TAMPA — Serious fans line up two hours before opening. Hugh Jackman was seen standing patiently in line for one. Anderson Cooper reportedly was denied one for his birthday, and a black market has cropped up where one may sell for $50.
It is the cronut.
The latest food craze in Manhattan is a croissant mated with a doughnut, the invention of baker Dominique Ansel. He started selling them May 10 at his eponymous bakery, making 200 each day and putting the per-person limit at six. Since then, scalpers have gotten 10 times their $5 retail price and Craigslist mule services have cropped up.
In other cities, bakers are scrambling to figure out the formula. And Ricardo Castro, co-owner of Piquant in Hyde Park Village, has done it.
He says he'd started tinkering with brioche doughnuts weeks ago. When he heard about the New York City phenomenon, for which the name is trademarked, it didn't take long to turn his sights to croissant puff pastry, which the Tampa bakery makes itself.
"We've been selling croissant doughnuts for a few weeks now. But it got picked up on some local blogs," Castro explained Friday. "Today, we made 50 and we ran out."
"We didn't think it was a big deal," says Castro's partner, Rosana Rivera. "One of our employees posted it on Facebook."
New York has torrid, serial love affairs with pastries. A city of fanatical bagel aficionados, New Yorkers forsook them for a while in favor of the cupcake, glamorized on shows such as Sex and the City. More recently, macarons and then artisanal doughnuts have basked in the limelight. Really, the croissant and the doughnut are about as unlikely a couple as Kanye and Kim. One is all sophistication with a buttery French accent; the other is homey deep-fried heaven, fuel for beat cops and Homer Simpson.
"Croissants are very hard to make and very buttery and flaky," Castro says. "When you make the croissant doughnut, you get that beautiful buttery flavor, but crunchy on the outside. The secret is the flakiness and the layers."
At 8 a.m. Saturday, Castro and staff stood around the work counter in the kitchen, rolling the last squat, brown cylinders in granulated sugar and piercing their middles with tiny pastry bags of fillings such as raspberry jam, pastry cream, passion fruit or lemon curd and, new on Saturday, Nutella.
With no stampede and no sign of Hugh Jackman, the trays of croissant doughnuts (employees have suggested the name "doughssants") nested in the glass display case near the regular croissants and fancy little opera cakes. Still, an hour later, all that remained was a glinty dusting of sugar on empty trays.
Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter. She dines anonymously and unannounced; the Times pays all expenses.