Emily Rheingans is sparking a revival — a joyous, much-appreciated renaissance — of what she calls “the quintessential breakfast pastry,” the sweet roll.
“I think rolls are just really fun,” she said. “They’re the quintessential breakfast pastry.”
At her six-week-old Mon Petit Chéri Bakery & Kitchen, Rheingans is turning out a small but ever-increasing assortment of spiraled treats fashioned from moist, rich, yeasted dough.
There are cinnamon rolls, prodigiously slathered in a thick cream cheese icing, and brioche-style rolls finished with vanilla pastry cream and pops of semisweet chocolate.
My favorites are the ones pocked with blueberries and glazed with a thin, orange-flecked icing, a handmade shout-out to the Pillsbury Poppin’ Fresh rolls that Rheingans’ mother baked for her family.
A close second are the sticky, chewy and pecan-packed caramel rolls, an affectionate nod to all of the hours Rheingans logged in her grandmother’s kitchen (“she taught me all about yeasted breads”), and like so much of this kitchen’s handiwork, they’re not aggressively sweet. Rather than piling on the sugars, granulated and brown, Rheingans relies primarily upon honey and maple syrup, to great effect.
On the savory side, Minneapolis’ roll connoisseur funnels the findings of a recent croque monsieur tour of Paris — what a way to visit that city, right? — into a portable meal, rolling a barely sweet dough around ham, Gruyère, bechemal and copious amounts of black pepper. If there’s any justice, it’s going to consign the Egg McMuffin to history’s breakfast-food dustbin.
The Blaine native started her career in coffeehouses, then baked at Birchwood Cafe, Honey and Rye and La Patisserie as she formulated plans to become her own boss. She had plans for a food truck — the relatively low start-up costs were a major draw — but when a partnership fell through she went the farmers market route.
She found a commercial kitchen and landed at the Minneapolis Farmers Market, where her breakfast pastries won friends and influenced people all last spring, summer and fall.
When the Himalayan Restaurant moved to larger quarters, Rheingans snapped up the cafe’s shoebox home in the Seward neighborhood, gave it a quick once-over (sweetest touch: tabletops covered in pages ripped from vintage cookbooks) and launched her brick-and-mortar funhouse.
She puts her stove to work and turns out a modest breakfast and lunch roster, a model of basic, scratch-made affordability: hearty grilled sandwiches on hefty slices of house-baked sourdough or tangy Swedish limpa, well-prepared soups served with buttery baguette and fresh and generously portioned salads.
A handful of a.m. options (available all day) start with a pair of changes-daily quiches, a stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal, toast with fruity jam and a few daily specials; if there are pancakes, order them. Top price: $9, and the counter staff is Wal-Mart store greeter-friendly.
The bakery case also boasts a small, nothing-fancy assortment of buttery cookies, bars, muffins, scones and layer cakes. Like those rolls, most exude a homey, after-school-snack aura, and they’re nearly as habit-forming.
Mon Petit Chéri Bakery & Kitchen
Where: 2401 E. Franklin Av. Mpls.
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 7 a.m.-7 p.m. & Sun. 7 a.m.-4 p.m.