Let me start by saying that this is a long overdue post and it is still part of my New York trip made a month and a half ago. And this is about my own Cronut story.
Yes, the Cronut. By now, we all have heard about it, seen it and most of you may have even tasted it in its several versions. But why did I delay writing about it? For many reasons. First, I didn’t want to write about it while everyone else is writing about it. (I am “weird” in that sense.) Second, I didn’t want to add any more hype to what’s already too hyped up in the market. (I don’t really understand the long lines for it!) And third, I didn’t want to “kill” the “joy” of everyone who is having their moment with it. (Love or hate the Cronut, everyone has something to say about the craze.)
So call me anti-climactic, but now that the “noise” has died down a bit, I think it’s time for me to share my own Cronut story.
Anyone I know who has been to New York these past couple of months had the same goal in mind. It was to be able to see and taste what the fuss surrounding the Cronut was all about. So being one of the more eager visitors to the city, I made sure that going to the now “world-famous bakery”, the Dominique Ansel Bakery (named after the owner and pastry chef), was first on my agenda.
I went there on a regular weekday afternoon to try my luck. As expected, there were no more Cronuts in sight! It is common knowledge that one must line up outside the closed doors between 5:30 and 6:00 in the morning to able to get your hands on this wildly popular pastry. But since I didn’t want to wake up at 5am (I was on holiday after all!), I figured that just seeing the actual bakery where it all happens is good enough for me.
When I got there, I was surprised to see that they have other desserts too!
But even though there were other dessert creations inside the store, my focus then was still how to get my own piece of Cronut and perhaps how to talk to its inventor…
The delicious cakes, pastries and desserts inside Dominique Ansel’s Bakery!
Looking at them now, how I wish I was able to try them all!
Each piece is freshly made using only the best quality ingredients. After all, Dominique received his culinary training as the Executive Pastry Chef (for six years) of the 3-star Michelin restaurant in New York City, Restaurant Daniel.
His delicious French macarons were on full color display!
I was also able to try a couple of his Canneles too. They were soft and moist, packed with a whole lot of flavor in each small piece.
And this is his other popular pastry, the Dominique Kouign Amann pastry, also known as the DKA — which some argue tastes much better than the Cronut!
Since I was already in the store and realized that there wasn’t really any way for me to get my hands on a Cronut that afternoon, I decided to just sample a few things from their lunch menu : Chicken Nicoise Salad, Grilled Cheese Sandwich, Leek and Ham Quiche, Pain Au Croissant and the Kouign Amann, which came highly recommended even by the staff behind the counter.
Truth of the matter is, there was nothing great or special about this lunch food I ordered. I guess savory items such as the ones pictured above are really not his thing. But still, it felt good enough to know that I was able to make it there and eat inside the place now widely known as the current toast of the pastry world.
While having my lunch, I didn’t realize that right across our tiny table was the “bakery” itself. It was enclosed in glass windows, where you can see what the bakers inside are doing. This is the place where after two months and more than ten recipes, the perfect hybrid of a pastry : the half croissant-half donut, the Cronut was born!
And who do I see right through it? No less than the the creator, the inventor himself, Dominique Ansel!
Right then and there, I grabbed the opportunity and took a chance. I waited for him to walk out of his bakery so I can talk to him and ask him about his most popular creation to date.
(To know more about him and his background, click the link here.)
So I managed to catch his attention and strike a conversation — while holding his DKA, his Kouign Amann pastry on my left hand! 🙂
I don’t exactly remember every detail of what we spoke about except that I kept on “blabbing away” how I came all the way from the Philippines just to see and taste the original Cronuts! (But then again here I was in front of him without a single Cronut in my hand!)
I was honest enough to tell him that I really can’t wake up that early just to fall in line for this pastry! (I was hoping he would sympathize with me by this time and just hand me one Cronut right then and there!) I guess he found me weird that he started laughing with me too! 🙂
And because I felt that my 10 minutes with him was more than what he really wanted to give me, I asked for a “proper photo” before finally letting him go. (Yes, I was almost in tears here!)
So this is me, Dominique Ansel and his other famous creation, the DKA, the Dominique Kouign Amann. He told me that the DKA is still his personal favorite and that this has always been his long time best-seller — until of course the Cronut came along!
The Dominique Kouign Amann, the DKA upclose.
I agree with him! This pastry was really delicious! Texture and taste wise, it was AMAZING! The whole thing was like a thick chunk of a flaky, flavorful croissant covered with a tasty caramelized crust on top!
Of course, my story cannot end with just the DKA… Although that was fantastic, I knew in my heart that I cannot leave NYC until I get my hands on the hottest pastry in town, the Cronut.
True to my “never-say-die” attitude, I found someone willing to fall in line for me at 6am. She woke up at 5am, took the bus and came back to our hotel at 10am, but — without anything. She narrated that even at 6am, the line outside the store was unbearably long and that the bakery had only 300 pieces or so of the Cronuts! So by the time it was her turn, the place had already run out of it!! 🙁 To cut the long story short, we agreed that she would go back the next day — 30 minutes earlier, yes at 530am — to increase her chances of getting us Cronuts!
Thankfully in her second attempt, she came home with this box!
The smile on my face that morning was simply indescribable! I was so afraid of touching the box and crushing the contents inside that the Hubby had to do the honors of opening it for me. And finally, what peeked through the box was the most delicious smelling and the most beautiful looking donut or croissant (or however you want to call it) pastry I’ve ever laid my eyes on.
When the box was finally opened, I was surprised to see that there were only two (!!!) yes, two pieces of Cronuts for us! (I specifically mentioned that she should get as much as a dozen since there were so many of us wanting to try it.)
Thanks to Dominique Ansel’s strict policy (and the law of supply and demand), we found out that each customer can only get a maximum of two Cronuts each. This means that even though you want to buy 3 dozens, the rule is : one person = two Cronuts.
So we had no choice but to make do with what we had. There were 8 of us by the way, waiting in excitement to try these. No other option but to split the two Cronuts amongst 8 hungry, excited persons!
The almost-impossible to get pastry was already right there in front of me. Yes, it was staring right back at me, telling me to “devour me now or regret it for the rest of your life”. But sometimes life isn’t fair…I knew I can only have one, single bite. 🙁
So I did what I had to do before taking that momentous bite. I took a hundred photos of this piece in all angles, because I knew that there won’t be another time or another chance for me to have another Cronut to try.
As I was taking multiple photos (which proved to be an effective delaying tactic), the Hubby was getting very impatient and egging me to make that bite so he can finally have his bite too! 🙂 And when I finally did, I was speechless. Yes believe it, it was THAT good — that it rendered me speechless. (And that’s rare!)
The only not so good part here was that I had to control myself from taking another bite, because I had to share it with 7 other excited people. (And the mere fact that there were other people waiting, made it even more desirable and more delicious!)
After having a bite and a half (thanks to my sweet Hubby who gave me half of his already tiny portion), I understood right then and there what the fuss was all about. It was indeed a delicious albeit “complicated” pastry. It was the best tasting croissant or donut (or half half as some people refer to it too) I’ve ever tasted. The whole thing was pillowy soft, very creamy and flavorful. (Yes, unlike the ones I’ve seen here in Manila.) The softness of this one in particular allowed my fingers to get buried in its delicate, cushiony texture. It was not too sweet either as opposed to the usual donuts we are accustomed to, that are filled with sickening sweet cream and topped with hardened white sugar glaze.
Dominique Ansel’s Cronut is rolled in sugar, filled with excellent quality cream and topped with a flavor-filled glaze that changes monthly depending on the season). Last month’s glaze as seen on this photo, was the Blackberry, while June’s flavor was Lemon Maple, and August was Coconut. Everything about the Cronut is made fresh daily and all done completely in-house.
Because my first taste of the Cronut was that unforgettable and because I extended my stay in NY, I found another chance and another person willing to wake up that early and fall in line for me! This now meant 2 people = 4 Cronuts!
4 Cronuts and still 8 people wanting to eat it, this translated to more than 1 bite…we now felt lucky as we all had 2 bites each! 🙂
Such an amazing pastry hybrid indeed!
See how the flavorful white cream is inserted right through the middle of the croissant dough and how the Blackberry glaze is spread nicely on top??
And see how deliciously soft and delicately mushy this pastry is in my hand? Even though it is made partly with a flaky croissant dough, the other half of it is also made with the soft cushiony texture of a donut. Dominique Ansel has indeed perfected the recipe of this hybrid pastry. It is a wonderful marriage, a perfect combination of two exact opposite textures.
So if you ask me if it is really that good? Yes, it is THAT good.
But will I be willing to wake up for it at 4am? Now, that will make for another story.