Cronuts: Worth the hunt or a passing fancy?

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013 - 8:28 am

Gourmet cupcakes? How 2008 of you. Mini pies? Hello, those are soooo two years ago.

Cronuts rank as the country’s latest food craze, a hybrid dessert that combines a flaky croissant with the deep-fried decadence of a filled doughnut. Cronuts are the creation of New York City pastry chef Dominique Ansel and debuted in May at his bakery. Since then, Cronuts have become intensely coveted, to the point where these $5 pastries were being flipped on a black market of sorts for up to $40 each. If you’re in the Big Apple and plan to buy some, prepare to wait in line for more than two hours at Ansel’s Soho bakery and adhere to a limit of two Cronuts per person.

Here in Sacramento, customers are clamoring for Cronuts, but they’re not easy to find. The term “Cronut” has been trademarked by Ansel, though knockoff “Cronot” recipes and similar products are popping up at bakeries. The Sweet Dozen bakery on Madison Avenue has sold a doughnut-croissant hybrid called the “doissant” since June; they’re available with or without cream filling. They’re not on the chalkboard menu behind the counter, so call ahead to place an order. Sweet Dozen often sells more than two dozen doissants daily ($3 each) in a variety of flavors.

“We’ve got sugar, cinnamon powder and all the fillings like raspberry, strawberry, lemon and custard,” said John Khamphay, owner of Sweet Dozen, who learned about doughnut-croissants from his daughter.

Take a bite and you might taste what the hype’s about. When they’re prepared properly, like a fresh batch of Sweet Dozen’s doissants that are still warm and gooey on the inside with custard, you’ll find a sweet dessert with tantalizing texture. The croissant component adds a nice chew compared with the typical cake doughnut, and despite all the sugar and butter involved you won’t feel like you’ve been punched in the gut after eating one.

Also enhancing the taste: the thrill of eating something that’s so highly coveted. And who doesn’t like a good doughnut and croissant to begin with?

“When you combine the croissant and doughnut, both have many strong food memories for people,” said Christine Couvelier, a food trend expert from Canada, where the Cronut craze has also taken hold. “It’s a flavor and experience that many people are willing to say, ‘Hey, let me get a taste of that.’ The Cronut is moving really fast and people are jumping on board, but will it be around forever? It might, and it might not.”

Backlash is inevitable for any trend that gets overhyped. Skepticism for Cronuts already exists in Sacramento, even though the pastry can barely be found in town. Catherine Enfield, the local food blogger behind Munchie Musings, counts as one of the Cronut skeptics.

“It’s the trendy thing,” said Enfield. “Everyone’s gotta be the first one to have it. I’m sure it’s good, but it’s that whole idea of waiting three hours in line for this thing. There’s something to be said for not climbing on the latest food trend.”

That “just say no” to Cronuts mantra also applies to one Sacramento pastry shop. Doughbot, the popular downtown Sacramento doughnut shop featured on Food Network Canada's “Donut Showdown,” refuses to honor customer requests for making them.

“People don’t leave us alone about them, and we’ve said quite publicly we’re not going to make one,” said Bryan Widener, co-owner of Doughbot. “I’ve never tried one, so how could I reproduce it?”

Given the speed at which food trends peak and decline in this social media age, the Cronut could soon follow cake pops in the “where are they now?” file. The ramen burger, which debuted Aug. 3 in Brooklyn, N.Y., ranks as the hottest food item du jour with lines up to 500 deep waiting to sample a burger topped with shoyu sauce and sandwiched between two “buns” of fried ramen. And now, the spaghetti burger — a riff on the ramen burger — recently debuted in New York City at PYT restaurant and might eclipse them all for must-have status. At least for the next 15 minutes.

Credit social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for nurturing these food fads.

“Chefs and restaurateurs and food innovators can immediately send out timely information in a way that we never could before,” said Couvelier, who tracks the latest food trends through her company, Culinary Concierge. “You don’t have to experience what the ingredients are for people to try it. It’s fun that you can experiment with food and have an interesting phenomenon like the Cronut. People say, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’”

Meanwhile, if you can’t get to Sweet Dozen — much less a trip to New York City to snag an official Cronut — bootleg Cronut recipes are on the Internet for home bakers. Don’t make any appointments if you plan to whip up a batch of faux Cronuts. One recipe at the Kitchensurfing blog takes about nine hours total, though the time can be divvied up over two days if the dough rests overnight in a refrigerator. Making a perfectly layered and flaky croissant is a challenge on its own.

“(The Cronut) is not just a puff pastry that’s been fried,” said Jane Anderson, pastry chef at Sacramento’s Ella Dining Room & Bar, who’s tinkering with the idea of trying a croissant-doughnut recipe. “The process is much more involved than that. You probably need a full day just to make the dough, between all the chilling, rolling and folding.”

Or you can just head to Sweet Dozen.

That’s where Patrick Yuke of Sacramento found himself after work on a recent Thursday. He bought a dozen doissants to see what the fuss was about. After a bite, he was sold.

“It lives up to the hype, for now,” said Yuke. “I bit into it, and the whole thing melted in my mouth. My first impression was, ‘Wow, this tastes like the inside of Tower Cafe’s French toast.’ I wouldn’t call this a breakfast item. It’s an anytime item.”

Call The Bee’s Chris Macias, (916) 321-1253. Follow him on Twitter @chris_macias

Read more articles by Chris Macias

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