By now if you haven’t heard the hype around the croissant-doughnut hybrid, croughnuts—their invention by a French baker in New York City, the baker’s controversial trademark of the term Cronut™, the international media-driven croughnut frenzy—you are seriously off the grid, possibly living in a cave. And could use a good dessert.
Locally, Ba Bar made them for a couple weeks but had to go on temporary hiatus when its pastry chef decamped for Cantinetta. (Fatigued perhaps from the notoriously labor-intensive recipe?) After that, a few other local businesses—including Lost Lake on Capitol Hill, Meander’s Kitchen in White Center, and Frost in Mill Creek—took up the challenge, each coming out with its own version in the last few days.
We treated it as breaking news, dispatching critical recon units—uh, me—to each joint. My findings:
Lost Lake: Say hey to the Cro-Dough, at the world’s cutest 24-hour-a-day “dive.” (They also make them at its sister diner, the 5-Point Café—a 24-hour-a-day dive.) The nice folks behind the counter told me they make only 25 of these a day, so they sell out by around 1pm. I got mine around 11am on a weekday (double victory: I also got a parking space out front!), and it was a doughnut-sized critter—which I would learn is small by croughnut standards. That day’s special had no cream filling—a point in its favor to my mind—but plenty of honeyed drizzle, which lent its pastry the sugar-saturated texture of baklava. The thing was drenched. It was also not nearly as airy as a properly proofed croissant. In short: Plenty yummy, in the same way that pizza is like sex (you know: even when bad, still pretty good)—but not the best in town.*
Meander’s Kitchen: Another dive, this one in the heart of White Center, debuted its [insert name here] last week—and the owner has offered a prize to anyone who comes up with the cleverest name for them. But how do you name a laminated pastry filled with Bavarian cream and applesauce, wrapped in cinnamon sugar, and drizzled with bourbon caramel sauce? I showed up the first morning these [insert name here] were offered, and the owner apologized that they wouldn’t be ready for another couple hours. “I came in at 3am to do all the buttering and rolling and resting of the dough—and then I fell asleep,” she admitted, with admirable candor. You can see the owner’s hard work in this pastry, with clearly defined layers and plenty of—verging on too much—butter. But all that goo—the cream interior, the applesauce, the caramel—simply overwhelmed the bewitching croissant texture. Add to that what looks to be a cooking temp problem, with dark brown outer layers that crisped away, but inner layers that were still dough. In short: One to watch, as this baker knows her stuff and will fix the problems. But not there yet.*
Frost. The outdoor shopping mall that is downtown Mill Creek features this independent doughnut shop, which made its name on salted caramel old-fashioneds and bacon maple bars. Recently it debuted its Froissants—available in three daily permutations: glazed, cinnamon-sugar, and a seasonal creme-filled (right now, pumpkin crème, with three icings). Having learned my too-much-goo lesson I aimed instead for a classic glazed. And that was a very good call. The croissant interior was soft and layered, what the French call le feuilletage, and beautifully risen—the “tallest” of the three. Its texture was sumptuously moist. On the exterior, a classic sugar glaze provided the classic glazed doughnut flavor. In short: Tasting doughnut on the outside and croissant on the inside made the whole croughnut hybrid real—and the frenzy, at last, understandable. The winner by a mile.*
*Judgments based on one visit, in one case on the first day. Take with large creme-filled grain of salt.