European chef to open cronut bakery in London

London,Oct1:Dominique Ansel had a problem: His pastries were too flabby.

In four days, the New York chef best known for the Cronut—a cross between a croissant and a doughnut—would be opening his first European bakery in London.

 Making pastries, Mr. Ansel notes, is an exact science. For weeks, the chef and his team had been conducting tests, trying to get the structure of the dough for his Cronuts just right. He tasted a perfect specimen on Sunday, less than a week before opening on Friday, Sept. 30.

London’s temperature and humidity differ from New York’s. The oven in Mr. Ansel’s British kitchen has more functions than its U.S. equivalent. The flour in the U.K. that the team was using came from France and had more gluten than the flour they use in the U.S., and the milk had more fat. The Cronuts were coming out less like pastries and more like regular bread.

Pastry chef Dominique Ansel speaks often to his staff about the importance of innovation in the kitchen. ‘It’s not about holding onto one idea. It’s about trying something fast and sharing it with the world,’ he said at a team meeting in September.ENLARGE
Pastry chef Dominique Ansel speaks often to his staff about the importance of innovation in the kitchen. ‘It’s not about holding onto one idea. It’s about trying something fast and sharing it with the world,’ he said at a team meeting in September. PHOTO: JASON ALDEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

“It’s very important, the texture, the structure, the volume of the dough itself,” Mr. Ansel said in an interview on Monday, the day after he felt he had finally found the winning combination. He and his team had made about 1,000 Cronuts using 25 different iterations of his recipe to reach that point, he said. While he didn’t reveal the exact formula, Mr. Ansel said the hydration of the dough had to be adjusted. The dough also needed to be worked a bit longer.

Foods can become obsessions quickly. It is hard to know exactly why they take off, but they often benefit from fast-traveling social media photographs that can give a simple item, like a cupcake or a cheeseburger, a cool-factor like a type of sneaker or hairstyle.

When opening a second or third store to sell such an item after it has already become popular, timing is critical. Chefs don’t want to go out on a limb if the trend has peaked, but they may not want to make an investment in expansion ahead of the game either.

Mr. Ansel knows he needs something different to keep up the success of his bakeries. By now, several bakeries in London sell their own versions of the product, so the mere arrival of Mr. Ansel as an arbiter of the original won’t necessarily be enough to guarantee its survival, said Steve Abrams, who owns Magnolia Bakery, of classic cupcake and “Sex and the City” fame.

After Mr. Ansel’s ‘rally the troops’ speech to his new hires in September, he posed with them for what he calls an ‘Anselfie,’ a selfie photograph with him in it.ENLARGE
After Mr. Ansel’s ‘rally the troops’ speech to his new hires in September, he posed with them for what he calls an ‘Anselfie,’ a selfie photograph with him in it. PHOTO: JASON ALDEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
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