The cronut debuted at Dominique Ansel's namesake bakery in New York's SoHo on May 10, and in less than a month it has spawned an international following, a thriving black market, and a proud following of cronutphiles. This doughnut-meets-croissant has rapidly moved from foodie favorite to the international dessert lexicon. Here's everything you need to know about the cronut, how to get it, and whether this pastry is worth the effort:
What exactly is a cronut?
Simply enough, "it's part croissant and part doughnut," explains Hugh Merwin at Grub Street. But the process of making one isn't. It is extremely difficult to take croissant pastry dough and fry it like a doughnut. To master the "sheer implausibility and engineering genius that goes into each one of these things," says Merwin, Ansel tried about ten different recipes and learned to fry his creation in grapeseed oil at an undisclosed temperature. The cronut originally premiered in rose-vanilla, complete with Tahitian vanilla cream and rose sugar. However, at the start of June, Ansel switched the flavor to lemon maple to be "zesty" and "lighter."
Why is it a big deal?
For one, cronuts are "a bold step forward for pastry," writes Merwin. You can't overlook the fact that the culinary skill needed to create cronuts is extremely high; pastry dough in a fryer usually "separates instantly and parts six ways to Sunday," says Merwin. Indeed, it takes three days to create a cronut start-to-finish.
Moreover, there's something about taking the nationally beloved doughnut and elevating it to something sophisticated that attracts a following, especially in more cosmopolitan, urban areas. "It's a continuation of the doughnut craze but also sort of a continuation of everything fried," food blogger Nico Triantafillou tells the Associated Press. "It's kind of New York's version of state fair food, only taken to a whole new level with the credibility of Dominique Ansel."
How do I get my hands on one?
With great difficulty. There are two main ways you can acquire an authentic cronut. First, you can be one of the many, many devotees who have started waiting in front of the Soho bakery at around 6:00 AM, a full two hours before its doors are even opened. "Simply put, this is a pastry you have to get up early for — earlier than when your mother used to wake you up for church," writes Alexander Abad-Santos at The Atlantic Wire. And the lines go well around the block. "It's sort of like Occupy Wall Street, but with freshly bathed, possibly unemployed individuals in printed pants plus a smattering of tourists determined to find the next Magnolia Bakery," says Abad-Santos.
However, even early risers aren't guaranteed a cronut. Ansel only bakes around 200-250 cronuts each day, so people are even left empty-handed — and distraught. "I've seen some people crying," Ansel told Eater.com, and "someone flipped off one of our baristas, which I was really not happy about."
There's a second route for getting a cronut, but it's a little shady. As with many precious items in short supply, cronuts can be purchased on the black market for up to eight times their in-shop value. As The Huffington Post reports, often the first people in line have no intention of eating the pastry confection. The $5 cronuts sell on Craigslist for up to $40. Cronut scalpers (yes, they're really called that) Joe and Danny Bird are able to make up to $120 a day.
Due to the lines and the black market, Ansel has even imposed limits on how many cronuts an individual is allowed to purchase. It was initially at six but reduced to three in the past week.
Where else can I get cronuts?
Technically, nowhere. Ansel has already acquired an international trademark for the cronut "just to be on the safe side," so he's the only one baking these goodies. However, people are clamoring for them worldwide: Jenn Harris at the Los Angeles Times implores, "L.A. Pastry chefs, save us from Cronut fever envy," and Katy Salter at The Guardian wonders, "Short of hopping on a plane to JFK, how can we get our hands on one in Britain?"
As a result, cronut copycats have emerged as a global phenomenon. Washington, D.C., boasts the "doissant" at Chocolate Crust bakery. For all intents and purposes, it seems pretty similar to the cronut's doughnut hybridization with the croissant. Other cities have gotten on the doissant (sometimes spelled dossant) bandwagon. L.A. pastry chef Roxana Jullapet calls her creation the "CroNot." In Manila, Wildflour Bakery is selling croissant donuts for nearly half the price of Ansel's at 120 Philippines pesos, or about US $2.86. Cronuts have even made it all the way down under to Melbourne, Australia, at the MoVida bakery. Chef Michael James calls them dossants, but makes no bones about their forebear. "It's definitely Dominique Ansel's idea," he tells Australia's goodfood.com. "I don't know what his recipe is. We just make it our way and finish it off with our interpretation."
Does the taste warrant the hoopla?
Well, lines around the block and online black markets don't generally occur for the average-tasting pastry. Nor do they earn their own segments on Good Morning America. "A little bite of heaven," is how Kyra Parkhurst, a tourist from Utah, described her first taste of cronut.
But there are a number of critics who say the lines and fuss just aren't worth it for a good, not great pastry. "No one said it was bad," writes Abad-Santos of his and his co-workers reactions to the cronut. "But a couple of us found it to be too rich, too sweet, and, maybe just too much even for 9 a.m. on a summer Friday." Justin Rocket Silverman at the New York Daily News was equally unfazed, writing, "They didn't taste much different from a run-of-the-mill éclair."
Still, there hasn't been a day when Ansel hasn't sold out of his creation. Luckily, for those who can't snag a cronut, you can turn to good old Dunkin Donuts. The national-chain is launching its Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich, and it may be just in time for cronut backlash.