Cronut madness sweeps over LA


Gourmet cupcakes are so passé. Cronuts are the latest in the world of baked goods. As of last May, these hybrid creations brought together two unlikely allies, starting a sugary phenomenon.

It is hard to resist the heavenly smell of a freshly baked croissant, the crown jewel of every French boulangerie. Top that off with decadent cream filling, some killer glaze and fry it to perfection, and you’ve got yourself a deal with the carbohydrate devil. This, ladies and gents, is the divine-—or diabolical, depending on your dietary restrictions—culinary combination known as a cronut.

These delicate confections originated in New York City as a unique product of chef Dominique Ansel’s bakery and since their May 10, 2013 conception, they have taken the world by storm. That’s right, I said the world. Not only have cronut imitators popped up across the country, but Manila, Tokyo and Sydney also.

When I describe cronuts as delicate confections, I don’t just mean in the sense that they are flaky pieces of sugary happiness — they are actually physically fragile. According to Ansel’s Cronut 101 webpage, they can only be cut with a serrated knife (in order to preserve the pastry’s quaint architecture) and they should not be refrigerated since this would cause sogginess and the general decline of tastiness.

Ansel Bakery makes 200 cronuts per day and within minutes of its 8 a.m. opening, everything is sold out — people start queuing at least two hours before the bakery’s opening. Even celebrities such as Emma Roberts or Hugh Jackman must wait in line like everybody else and, in Roberts’ case, the cronuts sold out before she reached the front of the line. Never fear, though: Jimmy Fallon, a friend of Ansel, scored her one during a televised interview.

In other words, cronut hype has allowed Ansel Bakery to transcend the need for celebrity endorsement. Cronuts are the reigning A-listers of couture pastries.

Outside of Ansel’s SoHo bakery, cronuts cannot be found unless you’re willing to settle for imitation pastry. Ansel has gone so far as to trademark the name Cronut. DK’s Donuts, a 33-year-old Santa Monica donut shop, was even forced by Ansel’s lawyers to change its own Kronut to a less similar name, the O-Nut. Talk about possessive.

Cro-not definitely gets honorable mention for being one of the better imitator names, but most creative name has to go to Spudnuts Donuts in the Valley, where its product is called the doughssant, alternatively spelled Dough’Ssant. Though it’s not as short and quippy as cronut, doughssant sounds posh, and would actually be more fitting of the upper-crust reputation this pastry has garnered.

To be honest, I’m not even sure where or when I first heard that golden word uttered: cronut. But ever since, my taste buds slowly waged war against my better senses (the ones that encourage me to at least attempt to exercise), and I gave in to curiosity.

Though the original products can’t be found outside of New York City, I endeavored to see if worthy competitors existed in Los Angeles. According to LAEater.com and a well-aimed Google search, numerous imitators do exist, some of which arguably live up to their East Coast predecessor.

Before I began calling L.A. cronut spots for more information, I worried that long lines and limited supplies awaited me, as is the case for New Yorkers. Thus, I watched a how-to video from the Huffington Post and made my own cronuts (with lots of assistance from two kitchen-savvy friends).

Using Pillsbury crescent triangles, vegetable oil and a maple syrup glaze, we made “cronuts” in less than half an hour. The final product tasted great. Purists might contend that this is similar to buying knockoff designer products — you might not be able to perceive the difference but, deep down, you know. You know.

After some phone calls, I found that cronut-type pastries are easily found in Los Angeles. As mentioned before, DK’s Donuts offers the O-Nut, which is available 24 hours a day since they are continually made. Los Angeles already seems to be winning the customer-friendly aspect of this battle of the pastries.

Due to geographical convenience, I sampled the cronuts from Frances Bakery, a small shop located between Little Tokyo and the Downtown L.A. Arts District. To ensure an informed opinion, I placed an order for two cream-filled cronuts, a blueberry jam cronut and a chocolate cronut.

Nobody will be shocked to hear that cronuts are delicious. Ignoring their absolutely nonexistent health benefits, cronuts taste pretty magical. You can’t go wrong with a fried croissant covered and filled with mouthwatering ingredients.

I’ll bet you never thought a pastry fad could reveal any sort of significant truth about modern human culture, but think again.  My burning question is: What’s the big fuss over a piece of fried dough? Personally, I would not be willing to wait hours in line for a pastry that can be made at home and taste just as good.

The mentality behind the desperation for a cronut is alarming. It embodies conspicuous consumption literally, in that people are buying a product that takes no more than a minute to consume largely for their cultural significance. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t flaunt the prized last cronut of the day in the face of a forlorn child after waiting for hours.

It has also become second nature in our culture to share through social media what we are doing, where we are and what we are eating. These updates are most often intended to show others that we are engaging in the latest and greatest of products, and the amount of cronuts that have been Instagrammed since last May is probably horrendous.

I’m not claiming that my homemade cronuts could compete with Dominique Ansel’s professionally baked Cronut. On the other hand, I do think it’s important that, as a global consumerist community, we re-evaluate our priorities. Is a piece of deep-fried pastry really important enough to wait in line for?

Mostly, though, Ansel needs to bake more than 200 cronuts a day. I mean, come on.

 

Follow Nick Cimarusti on Twitter @NickCimarusti
  • Steve

    This article was pretty light on information that was actually useful.

  • Skyler

    Pilsbury Crescent Triangles taste the same as a professionally made croissant?!? I’m not sure I trust your taste buds…