We’re starting to think that cronut mania is an Alex Jones-ian false flag attack on America to rob people of their dignity and waistlines (damn you, H&M, I am not an XXL in jeggings). After all, people are getting up before the cock has doodled its doo to wait in lines that wrap around the block for a chance to stare into Dominique Ansel’s eyes and taste his deep-fried, cream-filled croissant/donut hybrid. This pastry mastermind has tapped right into the food-obsessed main vein, and he’s riding the zeitgeist straight to Solid Gold Toilet City. Not that the cronut is necessarily a flash in the pan; as it stands, it’s poised to take over the kouign amann as the bakery’s signature dessert.
Sure, cronuts are making people go nuts, but there’s an entire city filled with bakeries doing wonderful things that are terrible for you. Not all of them are fried. Some are newfangled, some are classics–all are worthwhile. Here are 10 mighty fine pastries that might just make you say “cro-what?”
10. Chocolate Banana Cream Puff, Panade Puffs & Pastries, 129 Eldridge Street
Several years ago saw the great Japanese cream puff boom, when Beard Papa and Choux Factory opened multiple locations and most New Yorkers could be found with a bit of custard on their face (just me, then?). Panade carries the choux pastry torch with grace and aplomb. To wit: savory puff sandwiches filled with everything from roasted eggplant to coconut curry chicken. Of the traditional, custard-filled options, the dense chocolate is exemplary on its own. Paired with fresh slices of banana, it’s a rival to Beard Papa’s eclair for best cream puff in New York.
9. Bomboloni, Sullivan Street Bakery, 533 West 47th Street
They’ve been around forever in blog-cycle years, but Jim Lahey’s lemon-zest-and-vanilla-custard-filled bomboloni are in a class all their own, and they deserve a cronut-like resurgence. In addition to a rich dark chocolate, the donuts come filled with seasonal jams. For a classic perfected, though, we like the vanilla custard bomboloni. Vanilla bean permeates the whole confection; the fried dough is a gorgeous brown and dusted with powdered sugar. As far as filled donuts are concerned, we’re hard-pressed to find a finer specimen. The cronut may be the new kid on the block, but sometimes it’s wise to respect your elders.
8. Green Tea Koshi Croissant, Takahachi Bakery, 25 Murray Street
While not the cutest pastry in the case (that award goes to the newspaper-wrapped green tea crepes), the blossom-shaped green tea koshi croissant sports gnarled braids of tea-spiked, Dr. Seuss-approved green dough that are woven into petals centered with pools of sweet red bean paste that contrast with the deeply burnished crust. A top layer of sesame seeds affords the baked behemoth a nutty finish.
7. Plié au Chocolat, Maison Kayser, 1294 Third Avenue
In a pastry case filled with winners, the plié stands out–and not just because it’s the size of a yeti’s foot. For this beastly creation, croissant dough receives a filling of pastry cream and chocolate chips, which give you a first-class seat on the Feel-Good Express when you take your first bite. Dwarfing traditional croissants, the plié should probably be shared, but we won’t blame you for devouring one by yourself.
6. Pecan Sticky Bun, SCRATCHbread, 1069 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn
Matthew Tilden’s commitment to his brand stems from the care with which he crafts his wares. There’s a balance of grittiness and beauty found in SCRATCH’s products; these are loaves of bread that don’t hold back. The same is true of the bakery’s sticky buns, which were initially imbued with chai spices and cacao nibs. A second version comes blooming with candied orange, molasses, pleasantly spicy chiles, and pecans. The nuts, sticky with glaze, cover almost every inch of dough, which makes the surface resemble the interior of a beehive preserved in amber.
5. Chocolate Swirl, Momofuku Milk Bar, 251 East 13th Street
When is a croissant more than just a croissant? When Momofuku’s resident child-at-play Christina Tosi puts her mind to laminating some dough and baking the result. Tosi’s no stranger to the crescent-shaped treats, famously stuffing them with everything from pastrami to kimchi and blue cheese. Many of her baked goods eat like butter sponges, and Milk Bar’s chocolate swirl is no different. This bad boy debuted in January, the crackled exterior yielding a glistening interior snaked through with chocolate. The swirls are baked and sold in miniature pie tins, which give them their rounded shape.
4. Mont Blanc, Lady M Confections, 41 East 78th Street
It’s only appropriate that one of the toniest “cake boutiques” in the city would offer such a sinful dessert in so elegant a design. Spiraling out of its cup, a mound of sweetened chestnut puree enlivened with cognac gives way to extra-thick, ethereal whipped cream at its center. A candied chestnut tops the conical dessert, providing texture. Each spoonful is luxurious, as velvety as the sheets on Dominique Ansel’s bed.
3. Bacon Smack, Milk & Cookies, 19 Commerce Street
Faced with something like a cronut, you might ask yourself, “How good could a cookie really be?” And while bacon is a crutch for many cooks, there’s no denying the harmony that chunks of candied Nueske’s pork belly bring to this kitchen sink affair. For every bite of pig you’ll also find a mouthful of chocolate chunks, maple syrup, dried cranberries, toffee, and graham cracker pieces. The bacon smack provides an easy counterpoint to any pork dessert naysayer.
2. Hazelnut Bostock, Bien Cuit, 35 Christopher Street
Hazelnut-studded brioche gets the twice-baked treatment before it’s halved and given a generous soak in brandy. Top and bottom are then bound together with a broad swipe of the sweetened almond cream frangipane. Pastry with a gratis shot of booze? Seems like all the Cro’ Bros we know should be clamoring for a taste.
1. Marshmallow Sweet Potato Tots, Dinkies, 118 Baxter Street
If you guessed that this store was an ode to Peter Dinklage, you’d be wrong. But like The Dink, the pancake balls served at this Chinatown shop pack a wallop of unadulterated flavor into a deceptively petite package. And while the Cinnadinks and peanut butter & jelly varieties are standouts, best of all are the sweet potato tater tots. This dessert disguised as a side dish comes dressed up Thanksgiving-style with marshmallow sauce and a dose of cinnamon sugar. Share a plate with your grandma and show her what’s expected of her come November.