You can’t fault a pastry chef for trying. It was 2013 when Dominique Ansel unleashed the Cronut, the pastry mixture of the croissant and donut. If ever there was going to be a grammatically challenging blended word, Cronut would be it’s love child.
News stories spread across the globe that a small bakery in New York was experiencing queues going back as far as a quarter of a mile, all for the invention of this one pastry.
Spain’s El Pais ran a piece about two girls, one called Lesly and her friend Nora. They weren’t interested in what jobs they had, where they lived or anything remotely journalistic, they were more curious of the fact that both Lesly and Nora were outside the pastry shop on 189 Spring Street, SoHo, New York, waiting for Ansel and his staff to open up.
In France, it was reported that the word Cronut featured in the top 10 searches for Google in 2013; the land where the croissant reigns supreme and any pastry chef looking to make something new is hit with a smear of derision from the norm.
Like much of the media fervour at the time, the focus was on two things; the queues and what the hell it tasted like. There were stories of people buying plane tickets to get Cronuts back to the UK and one man even appearing at the doors of the little bakery at 4 am to be the first to get his hands on it so that he could then catch a flight and use it to ask his girlfriend to marry him. Pastry, the way to any woman’s heart, it seems.
Blackmarket buying appeared on craigslist which meant that the average queue of 180 people were left some days crying unfair advantage to those that had camped out the night before. Because camping in SoHo is always an unfair advantage! It’s true, some were prepared to pay up to $150 dollars so that they didn’t have to queue, go to work and have a cronut delivered to their office.
some were prepared to pay up to $150 dollars so that they didn’t have to queue, go to work and have a cronut delivered to their office.
It was counter intuitive however. Reports of the cronut were coming back thick and fast following the media coverage. ‘The best time to eat a cronut was within an hour of it coming out of the kitchen’ read one, very detailed analysis; they must have spent hours, holding back from sampling the additional ones that had been purchased to conduct the test.
The L.A. Times were calling for the pastry to be made by their best. “L.A. pastry chefs, we’re looking at you. You can save us from Cronut fever envy. Come together as one group of apron-donning culinary heroes armed with rolling pins, flour, yeast and lots of butter and put us out of our misery.”
News of the Cronut first broke on the New York Times ‘Grub Street’ feature where staff writer Hugh Merwin got a first glimpse at the hybrid pasty.
In Merwin’s piece “Introducing the Cronut, a Doughnut-Croissant Hybrid That May Very Well Change Your Life” Merwin was complementary, both to the idea of the technical levels required to develop the pastry, but also the thought that it somewhat elevated the pastry market from the usual things we’d been seeing for far too long.
‘You can’t overlook the fact that the culinary skill needed to create cronuts is extremely high; pastry dough in a fryer usually “separates instantly and parts six ways to Sunday,” says Merwin. Indeed, it takes three days to create a cronut start-to-finish.’
They’ve tried to elevate the much beloved doughnut, especially in more cosmopolitan, urban areas because, donuts just aren’t sophisticated enough it seems. “It’s a continuation of the doughnut craze but also sort of a continuation of everything fried,” food blogger Nico Triantafillou tells the Associated Press. “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.”
Known the world over as the man that invented the hybrid pastry, Ansel is a revered chef who spent six years working as an executive pastry chef at Daniel Boulud’s, Daniel. Winner of the James Beard Award for ‘Outstanding Pastry chef’ in 2014, nominated for awards before and since and also on the list of the ‘top pastry chefs to look for in New York’ you have to wonder if creating the Cronut may have been a step too far.
Ansel, it could be argued, may feel like Caesar. If crafting beautiful madeleines, pastries, salted caramel eclairs and desserts was how he hoped to be remembered, it may be lost in the world of the Frankenpastry. Much like Caesar, whose name bears true on a tin of dog food and the name of a salad.
Much like Caesar, whose name bears true on a tin of dog food and the name of a salad.
It took ten different recipe incarnations, hours and hours of trying but Ansel, in 2013 was the talk of the town. In 2016, Cronuts are still sold, there are still queues, Ansel is still an award winning pastry chef.
But 2016 also heralds the normality of Frankenfoods, where it is accepted that anything can be combined. Why, just why, are we accepting ideas that would be better placed inside a drunken brain storming session be suitable in today’s gastro obsessed world?
A simple search for ‘Frankenfoods 2016’ leads you to a list so mixed that Donald Trump would probably try and ban these on just how foreign they sound.
Donnoli – cannoli:donut
Brookie – brownie:cookie
Duffin – donut:muffin
Bruffin – brioche:muffin
Crookie – croissant:cookie
Crozul – croissant:pretzel
And many, many more…
The problem isn’t that we have lazy pastry chefs, anything but, to make these requires practice, time and patience. What seems to have happened is that we are willing to put up with the mediocre of creativity and accept that we want to have our cake and eat it, literally, possibly with a slice of pizza at the same time.
Cronuts are the original Frankenfood, or, FrankenPastry to be precise but it did what those since have tried to do but fail miserably at; it was original. It took two items and creatively blended them; as much as an abomination that it could serve at the same time, it was no wonder that it garnished attention. This was in New York, the home of the donut, the land where immigrants from France gave them the Statue Of Liberty.
If there were to ever be a pastry designed by a Frenchman in the pop-culture capital of the West, then the Cronut would be fully accepted. As for the others, you have to ask, why, just why?
And that, just makes the Cronut feel right.