A couple weeks ago I was scrolling through Instagram mindlessly when I came across a post from the Preston House. It was a picture of a cinnamon roll, and almost instantly, I was drooling. The top was sprinkled with nuts and dripping with some kind of syrup. I knew I had to try it and I had to know how it was made. I was aware that the Preston House had a brunch menu; what surprised me was that they had such a delicious-looking breakfast pastry, and I somehow didn’t know about it.
So today, on quite possibly the coldest day of the year, I headed out to Riverhead to warm myself up with a giant cinnamon bun. I met up with executive chef Drew Hiatt who gave me a little behind the kitchen doors look at how it all comes together.
It starts with a dough that is proofed until doubled in size. “It’s a very sticky dough, so we want to keep our surface floured,” Hiatt said as he dusts the white powder on the stainless steel table. He softly pushes out the edges of the pillowy round ball until it forms a large rectangle. Then, he takes a pastry brush and starts liberally applying a white creamy mixture to the whole surface.
“This is creme fraiche,” he said. At that point, I melted — a decadent French cream instead of the traditional cream cheese? I’m sold, and I haven’t even tried it. “We try to smear it on pretty heavy,” Hiatt continues. Next, he casually drizzles on a light layer of deep amber-colored maple syrup, followed by a sandy sprinkling of brown sugar.
“We don’t want it to be too wet and the brown sugar is going to absorb the maple syrup,” he said. Finally, the dough is topped with chopped pecans and a healthy dose of cinnamon. Then, the whole thing is rolled up tight and with ease, sliced into thick rolls (“Just let the knife do all the work and glide through the dough,” Hiatt advised.), and proofed once again until each spiral has puffed up — Michelin man style.
Last, but anything but least, Hiatt brushes each with a big glob of toffee glaze and sticks them in an oven for about eight minutes, turning the pan halfway through. When you order them, you can smell them coming out of the kitchen before you see them — warm aromas of sweet caramelized brown sugar and maple syrup. But then I saw them, and they were even better than the pictures.
Puffed and glazed, shades of caramelized tan and brown painted a crown on top of the pillowy swirl that sat in front of me. I started eating it as any sane person would — beginning at the spiral’s edge and working my way in. You know how most cinnamon rolls’ outer layer is crunchy and dry, lacking any icing or flavor at that (Pillsbury, I’m looking at you)? Well, this one didn’t. The texture was soft and comforting, almost melting in my mouth before I had a chance to chew. As I made my way to the center, which didn’t take long as I was elegantly scarfing the whole thing down, I was graced with notes of toasted nuts, sweet syrup and cinnamon.
Nothing about this cinnamon roll was heavy. The dough was light, and the filling and toppings weren’t too sweet or over powering. I didn’t feel like I needed to go into a coma after eating it. This was Goldilocks’ breakfast — just right. On the menu, it’s called the mighty mighty cinnamon bun because of its size and it is a pretty big cinnamon roll. But for me, the simple flavor combinations of an elevated classic are what makes it mighty.