Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tasty Trend: Cronuts

You have probably never tasted it, but you have likely heard of it: the cronut.
It rolled out in May at Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City. Since the, it has taken off. A black market has sprung up, with scalpers selling them up to $100 a pop. Social and traditional media have lit up with coverage, and imitators around the world are trying to tap in on the success.
Chef-owner Dominique Ansel only makes about 300 cronuts a day. Some customers camp out overnight to get their hand on one. And some leave disappointed. Cronuts always sells out.
Lee Hatch didn’t let that dissuader her. She and her husband were visiting Manhattan from Sydney, Australia, where they’d first hear about the cronut.

“This is our third attempt of lining up here,” Hatch says. “And we though, well, we’re on holiday, we’re here for a month, so we’ll five it a go if it’s the last thing we do before we go home.”

Ansel worked on the recipe for two months, trying to perfect a dough that would hold up in the fryer and could be filled with cream without becoming to soft.

He finally hit on a winning recipe, “something that people have not seen before,” he says, “It’s something that has a doughnut shape, it’s flaky like a croissant, and that’s why it’s called a ‘cronut.’ ”

So why has it caught on?

Irma Zandi is president of the consumer trends company Zandl Group. “There are part of the brain that become super active when a fad idea is heard, and people want to pass it on,” she says.

The New York Magazine food blog Grub Street wrote about the cronut when Ansel first made them.

“And on the same night,” Ansel says, “they called us and told us that their traffic on the website increased 300 percent, and they had over 140,000 links to the website.”

It was then, Ansel says, he knew he had a hit. And the long lines outside the bakery are, in fact, part of it.

"The waiting itself is a huge part of the pleasure," Carruth says. "Not only because we feel we're participating in something that's fashionable or trendy, but because we're sort of signalling that we value a certain kind of experience."

And for those who can’t make it to New York City to wait in line, imitations have sprung up all over.

So how long can the cronut buzz last? 

“We can only sustain so long one product, one brand, one entrepreneur having the spotlight,” Carruth says. “So I would be surprised is a year from now there are still 10,000 tweets a month about the cronut.”

Zandle says “it’s going to wear off,” but he says that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Ansel.

“It’s put him on the map in a way that he could not have imagined,” Zandle says. “I think he will be able to parlay it into something more for his business.”

Ansel says he won’t forsake his other pastries for the cronut.

“Before the cronut, we were very busy, very busy at the bakery,” he says. “If the cronut is not here tomorrow, we’ll still be very busy.”

And despite the current frenzy, Ansel says he is not interested in mass producing the cronut or jacking up the price. For now, he is still charging the original $5 per cronut and limiting customers to two each.

The flavors change each month  - July’s was blackberry lime, and Augusts flavor is Coconut, which Ansel has described as involving “coconut milk cream, coconut glaze, cinnamon sugar, and just a light sprinkling of toasted coconut on top,”

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