Creative Genius: Dishing on the Cronut Craze With Chef Erin Gardner

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Is there anyone anywhere who hasn’t caught Cronut fever? Cronuts are the croissant/donut hybrid created by Dominique Ansel and sold in his NYC bakery. I first heard about them back in May and almost immediately started craving a Cronut. And the buzz has reached a fever pitch. We’re talking a legitimate CRONUT CRAZE. It’s mania, people. Lines forming at 6 am around the block, each person desperate to get their hands on the newest edible must-have accessory. Ansel’s bakery only makes 200 cronuts per day, and the delectable deep-fried pastry confection sells out every single morning. There’s a strict two-per-person limit, and even with that added measure (or maybe because of it), a Cronut black market has cropped up. You can find Cronuts on Craigslist going for $50 for a pair, and there are plenty of eager buyers snapping them up. Crazy? A little. But the rave reviews lead me to believe that it might just be worth it.

Combine my own lifelong sweet tooth with my husband’s weakness for doughnuts and we make up your ideal Cronut demographic. After a sugar-fueled discussion on National Doughnut Day last week, I knew exactly what I needed to do for Father’s Day: Cronuts. But what’s a girl living in New Hampshire to do when the nearest Cronut is hundreds of miles (and a long line of people much more aggressive than I) away? I was left with only one choice: a good old fashioned DIY Cronut hack.

I’ve baked my way through many a cookbook, but even for a seasoned pastry chef, croissant dough is a serious undertaking. The process is long (2-3 days) and complicated. You have to make the dough, make the butter layer, laminate the dough, roll it out, shape it, and proof it. It’s … a lot of work. (Next time you buy a croissant, thank your baker. Profusely.) Not exactly a home-baker-friendly kind of project. So, I called in the big guns.

Erin Gardner, owner of Wild Orchid Baking Company (Photo by Mark Davidson, www.mark-davidson.com)

Everyone, say hello to my wonderful, astonishingly talented friend, Erin Gardner. Erin is owner of Wild Orchid Baking Company, and has been a pastry chef for ten years. She was the winner of Sweet Genius on Food Network, and her work recently garnered her the title of Best Wedding Cakes in America by Brides Magazine, due on newsstands in July. She’s also got a cake decorating book due out at the end of the year — seriously, put it on your calendars and keep your eyes peeled because it’s going to be GORGEOUS. You can see more of her work here, here and here. (Here’s a hint at her legendary talent — one of her cake tutorials has been pinned over 82,000 times on Pinterest!) She also happens to be an all-around really, really wonderful person, a collision of phenomenal talent and good-heartedness that just makes me so happy.

I let Erin in on my hankering for a Cronut hack and she was totally game to jump on board and help me make it happen. We both felt that a from-scratch croissant dough was a little labor intensive for our needs, so we decided that we wanted to find a way to make Cronuts DIY-friendly. (For those purists, Erin recommends Nancy Silverton’s croissant dough, from Pastries from the La Brea Bakery.) We embarked on an epic hunt for as many varieties of store-bought croissant, pastry and biscuit dough as we could find. It was hard, but very tasty, work.

None of the results for these store-bought doughs were bad, but just in time for Father’s Day, we’re here to report back on our three Made + Remade DIY FAUXNUT winners, chosen for with a few parameters: best true croissant flavor, best all natural, and best all around.

That’s a lotta dough, you guys.

BEST CROISSANT: Trader Joe’s (thanks for coming to NH, TJ’s!!!) frozen Chocolate Croissants, minus the chocolate, wins in this category. In the interest of keeping our fauxnuts as close to Cronut status as possible, we 86′d the chocolate, which basically means we just pulled out the small bar of chocolate that’s wrapped in the croissants in their package. The resulting fauxnut was the most croissant-y, with flaky layers and an airy, yeasty croissant flavor. They weren’t as mile-high as the real Cronuts, and they do need proofing (leaving them out at room temperature overnight), but they were pretty darn good.

BEST ALL NATURAL: As a mom of a little one, I strive to buy as many organic and all-natural products as possible when feeding my family. Needless to say, due to the fat content alone, my toddler won’t be enjoying a Cronut anytime soon, but even so, I was hoping for a non-GMO option. We found ours in our grocery store refrigerated section using Immaculate Baking Company’s Crescent Dough. I will say that though this dough had none of the artificial ingredients, to achieve a believable fauxnut, we had to fold the dough over on itself to form one tidy little bundle so that each can (not joking here) made ONE fauxnut. That’s an entire can of dough … consumed by one person. One can = one fauxnut. All natural maybe, but definitely not for the calorically faint of heart. The resulting fauxnut was closer to a cake doughnut, but still crispy on the outside, and both looked and tasted fantastic. Pricier and more calories that any of our other options, but all natural and delectable. (Um, we’re talking about deep fried croissant dough, so this isn’t really a post for those who are calorie conscious anyway — are we all in agreement on that?)

BEST OVERALL: We couldn’t have been more shocked by our winner of best overall. Totally came out of left field, and Erin almost didn’t even grab this option. But we are SO glad she did. Pillsbury Grands Flaky Layers Original knocked it out of the park. We tried both single layers and double layers, and both were great, so it’s really about your height preferences for your fauxnut. The real-deal cronut is a tall whopper of crispy amazingness, so if you want to go for the full monty, double up the dough, using a quick swipe of water to cement the two layers together. The resulting fauxnut was crispy with lots of soft layers inside, and not too dense. It wasn’t all that croissant-y, but all things considered, it was delicious.

Now that you know our three categories and the respective winners, go on over to this step-by-step tutorial so that you, too, can jump on the Cronut train and make this Father’s Day an especially sweet treat for your family.

 

This post is the first installment of our new Creative Genius series, where Made + Remade features and learns from awesome makers. Stay tuned for more Creative Geniuses!

 

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About Ellen Foord 

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As the founder, designer, and one-woman workforce behind Minnow + Co, a tight budget has never stopped this DIY-girl-at-heart from creating a beautiful, modern, creative home and treating every ...

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