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New York foodies in grip of 'Cronut' craze

A cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid, sits on a plate at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York on June 14, 2013
A cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid, sits on a plate at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York on June 14, 2013. Some hungry customers began queueing outside the pastry shop around 3:30 am. Others managed to keep their taste buds at bay for a few more h

Some hungry customers began queueing outside the pastry shop around 3:30 am. Others managed to keep their taste buds at bay for a few more hours, arriving at the patisserie around 6:00 am.

They were all united by a desire to sample the food craze that has gripped New York since its debut a month ago. Half-doughnut, half croissant: the 'cronut' has left the Big Apple's gourmets in a frenzy.

By the time the Dominique Ansel Bakery in the heart of trendy Soho opened its doors to the public at 8:00 am, the slavering customers were at breaking point. Within the hour, every single cronut available has been sold.

French pastry chef Dominique Ansel poses with a cronut at his bakery shop in New York on June 14, 2013
French pastry chef Dominique Ansel poses with a cronut at his bakery shop in New York on June 14, 2013. Ansel has become accustomed to queues of 150 to 200 people winding down the street before the bakery has opened.

The bakery's owner, Dominique Ansel, says the crowd reflected the typical pattern since the May 18 launch of the the cronut, a food sensation powered by social media. On the first day, 50 were sold. The next day 100 flew off the shelves, within 15 to 20 minutes.

Since then the bemused pastry chef has become accustomed to queues of 150 to 200 people winding down the street before the bakery has opened.

Ansel settled upon the idea of the cronut after deciding he wanted to create a hybrid pastry that would be instantly recognizable as a marriage of French and American food cultures.

His revolutionary confection offers the delicate puff pastry of a traditional croissant shaped into a round doughnut, which is then deep-fried, filled with cream, rolled in maple sugar and coated with a light glaze.

It's soft yet crunchy, light and delicious, say the cronut's devotees.

Ansel, regarded as one of the most talented pastry chefs in New York, said settling upon the cronut recipe was a painstaking process. "It took me about two months to perfect the recipe," Ansel told AFP.

A cronut sits on a plate at Ansel's bakery shop in New York on June 14, 2013
A cronut, the brainchild of French pastry chef Dominique Ansel, on a plate at Ansel's bakery shop in New York on June 14, 2013. Ansel is regarded as one of the most talented pastry chefs in New York.

It is so perfect that Jessica Amaral, 30, thought nothing of leaving home at 3:00 am to get in line. The two cronuts she is buying are a treat for her husband to mark the couple's eighth wedding anniversary.

"I am the idiot, I read online that people were arriving at three... The others started to arrive at five. It's my eighth year anniversary, I thought it would be nice for my husband."

Just behind Amaral in the queue stood Steven Go, a chef who arrived from his home in Staten Island shortly after 5:00 am, at the behest of his wife. Justin Gorder, a 30-year-old salesman, travelled an hour from New Jersey.

Irvin, a trader, bashfully admitted he should already be at work. Gina, meanwhile, arrived in a taxi at 6:30 am, clutching her four-month-old baby.

French pastry chef Dominique Ansel presents one of his cronuts, at his bakery shop in New York, on June 14, 2013
French pastry chef Dominique Ansel presents one of his cronuts, at his bakery shop in New York, on June 14, 2013.

To satisfy the largest possible number of customers, patrons are restricted to two cronuts each. At first, customers could snaffle six at a time, but Ansel restricted it to two after discovering the cronuts he sold for $5 each were changing hands on the Internet at up to $50 a piece.

At 8:00 am, the wait was over. Ansel flung open the doors and welcomed his first customers. By 8:56, almost all of the approximately 250 to 300 cronuts available have been sold. A bakery employee distributed madeleine pastries, advising people who arrived at 7:00 am they had a "40 percent" chance of satisfying their craving.

By 9:05 am, Ansel broke the bad news to those outside his shop who have missed out. "We are sold out for today," he said.

Inside, around 20 people waited anxiously to snap up the final cronuts on sale. A crafty customer offered to sell his place in the queue for $100. His offer was accepted by two friends who delightedly came away with two cronuts each.

Immediately behind stood Jessica McCord. She was furious, but consoled herself by opting for a kouign amann, the Breton cake that is a house specialty.

Meanwhile, Irvin, late for work, hungrily devoured his cronuts. A young woman meanwhile prepared to take her prized pastries, nestling in a golden case, to share with work colleagues.

McCord was disappointed to have missed out, but the experience will not deter her. "We'll be back," she sighed.

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