The Cronut That Ate Manhattan Is Now Ready to Devour London
Brits, be prepared to queue.
The Cronut—the croissant-doughnut hybrid—lands in London on Friday when the new Dominique Ansel Bakery opens at precisely 8 a.m.
In New York, people were lining up ’round the block in Manhattan’s Soho within days of the pastry being introduced on May 10, 2013. This sweet monster was supposed to be just a Mother’s Day special, but everything changed after a blogger published a preview the night before the debut.
“He called me about 6 p.m., and he told me his article had gone viral,” Ansel says. “I said, ‘I am happy for you.’ And he was like, ‘No you don’t understand: This is going crazy. You should be ready to make some more tomorrow.’”
Ansel made 25 the first day. And 35 the next. Eventually the line stretched more than two blocks. Some people started to resell pastries on the Cronut black market for a steep markup.
“I only had four employees,” he says. “We couldn’t keep up.”
Three years on, the Cronut is a trademarked phenomenon. Ansel now has four stores worldwide: Two in New York, one in Tokyo, and one in London, where he is adding pastries and tweaking his range.
Ansel changes the flavor of the Cronut monthly. In London, it will debut with salted butterscotch and cocoa nib as a cost of £4 ($5.19), compared with $5.75 in New York.
Other options on the menu will include the Paris-London, a twist on the traditional Paris-Brest, a wheel-shaped pastry created more than a century ago to celebrate a cycle race. In London, it’s made with Earl Grey mousse, blackberry, and lemon. It sports a shirt collar, a mustache, and a monocle, and costs £6.20.
Or how about the Eton Mess Lunchbox (£7.50)? This features “strawberries” (made with mousse and jelly) atop crème fraiche with small meringues in a clear plastic box that you shake to create a mess. “It’s inspired by Korean lunchboxes in New York, where they put in the rice and the eggs and then shake,” Ansel says.
The Banoffee Paella (£6) is a banoffee pie made in a paella pan with caramelized bananas. You flip it over and serve with dulce mousse and passion fruit. “There are a lot of Spanish influences in London, and I take that as an inspiration,” Ansel says.
He grew up in the northern French city of Beauvais and started working in a restaurant when he was 16 to earn money for his family, who couldn’t afford to pay for higher education. “My mom was a terrible cook,” he says. “It’s what got me in the kitchen: I wanted better food.”
After military service, he bought a car with his savings, drove to Paris, and got a job in a bakery. He worked in the city for eight years before chef Daniel Boulud invited him to New York to work at Daniel. Ansel spent almost six years in charge of pastry at the Midtown restaurant, which won three Michelin stars while he was there. He left in 2011 and opened his own New York bakery on Spring Street.
But in the U.K. right now, the Cronut isn't the hottest topic in baking. It’s the Great British Bake Off, a much-loved TV show that recently jumped from the BBC to Channel 4, but without some of its hosts.
“I watched one, and it is very exciting to me that people are so excited about baking,” he says. “If people try to remember the first thing they ever made in the kitchen, 95 percent will tell you baking—a cookie or a cake that they made with their mom, with their grandma.”
Dominique Ansel Bakery, 17-21 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, London, SW1W 9RP; +44-20-7324-7705.