endeavor. The people I encounter on a daily basis are probably what I appreciate the most, and also the freedom to create menu items and just play around with pastry ideas at my leisure.”
Sticky Bun Sundays
Don’t miss Sticky Bun Sundays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every week at WildFlour Pastry. Bring friends to hang with or something to read in case the wait gets long, but don’t let the prospect of a delay deter you from a popular, worthwhile, tasty experience.
73 Spring Street
Charleston, SC 29403