Long-time readers will know that my sister-in-law is a pastry goddess. Not only does she blog (although these days less frequently) about her masterpieces, she also teaches always-sold-out pastry classes at Shermay’s Cooking School. Last week, I was telling her about the crazy Cronut craze started by Dominique Ansel. And since there was no way either of us were going to get to taste one of the original Cronuts anytime soon, I begged her to try making her own version, i.e. hacking the recipe.
She did, as expected, an insanely amazing job. This past weekend, S, my two year old T and I were treated to freshly made “ghetto Cronuts” as J called them. One was made with vanilla cream and a yuzu icing, while the other was made with a milk chocolate cream and salted caramel. Her GCs (let’s use that for short and so we don’t run into any trademark violations, shall we?) were pure decadence. More than a couple would probably kill you. But what a way to go. We honestly have no idea if J’s version is even close to Dominique’s, but if it’s anything close to it, it’s no wonder people wait hours in line for the original.
I’ve asked J if we can post her recipe. Here it is, with a short intro from her:
The recipe: I had croissant dough knocking around in the freezer. When I tried fashioning facsimile Cronuts from that, it was an unmitigated butter leak disaster – an utter waste of time, deep frying oil and perfectly good croissant dough. Upon more studious reading up of Dominique Ansel’s technique, I realized he never actually says he uses croissant dough, despite the etymology. On his website, it says that the Cronut “is not to be mistaken as simply croissant dough that has been fried”, and that it is made “with a laminated dough similar to a croissant (but not exactly)”.
All of which led me to imagine a rough-puff route would fair better. I’d previously tried a fantastic Danish pastry/Viennabrød recipe from Beatrice Ojakangas’ The Great Scandinavian Baking Book. She provides both a classical laminated method, as well as a quick method. It’s the quick method that I had in mind. She has also contributed a slightly different version of this recipe to Dorie Greenspan’s Baking with Julia. The recipe below is loosely based on the latter. So besides deep-frying it for wannabe Cronuts, it’s great for all sorts of breakfast/teatime treats calling for Danish pastry. There are also many convenient holding points so there’s never any stretch of work that gets too protracted/involved.
Yields 7 odes to the Cronut, plus holes
For the dough:
60gm warm water
5gm SAF-Instant yeast
120gm whole milk, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
50 gm caster sugar
350gm plain/all-purpose flour
1tsp fine sea salt
240gm unsalted butter, sliced and very well-chilled
A lot of neutral vegetable oil (eg. sunflower, grapeseed or canola)
1.Mixing the dough: Pour the water into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast, milk, egg and sugar. Whisk to mix. Set aside.
2.Mix the flour and salt. Put in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Remove the butter from the fridge and add it (it should be cut into say 30mmx30mmx10mm slices and kept chilled until this point). Pulse 10 times or so, until the butter is cut into hazelnut-sized pieces. Resist the urge to overdo the pulsing – the discernible pieces of butter are what put the puff in rough.
3.Dump the contents of the work bowl into the mixing bowl. Use a silicone spatula to very gently turn the mixture over, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until the dry ingredients are evenly hydrated. Again, proceed cautiously but not too timidly – the butter needs to remain in discrete pieces, yet there should be no loose, dry, floury bits.
4.Chilling the dough: Cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 1 day.
5.Rolling and folding: Work in a cold environment. Very lightly flour a cool (eg.marble) work surface. Transfer the dough onto it. Dust the dough very lightly with flour. Pat the dough into a rough square. Roll into a rectangle that’s about 30cm long. A French pin sans handles works best here. Fold the dough into thirds like a business letter (bottom third up over middle, top third down over middle). Rotate anti-clockwise 90 degrees so that the closed fold is on your left, like the spine of a book. You have completed one turn. Now wrap the dough well in clingwrap and chill for at least 30 minutes, ideally 1 hour (Or for as many hours within reason as suits your schedule. Laminated dough, whether of the proper or rough variety, is accommodating in this regard. It only becomes truculent when it’s soft and sticky. When in doubt, a quick pop into the refrigerator cures most ills.)
6.Repeat the previous step of rolling, folding, turning and chilling five more times for a total of 6 turns, keeping tabs on how many turns you’re making.
7.Having completed 6 turns, wrap the dough and chill for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days.
8.Shaping: Between two sheets of plastic (cut up freezer bags work really well here), roll the dough into a 15mm to 20mm thick sheet (depending on how tall you want your pastries). Transfer to a tray and stick in the freezer, wrapped, for about 2 hrs to 2 hrs 30 minutes.
9.Use a 85mm round cutter to cut out rounds (you should be able to get 6 to 7). Use a 35mm cutter to cut out holes. Wrap well and store in freezer until you’re ready to fry.
10.Proofing: Thaw the circles overnight on a tray lined with baking parchment sprayed with non-stick cooking spray (I like PAM). Cover with an overturned large rectangular tupperware/plastic food storage box. In the morning, allow the fauxnuts to proof at room temperature (under cover) for about 60 minutes. Now – how to transfer the perfectly risen and puffy, and soft and sticky, circles into a vat of roiling hot fat without (a)ruining the circles (b)ruining your fingers? Once risen and puffy, stick everything (still under cover) back in the fridge for a couple of hours or until firm enough to handle – I repeat myself, but chilling truly is the goofproof solution to manhandling proofed laminated yeasted dough in the tropics, the very dictionary definition of gumpy, especially in the face of a vat of roiling hot fat.
11.Frying: When ready to fry, fill a heavy-bottomed pan no more than one-third full with vegetable oil. Clip on a candy/deep-fry thermometer to the side of the pan. Heat on medium heat and bring to 180°C. Meanwhile, place a rack over a baking tray. Line the rack with a triple thickness of paper towels. Set aside. When temperature is reached, slip in the fauxnuts (direct from the fridge) two at a time, adjusting the flame to keep the temperature constant (this is key to avoiding grease-sodden stodginess). Fry for 2 minutes each side (for a total of 4 minutes) until a rich golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon to the prepared tray. Once cooled (about 30 minutes), fill and roll in flavoured sugar and top as desired.
PS: Once fried, these things have a short shelf life. Prolong lifespan by filling, flavouring and topping as close to serving time as feasible/possible. And that said, they really taste best when fried only just as long as necessary before they need to cool so as to be filled. So the crux of what I’m trying to say is: everything can be prepped ahead of time until step 10. After which, for optimal results, you’ll need to work backwards based on serving time. Once filled, flavoured and topped, they taste great for up to say 8 hours at cool room temperature stored simply under a cake dome (and when consumed sooner, rather than later, it goes without saying). As the hours wear on, the exterior crispness suffers whilst the centres soften. Still tasty, but not as tasty as they could have been if consumed close to making/assembly. Last but not least, they should not see the insides of a fridge for they become ponderous.
PPS: I chose flavours based on what I had lying around (ie. anything you fancy is possible).
Yuzu + Vanilla Bean: Yuzu glaze, Madagascar Bourbon vanilla bean crème patissière, vanilla sugar, candied lemon peel
Salted Butter Caramel + Milk Chocolate: Caramel topping with salted d’Isigny Sainte Mère butter and crème fraîche, Amedei milk chocolate ganache, vanilla sugar, Maldon sea salt.
Final note: Dominique Ansel is actually a friend. So, while we use the term Cronut throughout this post, I do want to acknowledge that it is a trademarked product name, much like Kleenex or Frisbee. And lastly, this post is meant to celebrate Dominique’s brilliance. Because to be able to come up with something as rich and crazy as the Cronut is, well, pretty damned special.