I must preface this article with the following: I have never had a Cronut™. Nor do I have any intention of eating a Cronut™, at least not while I have to queue for two hours to get it.
However this puts me very much in the minority. Cronuts™ are the latest craze sweeping through New York. The Cronut™ craze has seen fully functioning members of society getting out of bed at five in the morning to queue for hours to get their hands on a doughnut-croissant hybrid.
But the hysteria doesn’t end there. As with any craze, a black market of Cronuts™ has cropped up. Retailing at $5, the Cronuts™ are limited to just two per customer yet the mark ups made by a few enterprising individuals are remarkable. Cronuts™ are being touted for as much as $100. A whole industry is building up around these pastries: you can actually hire a Cronut™ queuer to sharpen their elbows on your behalf and get you that sugar fix.
The Cronut™ arrived in New York in May; the product of two months and ten recipes, according to father-of-all-things-Cronut™ Dominique Ansel. Since then, it has spawned imitations including the crookie – a croissant with an Oreo cookie inside -, the couture croissant, the croque croissant, the pretzel croissant, the croissan’wich, and most recently the squat – a square, bacon and maple syrup flavoured Cronut™– a heart attack in a pastry.
So why is it that the Cronut™ has taken off? Allison Carruth, author of the new book Global Appetites: American Power and the Literature in Food says “You can trace food trends back to the Renaissance when chocolate and spices took off. And in a way, it's not complicated: We like things that taste good”.
However, it’s more than just the sugar rush that has turned award winning baker Ansel into an overnight sensation. Carruth adds "The waiting itself is a huge part of the pleasure, not only because we feel we're participating in something that's fashionable or trendy, but because we're sort of signalling that we value a certain kind of experience."
Ansel changes the flavour of the Cronut™ every month, resulting in customers coming back time and again to sample the new ones. July’s flavour is blackberry lime. August’s was decided via a poll on Twitter: coconut or passion fruit. Coconut won out, creating the cococronut.
Social media has been a massive part of the Cronut’s™ success with fans writing 10,000 tweets a month about the pastry. Back in May, when the first blog post about the Cronut™ appeared in New York Magazine’s food blog Grub Street, traffic to the blog increased by 300%.
Originally from Paris, the Cronut™ inventor served as the executive pastry chef at Daniel Boulud’s restaurant Daniel for six years. In 2009, he was voted one of the top ten pastry chefs in the United States by Dessert Professional Magazine. Despite enjoying huge success, Ansel claims he has no plans to mass produce the Cronut™ or hike the price up: he produces 300 a day at $5 and sells out every time.
Apart from being by all accounts entirely sickening, the Cronut™ is a complicated pastry. So much so it comes with its own instructions. The Cronut™ cannot be stored and has a shelf life of about six hours. It must be cut with a serrated knife to prevent the layers collapsing and Ansel recommends peeling off the layers to eat.
Ansel’s latest product is just as complicated: the frozen s’more. A contemporary twist on the traditional campfire snack, the frozen s’more replaces the marshmallow with vanilla ice cream. At the point of purchase, Ansel personally takes a flambé torch to the s’more, creating that authentic campfire flavour. The frozen s’more must be eaten immediately upon purchase. Within minutes of their launch, these desserts had sold out. Twitter is currently speculating upon names for this latest invention. We’re routing for s’mo ball.
Despite the transience of every craze, Ansel maintains he has no intention to create a Cronut™ shop, preferring quality over quantity in all his baked goods. He has, however, trademarked the name to prevent imitation. Sadly this means we might have to wait a while before getting our hands on a Cronut™ this side of the Atlantic.
Photos: Thomas Schauer