What could be better than a hybrid pastry of donut and croissant?
The cronut, a "baked good heard round the mediasphere," according to Vogue magazine, is just that — flaky, buttery dough that's deep-fried to golden brown perfection, and then filled with cream and glazed. Since its debut in the spring of 2013, the cronut has launched into an international phenomenon, and with a dedicated following. With its burgeoning popularity, the donut-meets-croissant is in high demand — and has even found its way onto the black market.
The mastermind behind the cronut craze is pastry chef and owner of Manhattan’s Domnique Ansel Bakery, Dominique Ansel, who invented the circular treat to blend his French upbringing with an American classic. Word on the street is that Ansel’s secrets include using croissant-like dough, which he then fries in grapeseed oil. The result is a light and flaky cronut that is finished in three ways: rolled in sugar, filled with cream, and topped with glaze.
The cronut has become so popular that people can’t resist trying to replicate it, and news outlets and food and drink websites can't stop themselves from breathlessly covering new cronut developments every five minutes. ChicagoMag.com reports that a local Windy City bakery is serving a knockoff, dubbed the "dossant." While on the West Coast, a San Diego, Calif., bakery is dishing up an imitation of the crazy pastry, appropriately titled "cray-nut." The cronut is even going international, with "frissants" popping up in Vancouver, and Down Under, reports the The Sydney Morning Herald, with "zonuts." One Las Vegas bakery, succumbing to the hype, is simply calling their version "One of Those." Oh, and, there are the people who think they’re the ones who created it to begin with, like one drama-loving soap opera-actress-turned-cook in Texas.
As you may have guessed, we tried replicating it, too. Although Ansel and the rest of the bakery’s team are keeping mum on the coveted recipe, we got the inside scoop from a professional pastry chef who used to work for Ansel — before he created the cronut — on how to make croissant dough at home. Her keys to cronut success include, "Keeping the dough chilled, otherwise you’ll have a buttery mess on your hands." Also, "When initially mixing the dough, resist the urge to overmix. Just mix until the dough is a consistent texture." Although the process seems laborious, she says,"This dough is easier to make at home than most [people] expect."
We were up for the challenge and based our recipe on classic croissant dough. Taken from what we know about the original cronut recipe, we fried in ours in grapeseed oil and finished it by giving it a dusting of sugar, filling it with cream, and topping with glaze. While Ansel’s version takes a lengthy three days to complete, we’ve skillfully compressed it down to one — if you start early! So while cronut-craving tourists and New Yorkers are lining up, hundreds-deep, to get their hands on one, you’ll have no problem scoring the elusive pastry with our recipe at home — that we think just might rival the original.
Like the original cronut, we based our recipe on croissant dough, which consists of layers of alternating dough and butter. This creates the flaky, airy texture of a croissant — or cronut — in this case.
2. The Butter
For the soft butter, wrap it in plastic wrap and gently soften it by warming it with your fingers. When added to the dough, it helps with the elasticity and texture.
3. Don’t Overmix
The most important thing to remember is to not overmix the dough. Just mix until the dry ingredients and wet ingredients are combined. This will prevent gluten development and make the dough easier to work with when rolling out. The dough doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth. Every time you touch the dough, you are working it. So make every moment count and work quickly to gather the dough into a ball and chill.
4. Rolling the Butter
We let our dough rest in a greased bowl, covered with a damp cloth, and in a warm spot for about 45 minutes until it had risen to about double in size. While the dough is rising, roll out the butter between two pieces of parchment paper. We found that it’s much easier to work with room temperature butter.
5. Buttering Our Dough
Now the fun part begins — and get out your tape measure! To get those flaky layers of dough, we had to incorporate a lot of butter. Wrap the butter up with the dough like a little present.
6. Rolling It Out
Make sure to seal the edges so that the butter doesn’t escape from the sides of the dough.
To lock in the butter, roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface. The dough should be longer than it is wide. Fold the right side toward the middle and then the left side over on top of the right side, like you are folding a letter. This creates the dough layers. Repeat this process two more times and remember to chill thoroughly in between. Roll the dough out again, making sure that your corners are squared off, and cut dough into thirds. We chose to stack these pieces of dough to give the cronut height and lots of flaky and buttery layers. Roll the dough out one last time. Make it large enough to cut out one dozen cronuts.
7. Shaping the Cronut
Use two different-sized ring molds to make a donut shape out of the dough. We tried frying the cronut holes, but unfortunately they fell apart instantly once they hit the oil. Cut out all of the cronut shapes. If the dough is getting too sticky, put it back in the refrigerator and chill for a few minutes.
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