At Mon Petit Chéri, Emily Stahl finds her way.
While one could book a flight to Europe to bite into a crisp croissant or buttery brioche, there may be an option closer to home for sumptuous sweets this season of love.
Mon Petit Chéri has supplied Stillwater with European-inspired pastries since moving from Minneapolis to Main Street in 2019. Owner and lifelong baker Emily Stahl’s passion for pastries is the driving force behind the selection of delightful sweets you’ll find in the case and woven into the breakfast and lunch menu at the completely scratch kitchen.
“I was inspired by traveling abroad and being in France, but we’re not a strictly French bakery by any stretch—we’re more American than anything else,” Stahl says. “I learned a lot from the way that French people respect food, and they place such a great emphasis on it and importance, but then there’s a simplicity with American baking—and paving the way between those two has been really enjoyable.”
Bite into some of Mon Petit Chéri’s mouthwatering pastry offerings:
A New Orleans staple, beignets are basically a French version of a donut. The light, pillowy pastry is made with a yeasted, sweetened dough, cut into squares, deep fried, then doused in powdered sugar. “To me, it seemed like a really good crossover, kind of quasi-American-French,” Stahl says. Mon Petit Chéri’s New Orleans-style beignets are now a popular brunch appetizer. “They’re fried on the spot, to order,” Stahl says.
It’s chocolate season, and Stahl says the brioche au chocolat, a roll made with brioche dough, vanilla pastry cream and chocolate chips, is a must-have. “It’s something I think everyone needs to try,” she says.
Brioche is a French pastry typically made with a rich and buttery bread dough, sometimes with chocolate. There are many recipe variations of the pastry, which is often served for breakfast or as a dessert. For the brioche au chocolat—think of the flavor of pain au chocolat or a chocolate croissant but with the texture of bread. At Mon Petit Chéri, brioche is the base of the luxurious french toast, served with cinnamon sweet cream butter.
Winter visitors to Mon Petit Chéri can sink their teeth into a cannoli, a popular Sicilian pastry that features a tubular crispy shell with a luscious creamy filling. Stahl’s cannolis are available seasonally through February, with the occasional speciality cannoli sweet roll (made with sweetened ricotta and mascarpone, topped with warm chocolate ganache and crushed cannoli shells) making an appearance.
The croissant, a renowned pastry with a rich history dating back to a period of Viennese influence in France, remains one of the most popular European pastries. It’s also regarded as one of the most difficult pastries to perfect. “Once you get used to the process, it’s really not that bad,” Stahl says. “… I went through a lot of trial and error with our recipe, and finally, I feel like we got to a good point.”
At Mon Petit Chéri, Stahl makes both Nutella and all-butter croissants. “It’s a simple one, but that’s kind of the trick of it. You can’t hide behind something that’s really simple,” she says. “You either do it well, or you just shouldn’t do it.”
Ask Stahl about her baking legacy, and she’ll tell you it all comes back to her signature sweet rolls. Stahl grew up surrounded by baking, learning the craft at home through her mother and grandmother. “My grandma was the first person that taught me how to make cinnamon rolls—a recipe from her very well-loved and beaten-up Betty Crocker cookbook,” she says. “My mom was also integral in my fascination to bake. She would let me stand on a chair and just dig my hands in the cool flour and get covered in it, something I now do every day.”
Now, sweet rolls remain Stahl’s favorite pastry to bake—and enjoy. “They are enjoyable to eat, and it brings up so much nostalgia for me because of learning how to make them with my grandma,” she says.
Each day, you’ll find nine unique varieties of sweet rolls available, with seasonal flavors rotating in and out of Mon Petit Chéri’s display cases. Year-round options include the award-winning Sweet Blueberry-Orange along with Caramel Pecan and Classic Cinnamon.
Stahl credits the Mon Petit Chéri team for serving sweets and eats that people enjoy and says she still has much to learn and perfect. “Baking is actually physically exhausting the majority of time, but I enjoy working with my hands,” she says. “… I love the process and the daily grind of it all. The creativity that this job allows me is very much what drew me to it in the first place.”
A decade later, Stahl is making her mark in the global baking tradition. “I feel very grateful. So many people have really paved the way as far as pastry is concerned, but it’s definitely been very fun to find my own way within it.”