29 May Operation #Cronut
By now the entire food world has heard of and salivated over a Cronut. It’s a doughnut made from croissant dough, says Chef Dominique Ansel, owner of Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York’s SoHo district. Now Chef Ansel is no flash in the pan; for many years he was Daniel Boulud’s pastry chef and if I were in NYC, I would happily spend a couple hours in his bakery. I first read about the cronut on Twitter on or about the 15th of May and by the 23rd, Chef Ansel was on the Today Show, Fox News, CBS and Judge Judy.
Judge Judy: “Now Chef Ansel; is this a croissant masquerading as a doughnut or am I looking at a doughnut masquerading as a croissant?”
Chef Ansel: “Madame Judy, zah bailiff has eaten zah evidahnce.”
But seriously folks…it looks like Chef Ansel gave one short interview to Grub Street which almost every food blogger in the free world then breathlessly parroted, right down to the “it’s impossible to fry croissant dough” and the “secret temperature” of frying. What the hell? Did Chef Ansel invent a new scale of heat to rival Kelvin? Okay let’s all take a deep breath and relax for a second because John and Amy are all over this like a cheap suit at a funeral.
My first reaction; I’ll bet all those folks standing in line for a cronut (he only makes 200 a day and sells out in a matter of hours) were also on a gluten-free fad only last week. My second thought was; I gotta try this. Now keep in mind that croissant dough is full of butter so frying it presents a problem. If the dough is room temperature then so is the butter and that means the butter is a warm breath away from separating into its three components: water, milk fat and butter fat. Chef Ansel has several photos on his website and there’s plenty circulating around so after looking closely at these two, I’d say we’re looking at two different doughs.
So after reading all the cronut stories we decided to make some. Before you embark on this recipe you’re gonna need an electronic thermometer, fresh yeast and a doughnut or biscuit cutter, everything else is fairly common. Amy took the route of pastry dough and I made croissant dough. I started with the recipe out of one of my favorite cookbooks, Baking with Julia. The croissant dough recipe is attributed to Esther McManus. Making croissant dough is not technically challenging but it is time consuming and you’re gonna be in for an upper-body workout.
1 Tablespoon Yeast
1/3 Cup Sugar
2 Teaspoons Salt
1 Cup +3 Tablespoons Warm Milk (100-105 degrees)
3 & 3/4 Cup King Arthur AP Flour
In the bowl of your stand mixer place the milk, sugar, salt and yeast and whisk together. Then cover with a clean towel and leave it alone for thirty minutes. The yeast will wake up, start eating the sugar and will expel CO2 and you should have a bubbly layer on top. If not, throw it out and start over. If your milk is too hot you’ll kill the yeast so be precise with your temperature. Now add all the flour to your bubbly yeast mixture, place on the mixer and using the dough hook, mix slowly until the dough forms a nice ball then wrap it in plastic wrap and place in the fridge, overnight.
Clean the bowl, find your paddle attachment and let’s get to the second part; the butter.
4 and 1/2 sticks Unsalted Butter, COLD, cut into quarters
2 Tablespoons AP Flour
Blend these two ingredients in the mixer until you have a nice, smooth paste. This should only take about thirty seconds. Then spread this onto a big sheet of plastic wrap, smooth into a rectangle, cover and refrigerate.
Day two. Now comes the hard part 😉
Now I’m gonna spare you all the temperature combinations I went through but needless to say it took me several rounds. So here’s what I found was best. Cut the ‘nuts, place on a sheet pan, cover with a clean towel and allow them to proof for thirty five minutes or so, that will give them a good rise. Now place the ‘nuts back into the fridge and chill to 50 F. Then fry in 340 to 350 degree oil. The reason being that if the dough is close to room temperature then the butter will break as soon as it hits the oil and then you’ll end up with a soggy mess.
My dear wife took another swipe at this and started with a puff pastry dough. This is a quick version that she’s used many times and it’s right out of Saveur Magazine.
1& 1/2 cups King Arthur AP Flour
1 & 1/2 cups King Arthur Cake Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/4 teaspoon Salt
3 Sticks Butter, COLD, cut into small, 1/4 inch cubes
2/3 Cup Ice Water
Over a large bowl, sift the flour, salt and sugar together. Cut the butter into the flour using a pastry cutter, or two forks or your hands, just like if you were making biscuits. You can use a food processor too but remember to make sure the butter is cold and I would also chill the blade and bowl as well. Intersperse some of the chilled water when you’re mixing in the butter. The finished product should feel like pie dough. Once the butter and cold water is incorporated, place the dough onto a big stretch of plastic wrap, refrigerate and chill overnight. Now comes the hard part. Yep, ya gotta roll it out to a rectangle, fold it into thirds, chill then roll again. At least four times. Just like in the previous photos, floured counter and all. And no cheating! An old school puff pastry dough would be made using the technique of shingling the butter then rolling and folding, just like I did for the croissant dough.