NEW YORK – Oh the pull of that elusive reservation at the hot new restaurant. And double-oh the sweet and fatty decadence of a well-made dessert. Combine the two foodie emotions and you’ve got the Cronut.
There’s a frenzy goin’ on – Manhattan style – for the croissant-doughnut hybrid that went on sale in limited quantities about three weeks ago at the tiny downtown shop of French chef Dominique Ansel.
Cronut lusters began lining up almost from the start after word spread on blogs. They’re now 100 strong most mornings for the chance to nab the quirky, fried treats, including some who show up at 6 a.m., two hours before the door opens at Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo.
Some often leave empty handed, or at least Cronut-less if they turn up their noses at the 30 or so other items on Ansel’s menu. He makes only 200 to 250 Cronuts every morning (it takes three days to complete the process) and has been selling out within an hour.
He limited his customers to two per person at the cash register Monday. That’s down from three.
“A little bite of heaven. Definitely worth the calories,” said Kyra Parkhurst, in town from Park City, Utah, after arriving about 7:30 a.m. and cajoling Ansel to sign her gold, cardboard carry box once she made it inside.
For those who don’t make it inside, more than a dozen people who have scored already-trademarked Cronuts have been scalping them on Craigslist for up to $40. That’s eight times Ansel’s asking price of $5 a piece and can include delivery to as far away as Queens and Brooklyn.
Ansel is taking pre-orders two weeks out, allowing for six per customer that way. He’s also taking reservations for orders of 100 or more months in advance.
“We try to make enough for everybody,” said the soft-spoken chef who worked for seven years under the exacting heavy hitter Daniel Boulud before opening his own bakery a year and a half ago.
So what’s the big deal, and exactly what is the calorie count? Ansel, 35, isn’t giving up his recipe. Copycats have already started to mimic his creation. The answer to the latter question isn’t great news for most of us, though the chef was tightlipped about that as well.
“I’m not sure how many calories, but it’s very tasty,” Ansel said smiling. “I wanted to do something new and original. I wanted to do something fun to eat.”
He acknowledges loads and loads of butter, along with cream injected through multiple layers with a syringe-like pastry tip and a glaze on top that encircles the hole in the middle. He fries each Cronut in grapeseed oil for 30 seconds, using just one pot that can hold up to nine at a time. The oil leaves outer layers crunchy but inner bites doughy.
Oh, and he rolls the sides in sugar and added dried, candied rose petals to May’s flavor of rose-vanilla. For June, Ansel switched to lemon-maple with glaze and cream to match.
Niko Triantafillou, a blogger who specializes in desserts, called the Cronut Manhattan’s answer to deep-fried ice cream, but in a good, chef-y sort of way.
“It’s a continuation of the doughnut craze but also sort of a continuation of everything fried. 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,” said Triantafillou, who founded Dessertbuzz.com and writes the Sugar Rush column at NewYork.SeriousEats.com.
Is that the same doughnut craze that had Paula Deen using glazed doughnuts instead of buns for her burgers? Oddly, Ansel’s treat comes on the heels of bacon and cupcake mania and heralds Friday’s arrival of a doughnut breakfast sandwich at Dunkin’ Donuts, all at a time fast-food chains also are promoting healthier choices.
But copycats aside, the Cronut is unlikely to ever attain the reach of giant burgers or fast-food fried eggs and bacon served inside a split doughnut at Dunkin.
Kaycie Luong, 33, from Sacramento, Calif., was strictly “don’t ask, don’t tell” calorie-wise at Ansel’s bakery Monday. She was No. 27 in line with her boyfriend.
A week in town eating their way through New York had them at Ansel’s door the day they were schedule to fly home, having already visited about 20 different pizza shops and chasing their favorite food trucks.
“At first I was like, ‘Is it really worth the wait?’ I didn’t know what to expect,” Luong said.
Her conclusion after her first bite, filling squishing out: “It was lighter than I expected. My foodie friends are going to be really jealous.”
Ansel said it took him about two months to perfect the recipe so the tweaked croissant dough can withstand the trip through hot oil. The buttered dough must be chilled before it’s folded and flattened, then chilled again before it is cut into rounds and fried.
So what does anti-obesity campaigner Mayor Michael Bloomberg think? Ansel said we may found out: “His office has placed an order.”