Croissant mashups the Cronut spawned: A (not-so-brief) history

More than a decade ago, French pastry chef Dominique Ansel unleashed an unstoppable force upon an unsuspecting world. His Cronut — a doughnut-croissant hybrid that drew blocks-long lines at his Manhattan bakery and became an overnight international hit. (Fans were so intent on getting their mitts on a Cronut that on one particularly fatal day, they wouldn’t leave their place in the queue to check up on a dead body nearby.)

Ansel also somehow stirred a fierce collective creativity, inspiring endless tinkering with a pastry that up until then had been left mostly, blissfully alone. Bakers have since crossbred the croissant with a pastry case’s worth of other baked goods. Croissants have been flattened and twisted and stuffed and fried in the name of originality — all chronicled on social media, of course.

These days, even Ansel seems surprised at what he wrought. “We couldn’t have anticipated it at all,” he said in an email. He created the Cronut only as a Mother’s Day special, and when a blogger friend told him his new item had “gone viral,” he didn’t yet know what that meant.

Some croissant purists might say that it’s all gone too far. Recently, the croissant might have met its strangest dance partner yet in the form of onigiri, the nori-wrapped rice packages often filled with savory proteins. Such wild permutations are just fine with Ansel — up to a point.

“It’s always nice to see bakeries and the next generation of pastry chefs experimenting with new techniques and presentations,” he said. “At the end of the day, quality and taste are still such important factors, though. If you’re creating something to try and make it go viral but it doesn’t taste good, then what’s the point?”

Another fan of the funk-ification of the croissant is Paola Velez, a pastry chef and the author of the upcoming “Bodega Bakes.” A croissant, she said, is basically just puff pastry (albeit yeasted), which she thinks creative bakers can (and should) go nuts with. “When you think of it that way, when you remove the label of croissant, all you’re left with is innovative ingredients and laminated dough,” she said. “If we just stay stagnant in honoring tradition, we won’t innovate and make new things that people will love.”

Of course, we should acknowledge that the croissant had occasionally been manhandled before the advent of the Cronut, its good name contorted into an awkward, Americanized portmanteau. Sandwiches employing croissants as bread had been around for decades by then — and in 1983, Burger King debuted its Croissan’wich, a breakfast item meant to distinguish the chain’s offerings from that of McDonald’s.

But let’s take that moment back in the far more innocent days of 2013 as an pivotal moment in the croissant’s trajectory. Since then, the flaky, many-layered pastry has been shoehorned into all sorts of concoctions. Here’s a glossary of the various results:

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Crumbs Bake Shop, a national chain known for its oversized cupcakes, began selling a riff on a bagel in 2014. You might imagine that the only thing the bagel might have to contribute to this alliance — which was dubbed a baissant — was its shape, but no, the chimera was made from “bagel and croissant doughs interwoven and baked.”

The cragel, a bagel-croissant mashup by a different name, made its debut at the Bagel Store in Brooklyn a little ahead of the baissant. Alas, the trend was ephemeral: The Bagel Store went out of business in 2019, and Crumbs no longer sells the baissant. And in a related riff — though one without a cleverly combined name — some bakeries around the country flavor their croissants with “everything” toppings usually found on a bagel, sometimes with the addition of a cream cheese filling.

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Another creation from the overly creative minds at Crumbs, this creation (which debuted around the same time in 2014 as the baissant) was a croissant prepared using pretzel dough. Similar iterations have appeared elsewhere; it is sometimes referred to as a cretzel.

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What happens when you press a croissant (either in its raw dough form or already baked) in a waffle iron? The croffle, praised for its buttery-crisp crannies. The pressed treat, often made by home cooks using day-old pastries, is the spiritual predecessor to the flat croissant trend that has had a few moments of virality on TikTok. (In those videos, croissants are rolled flat and sauteed in butter.)

Though the term “croffle” had seemingly been around for a while, in 2019 chocolate-maker Godiva coined “Croiffel” to describe a menu item served in its retail cafes.

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The United States and France have done some pretty great things together over the years (see the Revolutionary War and Angelina Jolie), and this combination of chocolate-chip cookie dough piped into a croissant is another example of our nations’ beautiful friendship. Invented in 2022 at Boulangerie Louvard in Paris, the crookie became a hit even in a city where the traditional pastry is an icon. TikTok cooks soon got in on the action, and the rest is Franco-American history.

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San Francisco bakery Vive La Tarte holds the copyright for the name of the creation it debuted in 2018, in which flaky dough cradles a dollop of pulled pork or scrambled eggs. The mystery here isn’t “is this good” (it looks delicious), but rather why the evil geniuses over at Taco Bell didn’t snap up that name when the fast-food chain offered its own croissant-shelled taco in 2015.

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This does not exist! Or at least I think I just made it up. There are recipes online for burritos that swap standard tortillas for crescent-roll dough (which is denser and not laminated and definitely does not a croissant make), and there is also a chain called Currito that offers globally inspired burritos (which seems to be named after a combination of “curious” and “burrito”). But it seems few people are interested in employing the French pastry to hold their beans and carne asada. Sad.

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Melbourne pastry chef Kate Reid made her first cruffin in 2012 as a joke for a client of her soon-to-open croissanterie, but the crinnovation eventually became a global phenomenon. Baked in muffin tins and filled with Nutella or lemon curd, the confections quickly spawned imitators. San Francisco’s Mr. Holmes Bakehouse popularized them stateside in 2015, with out-the-door lines of people clamoring for its version.

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In 2018, the food world was buzzing about this bizarre-o hybrid, allegedly another product of Mr. Holmes Bakehouse. The only problem was that it wasn’t real, an inconvenient fact that my intrepid colleague Maura Judkis revealed to the world. Despite the hype, “no one, until this publication, ever called the bakery to verify that it was even being sold,” she reported. Media outlets and online gawkers might have been referring to a menu item the bakery did carry for a while, called the California Croissant, which was filled with smoked (not raw) salmon and nori, and served with soy sauce.

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This riff on another Japanese staple is the current flavor of the month when it comes to novelty croissants. Onigiri typically are rice balls filled with savory ingredients and formed into nori-wrapped triangles, but the new trend swaps the flaky dough for the rice shell. The trend reportedly took off in Singapore, where the La Levain bakery debuted a version featuring “combinations of Sicilian pistachio cream, scallion sour cream, [and] Lao Gan Ma chili crisp.” New York’s Cafe W Bakery & Desserts has two varieties on its menu, one with mayo and pollock roe and another with chive bacon cream cheese.

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Another one that I just invented! (Am I the Shakespeare of laminated pastry?) Not exactly: Plenty of people have long used croissants in baked casseroles, often in breakfast applications. Some recipes employ fruit and savory croissants with ingredients such as ham and cheese. But sadly, I don’t see people dubbing theses creations “crasseroles,” which is a missed opportunity that I believe needs to be remedied, tout de suite.

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