Chicago Cronut Crawl

Last month I spent a weekend in New York City exploring a few new doughnut shops and visiting some staples that I always make sure to hit up.  Although I had originally planned on getting a Cronut from the shop that invented them, Dominique Ansel Bakery, I wasn’t able to squeeze it into my already busy schedule.  Not only is NYC home to Dominique Ansel, it’s also home to one of my all-time favorite “cronuts” from the Donut Pub!  Missing out on both, I decided to set out on a mission to see if Chicago could fill the void in my stomach that was craving a good cronut.

The Original Cronut from Dominique Ansel Bakery in NYC

The Original Cronut from Dominique Ansel Bakery in NYC

After doing some research, it looked like I had three options:

  • Stan’s Donuts

  • West Town Bakery

  • Chicago Pastry

Having already tried WTB and Chicago Pastry in the past, I was interested how they would stack up head to head with Stan’s new “Le Stan” croissant doughnut thrown in the mix.  What I was looking for was flavor and execution on the croissant side of things.  Flakey buttery layers, light and not greasy, and a quality filling if it had one.  To my surprise, the contest turned out to be closer than I expected.

West Town Bakery

I decided to start my cronut crawl off right by heading to West Town Bakery where Executive Pastry Chef Chris Teixeira serves up his own variation of the Cronut named the Doughssant.  For those that are unaware, Dominique Ansel Bakery trademarked the term “cronut” so that no other bakery could use it.  Therefore, this “cronut” crawl isn’t really a cronut crawl at all, but you get the point.

Apple pie filling made from scratch and a combination of marshmallow fluff and chocolate cream filled these crispy doughssants.

Apple pie filling made from scratch and a combination of marshmallow fluff and chocolate cream filled these crispy doughssants.

Getting back to Chris’s Doughssant, it came in several flavors, but I only got the S’mores and Apple Pie flavors.  This was actually the most croissant like pastry of the three I sampled which came as no surprise to me because Teixeira is a certified Master Pastry Chef, a title he recently achieved (congrats Chris!).  One look at the pastry case and you know right away that he knows a thing or two about laminated pastries. 

You can literally SEE how crispy the layers of dough are on these things!

You can literally SEE how crispy the layers of dough are on these things!

As you can see, the layers in the doughssant were absolutely gorgeous and each layer was buttery and light just like you’d expect from a croissant.  The entire exterior was a fragile, crispy shell that gave way between your teeth without the slightest fight.  In my experience, cronuts tend to be tough which literally makes no sense with how much butter and little mixing SHOULD be done when making the dough.  The filling in both was made from scratch with the apple pie being my favorite.  The apples were cooked down to amplify their flavor but not so much so that they became apple sauce.  I was so happy that I didn’t just get a mouth full of apple sauce like you get from a dunkin apple pie doughnut. I honestly couldn’t find a single thing I didn’t like about either of these other than the fact that my favorite is the lemon blueberry almond flavor that wasn’t available when I went.

Score:  8.5/10

Although there was nothing I didn’t like about this one, I felt like the overall flavor of each could have used some more depth like a graham topping on the S’mores or more chocolate on top to really see the S’mores flavor through.  However, technically speaking, the doughssants at West Town Bakery are outstanding!

1916 W. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL  60622
(Multiple Locations)
www.westtownbakery.com


Chicago Pastry

Since I wasn’t able to find to many options in the city, I decided to take my appetite to the burbs and visit Chicago Pastry out in Bloomingdale.   For any of my Chicagoans that haven’t had the opportunity to make it to Chicago Pastry or that have never heard of them, think Turano Bread.  Ring a bell?  If not, well then you suck but from the same family that created the Turano Bread Company came Chicago Pastry.  It had been quite a while since I had visited the bakery but to keep things simple, this place is one of the BEST bakeries in the Chicagoland area for classic, old school pastries and the doughssants here are definitely at the same caliber.

With a crispy exterior and dense buttery layers of dough inside, the Doughssant at Chicago Pastry is PACKED with flavor. Pictured: S’mores on top and Caramel Apple on bottom.

With a crispy exterior and dense buttery layers of dough inside, the Doughssant at Chicago Pastry is PACKED with flavor. Pictured: S’mores on top and Caramel Apple on bottom.

For starters, the crust along the outside is super crispy!  It wasn’t as flakey as a traditional croissant, but the outside of these things was fried perfectly to a beautiful golden brown and you could see all the layers of the laminated dough.  The inner layers of the buttery dough were much more dense than I had expected and reminded me more of a Pillsbury biscuit.  With the inside super soft and dense it gave it a bit more contrast in texture with the crispy outer edges.  I think for this reason, it was actually the most well balanced combination of light, flakey croissant and soft, buttery doughnut.  On top of the awesome dough, the fillings were PACKED with flavor. 

Notice how you can see each and every layer of buttery dough? Absolutely beautiful!

Notice how you can see each and every layer of buttery dough? Absolutely beautiful!

I tried the caramel apple and S’mores flavors since they most closely resembled the flavors at West Town Bakery.  The s’mores definitely had more of a s’morey flavor than the WTB one with the stripe of rich, dark chocolate on top.  I tell you what though…That caramel apple one…WOW!  That thing was hands down my favorite!  The flavor was dead on!  The caramel was rich and sweet but had some acidity from the apples to balance it out.  I think the only possible recommendation I could have made was to get some peanuts on top of it!

Score 9/10 (PBD Favorite!)

The outer layers could have been a little bit lighter and flakier, but other than that, the doughssants at Chicago Pastry are BANGIN!

142 N. Bloomingdale Rd.
Bloomingdale, IL 60108
www.chicagopastry.com


Stan’s Donuts

Who would have thought, in a million years that good ole Stan’s Donuts would be charging 6 freaking dollars for a doughnut?!  Not me that’s for sure and when I say I have never been more reluctant to buy a $6 dollar doughnut, I mean it.  If you know me, you know that I’m generally tough on Stan’s Donuts.  It’s nothing personal because I can’t hate on the business’ success, but I just can’t buy into the absurd notion that Stan’s Donuts is a gourmet doughnut shop.  I just can’t.  Maybe I’ll do a better break down in a future post but for now, just know that Stan’s is not magical, and you can do better.

Aesthetically, this one was probably the prettiest with its fancy drizzle and overall size.

Aesthetically, this one was probably the prettiest with its fancy drizzle and overall size.

That said, I have to say that I was surprisingly impressed with what I ate.  Having experienced many bad cronuts in my day combined with my familiarity with Stan’s quality, I was fearing the worst.  I was expecting soft, soggy outside and a tough, partially stale doughnut.  What I got was actually not to shabby.  The current flavor was pumpkin pie, so it was filled with a pumpkin pie filling.  Starting from the outside, the outer layers were actually pretty crispy and flakey like the doughssant from WTB but not as light.  It was definitely the heaviest doughnut not just literally but eating it was definitely a mouthful.  The inside layers were more along the lines of a doughnut with the dough being more dense. As far as being a cronut goes, this one clearly didn’t have as many layers as the other two did which you can see in the pictures. I can count maybe 10 layers as opposed to about 100 on the others. To me, this is just cutting corners.

You can totally see that there aren’t many layers in this thing. The outside was nice a crispy though.

You can totally see that there aren’t many layers in this thing. The outside was nice a crispy though.

Of the three Cronut wannabes, this one was the only one that showed some signs of tightness when biting into it.  At the edges, the dough was a little tough but nothing to complain about to much.  The filling was probably the only reasonable gripe I had.  It was very pumpkin pie-esk if that’s a thing, but I couldn’t help but get a faint sour taste from it as if the filling was made with an old dated can of pumpkin puree.  It was kinda weird.  Overall though, this doughnut was for the most part, above what I had anticipated.

Score 6.5/10

Going into this thing I was expecting no more than a 5/10 so I’d call this one a win for Mr. Stan.  Now if only he took a finance class and stopped this highway robbery of $6 for a damn doughnut!

1560 N. Damen Ave.
Chicago, IL 60622
(Too many locations...)
www.stansdonuts.com


The aftermath…RIP

The aftermath…RIP

Well kids, hopefully that sheds some light on where to find yourself a Cronut next time you don’t wanna fly all the way to NYC to get one.  Let me know if you’ve tried any of the doughnuts on the list in the comments below and please, let me know if I forgot any!