Layers of Heaven

Some of you may think this whole 'cronut' thing is absolutely absurd. Or maybe that's just my hubby. Seriously though, anything that involves scalpers, knock offs and the black market DOES seem a bit over the top. Especially when it's involving DONUTS. The hype actually intrigued me though. I wondered if those things could actually taste as good as they looked. After seeing several copycat recipes on the world wide web, I figured it was very doable. Also, cheaper than a trip to NYC. (wink)

The amazing thing is, the ingredients for these fabulous little fried treasures are probably in most of your homes already. The fillings and toppings, however, are a different story. You can go crazy with those. The creator of the cronut, Dominique Ansel, certainly has. He features one flavor per month. That's it. You have no options. Take it or leave it. And people definitely line up and wait for hours to purchase their own. Only 300 or so are made a day and when they are gone, they are gone.

Filling the cronuts in your kitchen is probably the trickiest part of this gig, but you can certainly make yours with or without, or get as creative as Dominique. You'll need a Wilton tip No. 230 for this trick, an uncut pastry bag or parchment sheet to make your own. Sorry, that's the only real 'trick' to this whole deal. You can certainly skip the filling part though.

Time is another ingredient needed when making these. You'll pretty much be a slave to the timer for five or six hours. Then you'll need to fry them up, coat them with vanilla sugar or cinnamon sugar, fill and ice if desired. And eat of course. You'll definitely need to eat these the day of. The official cronut website even suggests their shelf life is only about 6 hours. Anymore than that and even though the flavor is still there, the texture changes, and well, it's just not the same flaky crispness it once was.

So, what's the big hoopla about a fried croissant? Oh, you'll see my friend, you'll see.

It is truth that they are basically a croissant. Layers and layers of buttery goodness. A dough that is more tedious to make than most. It has been rolled out, spread with butter, folded up, rolled out again, layered with butter, and again and again several more times. This process builds layers you see, and although there is nothing earth shatteringly hard about any of it, it just takes time. Each step should be followed through and not skipped, or the end product would be, well, just dough.

I found the cronut copycat recipe off of the slapdashmom.com blog and she offers great instructions. I've added a step or two here and followed through with filling, etc. Have fun!

WHAT YOU NEED:

3/4 cups warm milk

1 pkg active dry yeast

1/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temp

Vegetable oil for frying (Grapeseed oil if you want to be authentic, but there's not much else about this recipe that's probably authentic, so that's why we stuck with the veggie oil)

VANILLA SUGAR:

1 whole vanilla bean

1 cup sugar

(you can substitute 1 teaspoon cinnamon instead of vanilla if needed)

I found this quick recipe for vanilla sugar online and it worked just great. Most recipes call for burying a vanilla bean into your sugar and letting it sit for a few weeks. I didn't have time for that. I used my ninja (or a food processor) added one cup of sugar, one vanilla bean - split, seeds scraped out, and the actual bean roughly chopped. Pulse these together until bean pieces are as tiny as possible. Sift sugar to remove any large pieces of vanilla bean. Voila. Instant vanilla sugar. Yummy.

CRONUT FILLING: 2 cups heavy cream

Several tablespoonfuls of vanilla sugar

Using a hand mixer, whip cream until stiff peaks form. Add in a bit of sugar, to taste. Blend well. Refrigerate until needed.

CRONUT GLAZE:

2 cups powdered sugar

Several tablespoonfuls of milk

Using a small whisk, or fork, combine ingredients until all lumps are gone. If mixture is too thick, drizzle in a small spoonful of milk. If mixture is too runny, add in a bit of powdered sugar. Consistancy should be about like honey or thicker.

You can certainly get creative here and fill and glaze with anything your heart desires. Dominique has offered Lemon Maple, Blackberry Lime, Salted Dulche De Leche, Strawberry Balsamic and Marscarpone. JUST TO NAME A FEW. Fillings and glazes can be whatever you'd like.

WHAT TO DO:

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of your mixer, dissolve yeast in the warm milk (not too hot or it will kill the yeast). Add in eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Mix well.

Slowly add in flour, one cup at a time - mixing well between each addition. Depending on the humidity of the day, a bit more flour may be needed. Add this carefully as the dough should still be a bit sticky. Knead the dough (or use your dough hook) until it is smooth and a little sticky. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place on a baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

See? So far, so good, right?!

While the dough chills, using a hand mixer, combine room temp butter with 1/4 cup flour in a small bowl and mix well. This will be the spread that creates the layers in the dough. Set aside (no need to refrigerate).

Remove dough from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle shape about 1/2 inch thickness. My rectangle was a little smaller than the size of my laptop. Lid closed of course, and thinner. Spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the butter mixture thinly on the dough. Fold the dough over into thirds, as if you were folding a piece of paper - you know, like a letter, that goes into an envelope. Remember those?! Wrap that dough back in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Repeat this butter step 4 more times.

Note: when removing the dough and re-rolling out to spread on more butter, make sure the 'open ends' are to your left and right each time. Does that make sense? The open ends, so to speak. After spreading the butter, fold these 'open' ends up, towards the center, creating opposite 'open' ends for the next go round. This keeps the dough rotated and is probably confusing, but when you begin, it will make much more sense.

When you've spread on the butter for the last time, refrigerate the dough for one hour, instead of the usual 30 minutes.

While you wait, prepare a heavy stockpot with veggie oil to fry. Gather a cutter for your donuts - a soup can, glass jar, donut cutter, etc. Find a smaller object to cut out the 'holes'.

Note: The original cronuts are fried in grapeseed oil. If you'd like to make this investment, go right ahead. I used regular vegetable oil and they were most delicious. Have I ever tasted a 'real' cronut? No. So, I'm not sure how much the taste would vary.

When the dough has done it's thing and is ready to go, roll out to 1 inch thickness and cut your donut circles. This recipe only makes about 9 or so cronuts plus holes, so cut efficiently. And, FYI, the dough does not do so well with re-rolling to get more cuttings. The cronuts will not be very pretty if you try and re-roll out the scrap dough. Just fry up the odd pieces and sprinkle with some vanilla sugar and those will be most delicious on their own.

Now it's time to fry baby, fry. Heat the oil to 350. Cut the donuts while the oil is preheating and layer some paper towels on a baking sheet to catch those little puppies when they come out of that hot oil.

Fry only one or two donuts at a time. Cooking about 1 minute per side. The donut holes will almost flip themselves and will fry very quickly. Drain the donuts/holes on paper towels and gently roll/coat in the vanilla or cinnamon sugar when they are cool enough to handle.

Now. Whew. Was that too crazy?

I hope not, because the filling part may be. You'll really need a piping tip if you want to fill your cronuts. I happen to have a metal piping tip for filling cupcakes, pastries, etc. You can fudge on this on some things, but not really for cronuts. They have a light, crispy coating, so you'll need something sturdy enough to poke through that crunchy layer. If you want to skip filling the cronut, you can certainly serve your filling on the side as a dip! If you DO have the correct tip and piping bag, fill with desired filling (we used whipped cream and vanilla sugar). We inserted the tip about four times, spaced evenly apart, in the top of each cronut.

The glaze, or icing spread on top of the cronuts, I've found is a handy way of covering up those filling holes. We, however, weren't concerned with ours looking all fancy, so we just drizzled our glaze all over.

Have I lost you? Are you with me so far?

After physically taking the steps to carry out this recipe, the cost of a cronut seems to be most reasonable, as well as the cost of a basic croissant. This is certainly not something I would do very often, but it has been most fun re-creating such a sought after treat!

*After the first bite, my husband was hooked I tell you. HOOKED. And it was all worth it :)

ENJOY!

#freerecipefriday

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