Hello everyone! Sorry for the impromptu hiatus – turns out vacationing is a whole different beast of FOMO-driven-busy from the typical daily-work-day-busy (not that I’m complaining 😉 ) In the past two months, I’ve been to Paris, northern/central Italy, went back to my childhood home in LA for a spell, then Hawaii, and then back to NYC to pack for Chicago! Lots of firsts this summer – and probably the last of vacations I’ll see for a while, now that I’m starting medical school and will soon be earning the opposite of an income.
Can you believe that today is my last day in this magical city? For most of the week I’ve been too exhausted from packing to let the nostalgia to sink in, but last night I just wandered the skyscraper-lit streets from downtown to uptown, letting the reality just sink in.
This post is a chapter in my ode to NYC, most specifically its most notorious pastry: the Cronut. I first tried a Cronut a few months ago, the genuine article from the original mad genius who started it all: Dominique Ansel. Seriously, if a pastry god exists it would look like, sound like, and bake like this amazing creator. If this was Ancient Greece, there would be a constellation named after him.
For those living under a rock, PSA: the Cronut is the lovechild between a sophisticated, perfectly flaky, charmingly French croissant and a fried, cream-stuffed, all-American donut. Dominique Ansel’s Bakery in SoHo makes around 300 every day, people line up for hours before the bakery even opens, and they always sell out early. Don’t feel too intimidated though – if you can swing it, weekday mornings are the best time for the shortest wait. Though the Cronut game is still going strong, thankfully the lines have died down a little in recent times so it’s usually just about an hour or two wait from lining up to paying.
Looking through Dominique Ansel’s At-Home Cronut recipe, my respect for the man just skyrockets even further. The official recipe details a laborious three day process requiring lots and lots of patience, skill, and butter.
The benefits of making your own croissant-donut hybrids at home? One, you can eat a Cronut-like thing whenever you want, wherever you want. Two, you can go wild with whatever flavor combinations you want for the glaze and filling (for the pictured batch, I’ve glazed an ode to my favorite donut flavor at my favorite donut place in NYC, Dough famous hibiscus-flavored doughnut – see my list of NYC recs for more on why I so adamantly declare Dough’s as the best donut in NYC – plus a chocolate-rum ganache filling thrown in, because all the favorite things). And finally three, definite bragging rights and star baker points from all your taste testers. (BONUS: CRONUT HOLES)
And yes, through multiple experiments I was able to successfully make At-Home Cronuts. (Best staycation ever? Or just the nerdiest?) Though clearly I am still far from an expert, as can be noted by my less than graceful amateur glazing skills. But while there is no denying the the pure joy (and bragging rights) of creating a Cronut with my own two hands, I wanted to see if there was an easier, faster, and frankly less aggravating method out there. After all, my favorite part about blogging has always been when people let me know that they’ve tried making something on my blog. And also no way am I or anyone else (other than the man himself) making Cronuts on any sort of reasonably frequent basis if they take three days hard labor to make less than a dozen.
Many more experiments later, the best taste for your time I have found is Edd Kimber’s (from the Great British Bake-Off fame) “Doughsant” recipe, using his “cheat croissant dough”. Where Dominique Ansel’s At-Home Cronuts utilize a method very similar to traditional croissant dough – where the butter and the dough must be at just the right temperature, and the lamination process rolled out in just the right way and all these multiple steps must be done over multiple days in just the right order and even then the cut out dough might throw a temper tantrum in the end – Edd Kimber’s cheat method is more akin to a slightly more nuanced puff pastry. It only takes about 20 minutes hands-on time the day before, and then maybe an hour or two of frying and filling/glazing the day of. Even better – no stand mixer or other fancy equipment needed!
That’s it, you say? And does it still turns out a pastry as flaky and tender as the three day original recipe, you say? See for yourself:
Disclaimer, in a side-by-side comparison, yes, you can definitely see more distinct layers in the original Dominique Ansel recipe versus the Edd Kimber cheat. But the taste and texture is all there for a fraction of the time and work.
And then because I love you guys (and butter) so much, I experimented even more so you wouldn’t have to. I’ve chilled and frozen the dough and pastry at various steps along the process to see how make ahead it could be, customization to your specific time restraints for whatever your week throws at you. I’ve toyed with vegan substitutions for those with dietary preferences and/or allergies. I even tried baking instead of frying for those who want a healthier and/or less messy method. Now honestly if you’re about to eat a Cronut, excessive worrying about nutrition really has no part in it because no matter what swaps and subs you make it will not be healthy! – so just accept it, indulge, and fully enjoy this special occasion. But in fact, sometimes depending on my mood I actually like the baked version better! Fried anything is obviously delicious, but not throwing the dough into an oil bath allows for the also extremely delicious flavor of the butter to truly shine in the baked goods.
Thus, with this epic Cronut saga I wrap up my time in the best city in the world. It’s been an amazing couple of years, New York, and I’m hoping not the last. Do you hear me, New York? I WILL BE BACK!
from Edd Kimber’s recipe with additional tips/suggestions
makes 10 doughsants and many, many glorious doughsant holes
dairy free/vegan options available
- 125 mL milk of choice
- 125 mL water
- 2 packets instant yeast (each packet ~7g)
- 250g all-purpose flour
- 250g bread flour
- 60g light brown sugar (dark brown, white, or a combo are ok in a pinch)
- 1 tsp salt
- 300g unsalted butter, cut into approximately 1cm x 1cm x 1cm cubes, kept chilled (if using vegan butter, keep VERY chilled in the fridge)
- neutral tasting vegetable oil for deep frying (not needed if baking, instructions for both included below)
- glaze of choice – see here for recipe used for hibiscus glaze
- filling of choice – for chocolate-rum ganache, melt dark chocolate, thin with milk to your preferred texsture, and stir in your favorite rum to taste/booze levels of preference
- optional – sugar to finish, but in my opinion it’s sweet enough without it
- Mix yeast, both flours, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter cubes, as chilled as possible. Toss in the flour mixture and use your hands to rub the butter pieces in just a bit – be careful to keep most of the butter cubes/spheres around 1cm in size!
- In a microwave-proof mug/bowl, combine the water and milk. Heat to lukewarm (around or just slightly warmer than body temperature). Pour over the flour-butter mixture. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to mix everything together into a dough, again taking care to not obliterate the chunks of butter. As the dough comes together, you can finish it off with a few kneads of the hand. The dough WILL look a complete mess, don’t worry it’s supposed to look that way – its ugliness now just adds to your appreciation of its beauty later!
- Lightly oil some plastic wrap, wrap the ugly baby up, and pop in the fridge to chill and relax for a few hours.
- After it’s chilled, prepare a large clean work surface. Flour the surface and a nice big rolling pin. Take the dough out and roll it into a rectangle about 20cm x 40cm in dimension. Brush off any excess flour as you fold it “business letter” method – take one third and fold it in, then take the other third and fold that over (think like how an envelope works!). Rotate the folded dough 90 degrees so that the open seam of the last fold is facing you. Repeat the roll, fold, and rotate two more times. As you go along, you’ll notice the dough will visibly become prettier and more put together with every fold – such shiny magic!
- Wrap the dough up in oiled plastic wrap again and chill in the fridge for 6-8 hours (overnight typically, but technically if you start earlier in the morning you can do the “day of” steps at night) – if it works better for your timeline, the dough can also be stored at this step in the fridge for up to a couple of days before moving on to the next step. Take a rest, phew!
- Prepare a large clean work surface. Flour the surface and your rolling pin. Take the dough out and roll it into a rectangle about 20cm x 45cm and about .5cm thick.
- Cut out 10 large circles about 9cm in diameter (you may want to mark out using your cookie cutter before going all the way, to double check that you can fit 10 of them). Then cut out the holes about 2.5-3cm in diameter. Feel free (read: DO) cut out extra “holes” from the leftover dough outside the edges of each large cut circle. (FYI – yes, I used a heart cookie cutter instead of a circle for the holes. No, I wasn’t trying to be cute, I just couldn’t find a circle cutter of the right size…)
- Arrange each doughsant and holes with plenty of space in between on a baking sheet lined with a baking liner, oiled parchment paper, or oiled foil. Cover with oiled plastic wrap.
- If baking, preheat oven to 375 F. Either if baking or frying, let the cut dough rise at room temperature for a few hours – it may not be doubled in size, but should at least be noticeably puffier in both size and texture (give it a gentle poke to check for the last bit).
- If baking, remove the cling wrap gently and bake for 12-18 minutes, until the sides are slightly browned but the tops and bottoms aren’t too dark. If the top looks like it’s browning too fast, cover with foil. An egg wash made everything brown too fast for my liking, so I would not recommend.
- If frying, set up a pot of oil at least several inches deep (I use a little pot to save oil) with a candy/oil thermometer clipped to the edge. Heat up the oil to 170 C/ approximately 325-350 F. Keep doughsant dough that you’re not working on covered with cling wrap. Fry them up one or two at a time to avoid drastic changes in oil temperature from adding too much. They fry fast, only about a minute or less on each side – you want them golden but not brown – so be vigilant! Remove fried doughsants to a workspace lined with paper towels to let the oil drain/blot off a bit while they cool. Don’t forget to fry up the doughsant holes!
- Let the baked/fried goods cool before filling and glazing. At this point, you can freeze the baked/fried goods BEFORE filling and glazing. You should only fill and glaze if you plan to serve that day – they don’t last well when filled and glazed beyond a day especially if the filling is cream-based. To thaw, leave on the counter uncovered until room temperature. Isn’t that awesome – cronuts at the drop of a hat for when guests surprise you!
- Shortly before serving, fill up a piping bag fit with a “Bismarck” tip or a squeeze bottle with a narrow long tip with your filling of choice. Poke the tip the doughssant from the top downward (don’t poke all the way through) and fill via four locations evenly spaced (like points of a compass). You will actually feel the pastry getting heavier as it fills up.
- Two choices to glaze: 1) you can glaze the side with the holes to cover them up or 2) if the glaze is a little thin like mine was, it will not look even with option one so use a little glaze to plug up the holes, turn the pastry over, and glaze that side instead. Garnish with sugar (roll the sides in the stuff) and/or something pretty on top (in this case, I went with hibiscus petals).
- I’m going to say it again – once filled and glazed, serve the same day! Keep stored in a NOT airtight container (ie like a cardboard box, NOT plastic/glass tupperware) at room temperature.
Nutritional description: what with the scraps of leftover dough and the deep frying, it’s impossible for me to actually give an accurate calculation of the nutritional information. So I’ve decided to defer to BBC Good Food’s website’s information instead. If you’re eating a Cronut/doughssant though, don’t worry about the nutrition for one blissful minute. It is not going to be healthy, I repeat, it is not going to be healthy. Savor and enjoy!
Nutritional information (taken from BBC Good Food’s posting of the recipe): Calories 572, Total Fat 37g, Saturated Fat 17g, Carbs 55g, Sugar 19g, Fiber 2g, Protein 7g