The Cronut craze has very nearly reached its peak. After premiering at Ansel bakery in New York, the cronut became the talk of the town and of the internet this summer. Before it's five minutes are up, though, I wanted to actually eat one -- not just hear about people in New York raving over them and lining up overnight.
Fortunately, as the frenzy for the croissant/donut (or is donut/croissant?) comes to a head, the tasty treats have finally made their way to San Francisco. Monday, intrepid dessert lovers wiped out shelves after reports surfaced of the city's first CroNot -- not Cronut. Posh Bakery, in the South Bay, unveiled their version of the pastry, but -- because the original bakery that pioneered the treat has copyrighted the name Cronut -- what we get is a CroNot.
The question as people licked their lips: Is the not as good as the nut?
The Posh Bakery is a wholesaler, so its wares either have to be bought wholesale online or purchased from a retail bakery that orders from Posh. To date, Posh's CroNots can be found at all Lee's Deli locations, which are primarily in the financial district, and at Java Trading Company at Fifth and Mission. (Posh's offerings will likely expand to other bakeries soon and then, once they're easy to find, they will no longer be cool. Obviously.) New CroNots are delivered each morning at these locations. But, be forewarned, I arrived at Lee's at 7:50 a.m. and they were very nearly sold out.
After calling around before driving around, I found three CroNots at the Lee's at 550 California St. They come in individual plastic packages, with labels marking which of four flavors is inside. You can pick from glazed, cinnamon-sugar, strawberry or chocolate. While the unfilled variety appears to be more common, Posh Bakery also makes each of the flavors with cream filling.
As the cronut craze has become mainstream, more and more bakeries across the country have tried their hand at their own non-copyrighted versions. You can make your own with Pillsbury's recipe and even Dunkin' Donuts in South Korea has a cronut attempt, the New York Pie Donut. In the Bay Area, Posh was reported to be the first and only cronut counterfeiter.
But, it turns out a small bakery in Marin County was already churning our croissant-donuts; they were just keeping it quiet. On a Twitter tip from a friend, before hitting up Lee's, I showed up bright and early at Beth's Community Kitchen in Mill Valley. Beth's is a small bakery tucked in between other shops and I nearly walked past it at first. What they make may not be the original cronut -- "it's our own take," said the baker -- and you may have to ask for it specifically from the back, but the cinnamon-sugar (cream-filled or sans cream) pastries have all the makings of a croissant combined with a donut.
Fully-loaded with five different cronuts, I began my taste testing.
The Beth's cronuts are more croissant-like than donut. The pastries are flaky and light, tasting like a chewy croissant that simply has a cinnamon-sugar shell. The cream in the cream-filled cronut from Beth's was similar to icing, sweet and slightly lemon-flavored.
By comparison, the Posh Bakery CroNot is more donut than croissant. The cinnamon-sugar options from each of the two bakeries offered the cleanest taste test comparison, since icing and flavors couldn't confuse the senses. Posh's version was heavier and more cake-like -- though both bakeries made their cronuts with layers of dough that flake away as you eat (making the sweets challenging to cut apart).
The iced CroNots tasted even more similar to donuts than the cinnamon-sugar version, with the sweetness of the icing making it difficult to tell what exactly you were eating. Is it a croissant? Is a donut? The strawberry-frosted CroNut was by far the sweetest of the five -- and bore only a passing resemblance to the breakfast meal.
Whether you'll prefer the more donut-like or the more croissant-like of the cronuts is really a question of what you're looking for in a morning dessert. I preferred the plain cinnamon-sugar from Beth's, as it tasted like a morning bun or some other unique, light pastry concoction. Eating a strawberry-iced layered cake thing before 9 a.m. just felt a little rough, so perhaps the Posh's CroNots are more of an evening breakfast dessert.
But, no matter which you choose, they're all intensely sweet.
Beth's offering costs $3.50 for the non-filled and $5 for the filled. Posh's variety (bought from Lee's) are just $2.50. Buy all the different kinds and compare -- though be forewarned it may be safer on your stomach to just eat one donut and one croissant separately.
Cronuts: combining the best (or worst?) of the donut and croissant since May 2013.
If you go:
Most locations open Mon-Fri: 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. (hours vary)
Java Trading Company
100 5th St, San Francisco
Mon-Fri: 6:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Beth's Community Kitchen
34 Miller Ave., Mill Valley
Weekdays: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Tuesday
Weekends: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.