NEW YORK – Some hungry customers began lining up outside the pastry shop at around 3:30 a.m. Others managed to keep their taste buds at bay for a few more hours, arriving at the patisserie around 6 a.m.
They were all united by a desire to sample the food craze that has gripped New York since its debut a month ago. Half-doughnut and half-croissant, the “cronut” has left the Big Apple’s gourmets in a frenzy.
By the time the Dominique Ansel Bakery in the heart of trendy Soho opened its doors to the public at 8 a.m., the slavering customers were at breaking point. Within the hour, every single cronut available had been sold.
The bakery’s owner, Dominique Ansel, says the crowd reflected the typical pattern since the May 18 launch of the cronut, a food sensation powered by social media. On the first day, 50 were sold. The next day, 100 flew off the shelves within 15 to 20 minutes.
Since then, the bemused pastry chef has become accustomed to lines of 150 to 200 people winding down the street long before the bakery opens.
Ansel settled upon the idea of the cronut after deciding he wanted to create a hybrid pastry that would be instantly recognizable as a marriage of French and American food cultures.
His revolutionary confection offers the delicate puff pastry of a traditional croissant shaped into a round doughnut, which is then deep-fried, filled with cream, rolled in maple sugar and coated with a light glaze.
It is soft yet crunchy, light and delicious, say its devotees.
Ansel, regarded as one of the most talented pastry chefs in New York, said settling upon the cronut recipe was a painstaking process. “It took me about two months to perfect the recipe,” he said.
It is so perfect that Jessica Amaral, 30, thought nothing of leaving home at 3 a.m. to get in line. The two cronuts she bought were a treat for her husband to mark the couple’s eighth wedding anniversary. “I am the idiot — I read online that people were arriving at 3. . . . The others started to arrive at 5. It’s my eighth-year anniversary; I thought it would be nice for my husband.”
Just behind Amaral in the line stood Steven Go, a chef who had arrived from his home in Staten Island shortly after 5 a.m., at the behest of his wife. Justin Gorder, a 30-year-old salesman, traveled an hour from New Jersey.
Irvin, a trader, bashfully admitted he should already be at work. Gina, meanwhile, arrived in a taxi at 6:30 a.m., clutching her 4-month-old baby.
To satisfy the largest possible number of customers, patrons are restricted to two cronuts each. At first, customers could snaffle six at a time, but Ansel restricted it to two after discovering the cronuts he had sold for $5 each were changing hands on the Internet at up to $50 apiece.
At 8 a.m., the wait was over. Ansel flung open the doors and welcomed his first customers. By 8:56, almost all of the approximately 250 to 300 cronuts available had been sold. A bakery employee distributed madeleine pastries, advising people who arrived at 7 a.m. they had a “40 percent” chance of satisfying their craving.
By 9:05, Ansel broke the bad news to those outside his shop who had missed out. “We are sold out for today,” he said.
Inside, around 20 people waited anxiously to snap up the final cronuts on sale. A crafty customer offered to sell his place in the line for $100. His offer was accepted by two friends who delightedly came away with two cronuts each.
Immediately behind him stood Jessica McCord. She was furious but consoled herself by opting for a kouign amann, the Breton cake that is a house specialty.
Meanwhile, Irvin, late for work, hungrily devoured his cronuts. A young woman, meanwhile, prepared to take her prized pastries, nestling in a golden case, to share with work colleagues.
McCord was disappointed to have missed out, but the experience will not deter her. “We’ll be back,” she sighed.