Reality: Not so much.
Ah, to be a senior with too much time on your hands. Why not do something fun and productive like make cronuts? If you’ve been living under a rock, cronuts are Chef Dominique Ansel’s sweet, flaky innovative love child of the croissant and donut, for which people will wait hours in line. As I looked over the recently released recipe I thought, “time consuming, sure, but how hard could it be?”
Famous last words.
First things first, I had to forage for supplies. Perusing the list of specialty ingredients and equipment, I let the weight of the endeavor sink in. I spam every Facebook group I’m in, soliciting for donations with the promise of “a cronut (or something like it).” Many friends step up with ingredients and equipment. Off to Michael’s I go for everything else. Highlights: Ace of Cakes’s bright pink fondant icing (the only other option was bright blue, okay), a deep-fat thermometer (when the hell am I going to use this again?), a rolling pin and a variety of piping tips. I drive away with my goodies feeling ready for Cupcake Wars.
Things start smoothly. Making the pastry dough is easy with the a stand mixer courtesy of my “Our Culinary Cultures” class (I highly recommend it if you love food and/or writing) professor. Then comes the butter square. Yes, you heard me right. It’s literally 18 tablespoons of butter shaped into a 7-inch square. This is when I realize how artery-clogging crossaints, biscuits and pastries (read: happiness) are. Last piece of Day 1 is the champagne-chocolate ganache. I can’t wait and taste a little (read: a lot). By the end of the first day, I’m feeling pretty good. Everything is in the fridge setting, and nothing has gone horrible wrong yet.
Day 2 (Halloween)
Rolling dough is a workout, man. Doing some fancy pastry origami, I envelop the butter square into the center of the dough. Then I roll out this block from a 10-inch square into a 20-inch square. By 17 inches or so, my forearms are struggling, but I finally get there. This square is folded horizontally and then vertically, resulting in a 10-inch square with 4 layers.
This is when I realize I have to let this sit in the fridge for 3 hours and then repeat the folding process. How did I miss this? It’s 5pm, and I have plans to leave for Chapel Hill’s Franklin Street for Halloween festivities at 8:30pm. I refuse to sacrifice, so I wait the full 3 hours. By the time I’m allowed to take the dough out, I’m in full-costume. A friend comes by to pick up a fanny pack she’s borrowing for the night and finds me bent over the dining table, slightly sweaty, furiously rolling out dough while dressed as Agnes Gru. Savor the mental image.
With barely a minute to waste, the 16-layer pastry dough block is back in the fridge, setting for the big day. I’m also out the door, and our dining table is covered in flour. Sorry, roommate. Thanks for letting me transform our dining table into a makeshift dough-rolling surface for a couple days.
Let’s just go ahead and call this Doom’s Day. The first half of the day moves along without issue. I begin to cut out the donut shapes: outer ring with a cookie cutter, inner ring with a piece of plastic taped into a circle. Uncooked, they’re looking about right. You can see the the butter layers and I’m feeling quite proud, excited to deep-fry these babies.
While they rise, I attempt to make the final components, champagne-chocolate glaze and orange sugar. Re-enter the monstrous bubblegum pink fondant icing. I’m to mix a bit of the ganache into microwaved fondant icing. Oh no, it quickly turns into a color I’d like to affectionately call raspberry-burgundy (read: blood-brown). Yikes, it also does not taste great. Okay, whatever, I decide to leave the glaze, sunk cost. For the orange sugar I have forgotten a zester, so I end up just chopping some orange peel as finely as I can. I dubiously throw that into a bowl of sugar…
Now for the deep-frying. Oh, let me count the struggles… First, it was nearly impossible to maintain the prescribed 350ºF, so many pastries come out either too crispy and brown, or undercooked and soggy with grease. GREAT. Also, the cronuts start flaking apart. No matter how delicate I try to be, a few depressingly dissociate into 16 tire-shaped dough chips. The recipe warned that if I used too much flour during the folding process, this would happen. Dammit. The ones that do stay together end up crooked. Out of the 15 I started with, only 7 or 8 come out vaguely usable.
After letting them cool, I attempt to pipe the ganache. The cronuts are nowhere near fluffy enough for this, and after a failed attempt to get the Bismarck tip to penetrate the hard outershell of the dough, I give up and instead use a spatula to spread the ganache on top of or between dismembered halves. Next, I roll them in the orange sugar or sprinkle it on top in a Hail Mary attempt to make them somewhat resemble the original.
Let’s just say they photograph better than they taste. I mean, at the end of the day, they’re fried dough rolled in orange-flavored sugar with decadent chocolate on top–can’t taste that bad, right? Right, but they also don’t taste like 3 days of hard labor. My roomie, my photographer and I all take a bite and collectively sigh with slight disappointment. “Well at least you can now say you made a cronut?” Can I though? Too embarrassed to pass them out, I dole out a few to those who stop by requesting a taste after seeing my Snapchat story. Sorry guys. There was one redeeming factor though: the ganache was heavenly. Defeat never tasted so sweet.
I bow down to you, Dominique. 3 days and $50 later… I leave the recreational bakers with a warning: don’t try this at home.
If you’re looking for some more manageable dessert recipes to satiate your sweet-tooth, check these out: