In the depths of the Tenderloin in San Francisco, there exists a magical place where pastry aficionados can get their hands on one of the most elusive treats on the West Coast.
The cruffin, one of many pastry hybrids to emerge in recent years, is available at San Francisco’s Mr. Holmes Bakehouse.
What is a cruffin, you ask? A croissant-muffin, duh. Yes, it comes on the heels of the hybrid trend that’s gotten attention as one of the more ridiculous food fads, most notably with New York’s cronut. But while Dominique Ansel‘s pastry chef fame is certainly worth noticing, he’s on the wrong side of the country for us West Coasters to ever fully appreciate his creation.
Cruffins, however, can really give cronut-hype a run for its money, and with just a 40 minute drive from campus, it’s actually possible to get your hands on a cruffin. Ry Stephen, creator of the famed cruffin, trained in Melbourne and Paris before relocating to bring his genius to the Bay. The result is an equally delicious and evasive treat that mostly manages to live up to the hype.
While it may seem straightforward, the cruffin is anything but. Layers of brioche dough are strategically rolled, cut, and stacked into a muffin shape, ending as a flakey, decadent piece of heaven.
But it doesn’t stop there. Every day, a new flavor is announced. Fluffernutter, Uh-Huh-Honey, Strawberry Milkshake, S’mores, Caramel Cream… are you drooling yet? The more you learn about cruffins the clearer it becomes that San Francisco has gone nuts over a pastry for a reason.
But this deliciousness does not come without a price. Cruffins are so popular they have become a controlled substance, limit two per customer, and as a result the pastry’s biggest fans line up early to get their fix.
I decided to see for myself if the magic of a cruffin was worth the journey (and the money) for Santa Clara students. I woke up at 6 am to begin the trip, the ultimate sacrifice in the name of pastry anthropology.
After braving the city traffic, I sped down streets to make it to Mr. Holmes as early as possible. Mr. Holmes begins selling their cruffins promptly at 9 am. If you want to get your hands on one, you must arrive no later than 8:30 am.
They absolutely will sell out of cruffins within the first hour or two, without fail. When I lept out of the car when I finally saw the gleaming bakery lights, the line was already about 15 people long. I stood in line for a while, seriously questioning my priorities in life, and turned a few minutes later to see that the line had extended down the block.
Got here at 8:30 and was still a latecomer #whoareyoupeople A photo posted by @livin_easy on Jun 4, 2015 at 4:43pm PDT
This line looked like a bunch of fangirls waiting to meet One Direction and willing to camp overnight to do it. Everyone was eagerly standing on their toes to count the number of people in front of them and discussing the flavor possibilities with their neighbors.
Employees came outside regularly to make sure everyone was waiting for a cruffin. People who wanted other items (one of the amazing artichoke or apricot danishes, doughnuts, or croissants) could cut to the front and buy their pastries like rational human beings.
At exactly 9, the line began moving forward, customers excitedly snapping photos every step of the way. Flavor of the day – Strawberry Milkshake, a cruffin filled with creamy strawberry custard, topped with strawberry jam and marshmallows.
Now, what does this enigma of a pastry actually taste like? Well, it tastes like a filled croissant. Sorry to disappoint. It actually was really, really delightful, but I was a little let down by the lack of hybrid evident in every bite. There was no muffin element besides the shape. If you step away from the fact that it’s supposed to be a revolutionary invention, you can enjoy the greatness of this pastry.
There was a surprising (and tasty) amount of filling in such a small central pocket, and the different flavors came together beautifully for a not-too-sweet, not-too-heavy treat that still managed to achieve decadence. Even my unrefined college kid palate could detect the level of artistry and talent that went into creating this.
I’ve never partaken in any sort of hyped up item or experience before. Cronuts, concert tickets, and Black Friday sales have always seemed a little ridiculous but honestly, if the result is something as delicious as a fancy croissant, it’s worth doing at least once.
After eating to my heart’s content and having completed my mission, I sadly had to drive back to the Clara for class (who invented mandatory attendance anyway?). I reported back to all of my friends that this place really was the West Coast version of the cronut, and that yes, it really was as good as it sounded.