The light, eggy creations are popping up nationwide and around the world, and thank goodness for that. Chef Wylie Dufresne schools us on their charms.
In our family, the weekly outing to Dunkin’ Donuts was one that required a lot of forethought. Would I stick with my go-to, the chocolate glazed? Would I stray from tradition and embrace the jelly? Or would I be sophisticated, break the mold, and get a cruller, like my father?
Dad introduced me to the eggy glories of the French cruller in all its glossy, glazed simplicity. Popover-like in texture on the inside and somehow fresher and lighter than the other donuts, it made me feel downright fancy. I’m thrilled to see that crullers are on the rise again, and reached out to Chef Wylie Dufresne, the famously imaginative chef behind a new Brooklyn doughnut shop, Du’s Donuts. He sells oddball flavors such as honey fennel pollen and grapefruit-chamomile—and his cruller, flavored with makrut lime and corn, knocked me out on a recent visit.
The Providence-born Dufresne has doughnuts in his lineage; his great-grandfather was a doughnut maker. But he also grew up eating a good amount of Dunkin’, and thinks their French cruller is one of their best doughnuts. “Crullers are having a moment right now,” he says. “They’re light and eggy and airy… and if you can get ‘em warm, even better.” Crullers rely upon a slightly different dough—pâte à choux—which is what you’d expect from a profiterole or an éclair. It’s a simple mix of eggs, flour, sugar, salt, water and milk that’s piped into a ring (typically using a star piping tip, as in this recipe) onto a square of parchment paper. The paper is inverted into the frying oil and pulled out while the dough cooks, and the cruller emerges warm and delicious.
Dufresne’s twist (pun intended!) on the classic cruller entails infusing the traditional choux dough with the juice of makrut limes, and the finished product gets a powder of freeze-dried corn mixed with sugar. Dufresne says the flavor is supposed to be “reminiscent of childhood, tapping into the subconscious”—evoking Froot Loops, he says. I didn’t get that, but I did fall into a pastry daydream; it was the best doughnut I tried there, thanks to that eggy, dreamy pastry. A cruller is maybe the uber-doughnut in that sense, delivering that traditional pastry texture without burying the whole in slick frostings.
Crullers are popping up around the world. There are three of them at new hotspot Daily Provisions in Manhattan. They’re cooked to order and served with fresh fruit and whipped cream at Plan Check in Santa Monica. And Dufresne spied them all over the place on a recent visit to Melbourne, Australia, where he hit “a bunch of different doughnut stops” for research. (Was your last work trip that tasty?)
So keep an eye peeled for crullers as you go about your day, because a good one can turn a bad day around.
Alex Van Buren is a food and travel writer living in Brooklyn, New York whose work has appeared in Gourmet.com, Bon Appétit, Travel + Leisure, New York Magazine, Martha Stewart Living, and Epicurious. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @alexvanburen.