Pastry chef Callie Speer crafts inventive spins on nostalgic childhood favorites at Swift’s Attic, the highly acclaimed, hip eatery that opened last year in downtown Austin, Texas.

Speer aims to complement chef Mat Clouser’s creative American small plates menu with her desserts. She uses ingredients such as Cap’n Crunch cereal and root beer gel, and prides herself on her homemade ice cream.

She recently discussed her seasonal menu, Southern flavors and savory desserts with Nation’s Restaurant News.

Tell me about your dessert menu at Swift’s Attic.

I’m always trying to do things that are comforting and familiar to people. Something that people can associate with and not be totally surprised by, but do them in a way that is a little nicer and a little surprising. I do throwbacks that are spruced up a little bit.

What is currently on the menu?

One of the things that has stayed on the menu is what we call popcorn and a movie. It’s a way to incorporate really familiar flavors for people. It has little homemade candy bars that are reminiscent of a Kit Kat and a Twix combined, with salted popcorn ice cream, homemade Cracker Jack and a root beer gel. It is something fun that people may have not eaten before, but still has flavors that are recognizable and not completely off the wall.

I also have one right now that has Cap’n Crunch ice cream. A lot of times people don’t necessarily eat that as adults but remember it from being a kid and relate to it as well.

How often do you change the menu?

I would say I change it quarterly, or seasonally. The Cap’n Crunch one has been super popular, so we have left that alone for a while. Otherwise I try to change it up so I can use some of the more local produce, and also for the boredom factor. It gets old having the same things over and over. I usually have four or five at a time and two of them stay pretty consistent and the other three rotate through. We know it’s time to change the menu when we get tired of eating it.

What desserts are you offering for the fall and winter?

That’s one of the things I’m working on right now. Fall and winter are a challenge for me because they are not my favorite as far as the produce that comes through. I tend to be really excited by spring and summer. I think I am going to do something with squash. We have been getting a whole bunch of squash from a farm that’s really near us, so that that will come into play somehow. In Texas, I have a hard time transitioning into the fall and winter stuff because it doesn’t really feel like fall or winter here until about February. Some of the warm, comforting flavors you might see in the winter months might not really fit here until a little bit later.

How does the influence of the South play into your dishes?

I like to do things that are comforting to people or reminiscent of things that they had as a kid. That plays in quite a bit. I associate Southern flavors with banana pudding and other traditional comfort desserts. At one point I had a dessert where I did these little fried pies with banana pudding panna cotta. I don’t necessarily think of it as trying to work Southern flavors into my dishes. I think it just sort of falls in line that way when I’m thinking of things that people relate to, and any Southern-style desserts are super homey and comforting.

What is your favorite dessert to make?

For sure my favorite thing to do is ice cream, which we make in-house. It is a really good way to win people over.

What trends are you noticing in the dessert world?

There has been a trend in the last couple of years of pastry people trying to lend themselves more towards savory flavors, which I think is exciting because personally I don’t really like sweets, which is kind of funny that I do them for a living. It’s always really exciting to see people playing around with savory elements and looping them in. It’s just more exciting when people are using unexpected ingredients. I know in other parts of the country that has been done for a long time, but I think Austin is starting to step up its game.

Are you currently doing anything with savory flavors?

I do a coconut panna cotta with a basil sorbet, peanut butter and curried Rice Krispies.

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