By: Erica Mokay, Mackenzie Mays and Ashley Piomelli
Karen Guse started creating her own recipes when she was only 12 years old – that’s when the Mountain Cookie was born.
“People beg me for the recipe to the Mountain Cookie, but not even my mother knows the whole thing. It’s basically what a 12-year-old would throw in a cookie – it’s a little bit of everything,” Guse said. “I’m always throwing things in and changing the recipe. It evolves with time. I’ll probably mess with that recipe for the rest of my life.”
Guse’s love for cooking has taken her from a kitchen in the basement of her home to a booth at the local Farmer’s Market, where she gained the nickname “The Bread Lady,” and finally landed her with her very own bakery on High Street.
The chocolaty oatmeal Mountain Cookie is now just one of Guse’s many original recipes offered at the Wild Mountain Bakery, which opened in mid-January and serves everything from cranberry-orange scones to jalapeno pepperoni rolls.
“This place is my heart and soul – it’s who I am. Everything about this place is my character, and it means a lot to me because it’s the first thing I’ve done by myself,” she said. “It’s still hard to believe sometimes. Now, I actually have an answer when people ask where my bakery is located. I don’t have to say ‘in my basement’ anymore.”
Although she now has her own business, Guse said she still stays true to her “wild” cooking ways.
“We try to do things differently. I don’t really know how much flour I put in my cookies. I couldn’t write the recipe down because I still bake by feel. I could sit there and weigh out my flour but then my cookies wouldn’t have character,” she said.
“We’re really a true artisan bakery, because we rely on our senses rather than what’s on the paper to make our stuff, and that’s exactly why we’re called the Wild Mountain Bakery. We just try not to do things the way they’re supposed to be,”Guse added.
One of Guse’s most faithful customers and self proclaimed “guinea pig” for her innovative bakery concoctions is her husband, Eran.
“When I met her, she was a good cook but she’s learned a lot in the last 11 years,” said Eran, an economics professor at West Virginia University. “I’ve always been the official tastetester. Everything she has is her own recipe and she always puts her own special spin on it. So, she usually has me try it out before serving it to everyone else. I’ve eaten many a baked good in my lifetime.”
Eran said though Karen takes some risks in the kitchen, it usually works out in her, and her customers’, favor.
“She has that kind of mentality that’s just ‘let’s try this and see how it works.’ Some will and some won’t, and she’ll learn from that and do it differently next time but usually her ideas work out quite well,” he said. “She cooked in a kitchen that was 10 x 11 for years, so she had to be kind of creative in ways of putting things together.”
Eran said Karen’s dreams of being a fulltime baker aren’t just a part of who she is – but a big part of their family life as well.
The couple has three children:Brandon, 7, Hayley, 5 and Abigail, 4, who enjoy Karen’s baking as well.
“Karen learned how to cook from her family while she was growing up, and she definitely wants the kids to learn from her,” Eran said. “It’s a bonding thing at the house – especially for girls.They really look up to her and think she’s a great cook. Our boy just likes to eat.”
But Karen’s family members aren’t her only loyal customers.
Diane Coviello-Serria, aCheatLakeresident, discovered Karen at the Morgantown Farmer’s Market and travels to the bakery once a week to buy bread.
“I come fromConnecticut, and you can’t find good bread around here like I’m used to at home.WildMountainbread is more like from the North East – it’s nice and crispy,” Coviello-Serria said. “They have a lot of different things to offer, too. This isn’t just the run-of-the-mill bakery. I think business will be great for them here in Morgantown.”