Alas, I have never tasted an authentic cronut (croissant-doughnut hybrid) from Dominique Ansel's NYC bakery, only its Los Angeles knock-offs. Ansel is also the guy who created a chocolate chip cookie shot glass and the flambéed ice cream s'more, so clearly he has some sort of dessert-perfecting gene the rest of us lack.
By all accounts, the real-deal cronut is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. According to Ansel, it took him two months and ten recipe versions before coming up with its current, wildly successful iteration. This pastry is made from a laminated dough (i.e., alternating layers of dough and butter that have been folded on top of one another) that is very similar to croissant dough. The frying process creates a puffy, crispy delight with dozens of flaky, buttery layers inside:
Now Ansel has released the official cronut recipe for home bakers, but be warned: it's not for amateurs. The whole process takes three days from start to finish, and that includes making your own laminated dough, ganache, and flavored sugars. If you're the type who's intimidated by making no-knead bread, then attempting a cronut is probably beyond your skillset at this point in time. Then again, if you know a great cook, a forward of the recipe and a small bribe can go a long way, but as with anything in life, shortcuts are available, and they're pretty damned tasty.
Thankfully, there are ingenious bakers out there who have come up with all kinds of hacks to reproduce a cronut that doesn't require expert-level baking skills.
A Beautiful Mess made cronuts using Pepperidge Farm puff pastry and Pillsbury crescent roll dough. She had to fold the dough multiple times to duplicate the flaky layers of an Ansel cronut, so be warned: you'll need to buy many packages if you're feeding a lot of people.
Surprisingly (at least to me), she says that the Pillsbury crescent roll dough produced a superior doughnut to the Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, although others disagree, saying that the wannabe cronut (fauxnut?) tasted like deep-fried biscuit dough. This is definitely the easiest (but perhaps least authentic) way to make a cronut at home. It does look delicious, though. Serious Eats gets behind the method, as you can see:
The Reddit thread regarding the official cronut recipe also inspired an idea: why not buy premade croissants or croissant dough from Costco, Williams-Sonoma, or Whole Foods and use it to make a cronut?
Food52 has a recipe for croissant-doughnuts that requires you make your own puff pastry and fold it in on itself multiple times. While it sounds intimidating, the recipe's creator points out, "It's really a matter of mixing together a basic yeasted dough, slathering it with butter and then folding it up like a letter a bunch of times, rolling and chilling between each fold. You can be rough with it, or leave it for longer than a half hour between rolls—puff pastry isn't as finicky as you might think, particularly when the end result is a batch of buttery, golden croissoughnuts."
The results look spectacular, and require far less work than Ansel's original recipe, and seem like they'd taste much better than the Pillsbury version. I may even give it a go myself some day.
How far would you go to make/eat an official cronut? Let us know in the comments below or on our Food Hacks Facebook page.