2013 may go down as the Year of the Cronut, the donut-croissant mash-up originated by NYC baker Dominique Ansel, which is now a trademarked confection that's left a trail of sugar shocked groupies in its wake. Since they first debuted in May, cronut fever has swept the globe and spawned countless cronut copycats.
Since the craze hit San Diego in June, local food geeks have developed full blown addictions to these labor intensive, small batch pastries that come frosted, glazed, stuffed, rolled in crumbs or coated in vanilla sugar; cronut maniacs will wait in an hour-long line and even fork over credit card numbers to reserve just one of the flaky little devils.
With four local bakeries joining the world-wide lineup of those bold enough to rip-off Mr. Ansel's double-down of confections, we had an Eater operative tracked down and taste test each knockoff to see if they're truly worth eating.
[Donut Bar by Doug Gates]
Where: Azucar (4820 Newport Ave.)
What: The Cray-Nut
Ocean Beach's Cuban-inspired patisserie dubbed its knock-off the Cray-Nut, and customers are going nuts for owner Vivian Hernandez Jackson's croissant-leaning recipe that's piped with infused homemade custards. The "original" concoction spreads Malibu Rum and coconut custard in between a split Cray-Nut, making for one naughty sandwich; fillings vary weekly, check out their Facebook page for updates. Azucar's desserts hit the mark when it comes to sweet and salty play, and this balanced treat follows suit while packing a rich punch with its buttery insides. The key to making Cray-Nuts is rice oil, which Hernandez-Jackson said is great for frying at high temps, allowing the croissant dough to get that essential toastiness and texture without picking up any off flavors. Cray-Nuts are available Mondays starting at noon on a first-come, first-served basis, limit four per person; special orders are available with a minimum of 35 Cray-Nuts. Hernandez-Jackson says she usually sells out of 100 Cray-Nuts within 30 minutes.
Where: Donut Bar (631 B St.)
What: The Crobar
Downtown's gourmet donut shop, Donut Bar, serves the Crobar, which takes three days to make before it hits the fryer. They're available on Friday and Saturday mornings with the occasional appearance on other days of the week; check Donut Bar's Facebook page for those announcements. Executive pastry chef Wendy Bartels' confection stands tall with a coating of vanilla sugar, but its interior is more akin to a sweet bread than a donut or croissant. While it has some buttery flavor, it's the least donut or croissant-like pastry among those tested and might benefit from some kind of a glaze. But they must be doing something right, because Bartels sells out of 300 Crobars each day they're offered, adding that they're so busy it's hard to keep up with phone calls; they ask for order requests to come through Facebook instead.
Where: V.G. Donut & Bakery (106 Aberdeen Dr.)
What: The Cronut
This seaside donut shop in Cardiff is always bumping on weekend mornings, and now with the addition of three "Cronut"-like treats, the line runs through the parking lot. The good news is that you can phone in orders with 24 hours notice, otherwise, they tend to sell out of roughly 150 confections by 10 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays every week. The plain glazed version is simple and rich, the chocolate frosted tastes super chocolately, not fake, and the crumb version is evocative of apple-pie topping—a solid fall donut flavor. All three renditions taste more like overly rich donuts than croissants; when you sink your teeth into the fried, sugary exterior it goes crunch, much like a fritter. VG Bakery offers the lowest pricing on its "Cronut" at $1.99 a pop and it's worth every penny.
Where: Paris Baguette (Inside Zion Market and H Mart)
What: The Kronut
Paris Baguette's Kronut takes the cake for being a true donut-croissant mutant; it's decadent, loaded with sugar and tastes like the best of the worst foods you could possibly put into your body. Within the soft, sticky $3 confection are distinguishable layers of fried pastry, filled with just the right amount of vanilla custard. At the Zion Market location in Kearney Mesa, 30 Kronuts are available daily at noon with a limit of two per customer. Eater was there when the limit changed from three, causing patrons who'd been waiting in line for an hour to lose their marbles, but don't fret—you can call and reserve up to five over the phone using your credit card. At the H Mart location (9440 Mira Mesa Blvd.) Kronuts hit the shelves at 11 a.m.; one counter attendant said that they sell out of the 40 made during the week (and 60 on weekends) within 10 minutes. There is a four Kronut maximum per person in store and through phone reservations.
· All Cronut Coverage on Eater [~EN~]
-Photos & Text, Amy Granite