The cronut. It's taken New Yorkers by storm and swept across the world via a tornado of inspired bakers. In Sydney, Adriano Zumbo is selling the zonut. In Melbourne it's the doissant by MoVida. And who created all this fuss? It's the brain child of Dominique Ansel, a French baker who worked as an Executive Pastry Chef for Daniel Boulud for six years. Although we were in New York earlier this month, I hadn't expected to find myself queuing for a pastry, but hey... what better thing did we have to do at 6.50am on a Wednesday morning?
6.50am? Oh. Gawd. I'm not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. Food might be one the few things to get me out of bed early, but waking up at 5.30am sounded like the worst idea in the world when that alarm went off in the darkness.
Queuing for cronuts at Dominique Ansel Bakery
By the time we'd stumbled the 2km walk to Dominique Ansel Bakery it was 6.50am. There was already a sea of people in line, including several groups who'd come prepared with mats and card games to pass the two hour wait. We were 54th in the queue.
The first people in the queue arrived before 5.45am
The streets are dead at 7am in New York. Noone should be on the streets at this hour, let alone standing in line for something. The occasional passerby would stop at the sight of the queue, pause in confusion, and then ask "Is this for that cronut thing?". We'd nod sheepishly as they laughed, and shift our weight onto the other foot.
I asked those at the front of the queue what time they'd arrived that morning. One person said that yesterday she'd arrived at 6.15am and was seventh in line. Today she'd turned up at 5.45am and was second. "You're queuing up two days in a row?" I'd asked incredulously. "Well I'm being paid to be here, so it's not too bad," she'd replied.
The 130-strong queue around the corner at 7.50am
And that's the thing. Ever since Dominique Ansel launched the cronut at his Soho bakery on May 10, 2013, demand has been huge. The cronut-making process takes up to three days, limiting supply to 200-250 cronuts per day. Initially customers were allowed to purchase six each. In early June this was reduced to three and by mid-June the quota was cut to two.
For those that don't have time to queue, a blackmarket has emerged, with cronuts scalped either on the street or online. Some entrepreneurs even promise home delivery for $100. Each.
By 7.50am, the queue has snaked around the corner and numbers 130 hopefuls.
Dominique Ansel opens the door for the first round of customers
At 8am on the dot, Dominique Ansel himself opens the door and greets the first group of customers. About two dozen people make it inside before the door is closed and everyone else shuffles up a little closer.
Dominique Ansel packing cronuts into gold carry boxes
After ninety minutes of waiting, we finally make it inside and join the second queue snaking down the corridor. There's no doubt there's a buzz in the air as we ogle the pastries in the display and marvel at the cronuts behind the counter.
Cronuts! Precious cronuts!
Queuing stage two inside the bakery
This isn't just a cronut factory. The bakery is piled high with items, and a team of pastry chefs are still working the ovens as cashiers attend to customers.
Pastry chef piping madeleines
Nutella milk brioche bread US$3.50
Dominique's Kouign Amman, said to have been the seed of his cronut inspiration US$5.25
Dominique Ansel's cronut US$5
Each month Ansel features a different flavour cronut - for the month of June it's lemon maple. In May it was rose vanilla. In July it will be blackberry.
We ferry our precious cargo to the sunny courtyard out the back.
Layers insider the cronut
Okay so I'll admit I didn't have high expectations for this dessert. A donut croissant? Really? But the cronut isn't just a hunk of deep-fried laminated croissant dough. Biting into it, in fact, doesn't feel like you're eating a deep-fried pastry at all. It's light and airy, with a buttery crust that is deliciously caramelised at the edges. The layers are a sight to behold, distinctly separate and wildly alluring. The maple cream in the middle isn't necessary but the lemon glaze on top adds a tangy sweetness. The only resemblance to a donut is its shape, and the trail of sugar that lingers on your lips.
It's refined and elegant, and I finish it with ease. I don't know that I'd be able to eat a second one, nor would I queue 90 minutes for another, but there's some satisfaction in getting to the root of the craze, and tasting first-hand what has inspired an international juggernaut.
Perfect Little Egg Sandwich $5
Suze picks up a Perfect Little Egg Sandwich too, another Ansel specialty that seems to be the second most popular item ordered. It's a square of steamed omelette seasoned with herbs and gruyere cheese, although we find it a little under-seasoned in its miniature brioche bun.
Lemon maple cronut US$5
and cannelé de Bourdeaux US$3
And I pick up a cannele for later. It's perfectly crusty on the outside, with an eggy middle.
Since we visited in mid-June, the cronut obsession has only deepened, with news that queueing at 7am will now only give you a 40% chance of scoring a cronut.
So that, my friends, is the original cronut and the first of my USA posts. Let me know what you're keen to read about next! I have 2,000 photos to choose from! Seriously.
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Dominique Ansel Bakery
189 Spring Street, New York, New York, USA
Tel: +1 (212) 219 2773
Monday to Saturday 8am-7pm
>> Read the next USA 2013 post: Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery, Beverly Hills, LA
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7/01/2013 12:08:00 am