Thursday, April 24, 2014
When it comes to food fads, Maine is usually well behind the rest of the country – sometimes years.
Pamela Fitzpatrick Plunkett’s crauxnuts, her take on the croissant-doughnut hybrid at Little Bigs bakery in South Portland.
Photos by Derek Davis/Staff Photographer
Plunkett in the kitchen at Little Bigs. She has been making the crauxnut, her adaptation of the wildly popular Cronut created by New York chef Dominique Ansel, since early January.
Not so with Cronuts, the decadent croissant-doughnut hybrid created last spring by New York chef Dominique Ansel that inspired insanely long lines and dozens of knock-offs.
Just eight months after the introduction of the Cronut – Ansel had the name trademarked – Maine got its own version, and it is making locals loopy as they line up for a buttery, flaky pastry hot out of the fryer.
It’s called the crauxnut.
Denise Rowden drove all the way from Brunswick on a recent Sunday to buy some at Little Bigs, a small bakery on Main Street in South Portland. Pamela Fitzpatrick Plunkett, who owns the bakery with her husband, James, has been making her own version of the New York Cronut since the beginning of January. She sells them only on Sundays, starting at 11 a.m, and they sell out so quickly that, unless customers pre-order, they are all gone in a half hour or so.
“It’s just because my daughter and I are foodies,” Rowden explained as she picked out two maple bacon cruellers and a few other pastries to take home along with her crauxnuts. “We have to try anything new that comes out, but we really didn’t want to go to New York and stand in line for days and days.”
What makes the Cronut so special that Ansel had to set a two-per-customer limit and hire a security guard to keep people from cutting in line?
Plunkett’s version, which sells for $2.79, has all the buttery flavor and texture of a croissant, yet it is also sweet like a doughnut. Its many layers are soft inside, but biting into a crauxnut is kind of like eating a crunchy doughnut. It’s best consumed warm, right out of the fryer.
‘IT’S THE LAYERS’
Pamela Miller of South Portland has a standing order for four every week, which she shares with her granddaughter and co-workers.
“It’s the layers,” she said, trying to explain the attraction. “And when you come on Sunday, they’re still warm.”
Plunkett said one customer ordered 20, but most people stick with four or six per week.
“There are very few people who only order two, so it is a real splurge,” she said. “A couple of people have told us that they’re getting together to have a little tasting at their house.”
Whole Foods Market in Portland also has a copycat of the Cronut that it sells at its pastry bar, but it is baked, not fried, since it’s not practical for the store to be frying them all day long. The store calls its pastry a “crodough,” and it arrives at the store ready to be popped into the oven.
Crodoughs, which cost $2.99 each, are filled with pastry cream and are sometimes topped with fondant or a ganache. They have some flakiness like a croissant, but taste more like a cream puff than a doughnut.
“They’ve been fairly popular,” said Amos Griffin, bakery team leader at the store. “There’s a clientele. You do see repeat customers, folks who will come back in to get them.”
The popularity of the crauxnut has stunned the Plunketts, who initially thought the novelty of the pastry would help them get through a slow January and perk up their Sunday sales a bit. The first week they made them, they posted on their Facebook page that they would be selling their crauxnuts that weekend, starting at 11 a.m. Sunday.
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Whole Foods’ crodoughs, which cost $2.99 each, are filled with pastry cream and are sometimes topped with fondant or a ganache.