It’s been over two months now since pastry chef Dominique Ansel introduced his trademarked and now-famous Cronut at his Soho bakery in New York City. For those who’s not aware of the hype, this croissant-donut hybrid pastry gained a lot of media coverage and notoriety due to the over 2-hour long queue outside the bakery every morning before it opens as the cronuts are made in limited quantity daily. This is one pastry item that has indeed gone crazy viral all over the world. There is a good reason why people are willing to queue for this though. Supposedly one bite into the cronut will change your life. :p
[via Cronut 101]
Opportunists were very quick to spot this high demand, low supply situation and there’s even a black market online that cropped up with cronut prices going for as high as $50/each – ten times the original $5/each price when bought from the bakery. A very handsome profit indeed. The first couple weeks when the cronut was first introduced, customers were allowed to buy six. Then this was reduced to four per customer, and now because of the scalping, each customer can buy just two. The latest news I came across online recently are someone offering sexual favors in exchange for a cronut (what the…) and the selling of ad spaces on windows of properties on the same block as the bakery, as well as an ad space on the side of a truck that’ll be parked on the street where the bakery is situated (people standing in line for 2 hours have nothing much to look at, so they might as well look at advertising – so reasoned the marketeer). I am so amused by these stories!
Whether the cronut is a fad or indeed fab, I had to try it out for myself. So I joined the queue and stood in line for over two hours one morning outside the bakery (on June 2, to be exact).
Alas I was super disappointed that the cronuts were sold out before I could even get my foot into the bakery door. F@#K%$?#!!!!! But I did take photos of the queue. Heck, that guy who thought of doing ad spaces on the side of the truck and property windows has the right idea after all, coz it was brain-numbingly bor-r-r-ring to stand there early in the morning, halfway between sleepy and excited imagining what a cronut tastes like. See, I arrived at 8am – way too late as people started queueing up at 6am in the morning. -___-” At the time the bakery opened at 9am, now it opens at 8am so if you wanna get in line, get there way earlier. You can now buy a spot in the queue if you don’t get there early enough, from what I’ve read in the news.
Most recently, Chef Dominique Ansel himself has thrown in a philanthropic twist to his coveted cronuts and making them available for a good cause. The Cronut Project invites those crazy for cronuts to donate to the Food Bank of NYC as a bid to win this hybrid pastry. From 27 July until August 2, one cronut will go to the day’s highest donor. Every dollar you donate gets you an additional chance to win and all proceeds will go to Food Bank For New York City. Pretty awesome!
The original cronut recipe is strictly kept confidential, this is after all an original invention and there’s no recipe books of the past to refer to. Apparently it’s very technical to create and there’s a special secret trick to it, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from experimenting on their own. It also didn’t take long for bakeries around the world to get wind of this cronut craze and start producing their commercial versions with the hope that they will fly off the shelves just like the original in New York (cronut imposters unearthed here and here).
In Singapore, some places have come up on my radar offering cronut imitations and while I don’t have the original to reference to (I’m still cursing about that), I went ahead and bought them anyway. Here’s what I think of the Singapore versions:
Source: Da Paolo Gastronomia
Flavors: Creme, Chocolate.
Da Paolo’s version is called Crodo and comes in two flavors. The original is filled with a cream custard (crème patissière) and dusted with a fine sugar, while the chocolate is topped and filled with bittersweet chocolate.
Both of these have fluffy layers but neither is as flaky or crispy as I had wanted them to be. I was sorta expecting this to be moist inside with caramelized crispiness around the outside; that’s what the layers are for, isn’t it? For more contact with the heat to produce a crackly crumbly skin. If anything, these are kinda soft (somewhat sponge-y) and the texture reminds me very much of you tiao (Chinese fried crullers). The cross-sections are beautiful though, with layers evenly puffed-up. They also have the right filling-to-pastry ratio, neither is overly sweet. The cream custard is rich and thick, tastes just like a regular eclair filling; I think this tastes like a cream donut. As for the chocolate version, it tastes like a chocolate croissant (pan au chocolat) with a similar texture too. The only donut-like quality to this is just the ring shape.
Source: Patisserie G
Flavors: Salted Caramel, Lemon, Chocolate.
Unfortunately on the day when I went for these G-Nuts, they were only available in Lemon and Chocolate flavors. According to the staff, Salted Caramel is only made on certain days although he didn’t specify which days exactly. So I went ahead and bought the flavors available. But one thing immediately came to mind as soon as I saw them behind the counter… “My, they are kinda small!”.
See what I mean? Compared to the Crodo (left), the G-Nut on the right is a lot smaller.
After taking a bite, I realized that the petite size will work out pretty well for most people (less calories, haha) because these turned out to be quite greasy. They have the right crispiness for sure on the outside, but the inner layers are slightly dry-ish. Not be a bad thing as the air pockets support the overall crunchiness. As for the filling, I think the Lemon is way too tart. I prefer the Chocolate filling better as it’s creamy and light, not too sweet either. Kinda like chocolate-flavored whipped cream. I wonder what the Salted Caramel tastes like? In conclusion, I find these more enjoyable to eat but just be warned that they are really greasy and best consumed immediately. (I got mine to go and had to blot with napkin after realizing how greasy they were.)
Source: Sugarloaf Cafe
It’s a square donut! These are called Good Donuts and available from Sugarloaf Cafe – a training cafe for students of the Temasek Culinary Academy. You can get these on Thursdays and Fridays only.
Sugarloaf Cafe’s interpretation of this is by slicing the square pastry midway and then sandwiching a layer of jelly and crème patissière in between. There’s also a sprinkling of crunchy bits over the top cream glaze for additional texture to every bite. There’s nothing croissant-ish about this when I tasted it, this is closer to a filled donut in my opinion. The jelly adds a nice contrast to the cream though. Texture-wise, this isn’t as flaky or crunchy as I was expecting though and it’s more on the spongy side.
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
In conclusion, even though I have not personally tried the original cronut, I have had awesome donuts and croissants before. I also studied several recipes on how to make donuts and croissants to understand the nuances and differences between the two. But that’s besides the point. In all fairness, I think any of the cronut imitations featured above has its own merits and I am sure their creators must have spent a tremendous effort experimenting, testing out various techniques and recipes to yield a product that they can confidently sell to their consumers.
I only have the original Cronut photos to refer to; the more I look at that, the more I am convinced that the original must have thicker crispier crust that has caramelization and moist inner layers. And those layers puff up beautifully like an accordion with what appears to be shiny lace-like air pockets. Somehow the Singapore versions don’t seem to have recreated successfully. Is it due to the humidity factor, proofing subtleties, frying temperature, or what? Any baking experts want to share some insights on this?
So as far as how they fare against the original… for those who haven’t sampled the ones in New York, your guess is as good as mine. However, comparisons aside, I can tell you about an amazing pastry that I got from Dominique Ansel Bakery! What, you don’t expect me to leave the bakery empty-handed after standing in line for over two hours, do you? Even though it wasn’t a cronut, that pastry was, well, life-changing worthy in itself and I am not exaggerating. I will write about that in a separate post, because the Kouign-Amann — the bakery’s signature pastry, is worth a post on its own. Stay tuned. :)