A cake stand held the remains of the day - two rustic pies, one sweet and the other savory - and it wasn't yet 10:30 a.m.
was roughly an hour and a half left for shoppers at the Durham Farmers'
Market and an unlucky few likely had already gone home empty-handed,
without the hybrid sugar-frosted "donutmuffins" or savory pies crafted
by baker Phoebe Lawless.
Lawless bagged up two of her baked
goodies, one buttermilk, the other chocolate, then called out an order
for a cappuccino. Freshly brewed espresso permeated the air with a
thick earthy aroma and frothy whoosh.
On an unseasonably warm
winter morning, a line formed in front of the tented booth for Scratch
Seasonal Artisan Baking, where customers patiently waited for some of
the best baked goods in the county.
"Everybody loves the
donutmuffins," said market manager Erin Kauffman. "I love the red beet
pie. It's salted red beets with cheese. It's really good. It's sweet
Prepared foods and baked goods make up the 25 percent of the market not allocated to farmers.
had a unique product that we didn't have," Kauffman said. "Everything
she uses, she sources locally as much as possible. We look very
favorably on products using locally sourced ingredients."
and winter menu items rely heavily on root vegetables and greens,
featuring such pie fillings as chorizo-sweet potato or garlicky greens
with Asiago cheese. When warmer weather prevails, there may be classic
pies like local asparagus, bacon and egg, or Shaker lemon pie made with
Meyer lemons from L'Hoste Citrus in Louisiana.
locally sourced, her ingredients come from Chapel Hill Creamery,
Lindley Mills, Maple View Dairy, Fickle Creek Farm, and Capriotopia
Farm, among others.
Lawless, former head pastry chef at Magnolia
Grill, didn't invent the donutmuffins, nor does she consider herself a
But her pies - and her Community Supported Pies
subscription - have created a bit of a cult following. Local foodies
began buying them at the Moore Square market in Raleigh where Lawless
first started selling. Then on a customer's suggestion, she started a
pie subscription - $65 for four weeks. Customers specify sweet or
savory, either three small pies or one large, and pick up their orders
at the market.
Hot off the shelves
fact, her subscription was so hot, the demand outpaced her ability to
produce pies for pick ups in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. Pie
subscriptions now are available only for pick up in Durham.
But soon there will be pie for everyone.
baked goods are so well-received, the young entrepreneur plans a spring
opening of a Scratch outlet at 111 Orange St. in downtown Durham.
new retail space will serve an expanded savory menu of her empanadas
and hearty pies as well as traditional Italian filled pastries like
Stromboli and Tuscan topped flatbreads like schiacciata, which is
similar to focacccia.
Lawless didn't pick up a rolling pin as a kid, determined to be a baker.
she intended to work as a savory cook and attend culinary school. Her
boyfriend at the time was Greek and cooked everything on a grill with
the bright, joyous flavors of the Mediterranean.
pushed me into food," Lawless said. "He cooked in a way I was never
exposed to. It really opened my eyes, really got me curious."
looking for a position in a local kitchen, she applied for an opening
as assistant baker at Magnolia Grill, working with former head baker
Wynn Clark. Lawless said Karen and Ben Barker, chef-owners of the new
American neighborhood restaurant, encouraged her development as a baker.
deep in pastry, she discovered her new passion in the tactile nature of
baking. She also found pleasure in the science of her craft, solving
problems and understanding ratios as well as the balance of flavors.
"It was just my hands and the dough," she said. "There wasn't even a knife separating me from the food."
Barker says Lawless's palate is excellent. Usually savory chefs don't
understand pastry, and pastry chefs don't understand savory, she said.
is probably one of the more talented bakers to come out of this
kitchen," Barker added. "Even if you want to be a savory cook, you need
to have baking skills, and a lot of savory cooks don't."