Cronut King and Pastry Genius: Five Questions for Dominique Ansel
Every morning, Dominique Ansel opens his bakery at 8am to the line of excited patrons waiting to get their two Cronuts (the limit is two per customer). But there's a lot more to this creative wizard than his best-known creation. He's just about to open Dominique Ansel Kitchen, which he calls a "hybrid" and says will change the way bakeries operate. Its menu will be largely made-to-order; people will soon be able to get a chocolate mousse whipped up by a pastry chef only after they order it -- rather than a made-ahead dessert. Ansel says flavors are fresher and many pastries and desserts taste better when "a la minute." He'll also host nighttime dessert tastings at a communal table at Dominique Ansel Kitchen.
We caught up with Dominique after his interview on Martha's SiriusXM radio show to talk about s'mores, cereal, and other important things.
What entices you to start a new pastry or creation?
There is never one bright light. It is always thinking of ideas and seeing something cool -- sometimes it can be a shape, sometimes it can be a color that is inspiring. It is always natural. You cannot force it. You see something that looks good or tastes good and you naturally see it as inspiration. And always I try to make something fun. I always want to connect with people. Emotionally, the connection people have with food is something really important for me.
Like if you give me a baguette, a French baguette, for example, it reminds me of my childhood, brings back memories. And that is why we created frozen s'mores; it's an ice cream version of s'mores, and at the bakery we torch it to order. There is vanilla ice cream, chocolate wafer, a frozen marshmallow. It's chewy, it's crunchy, we serve it on an applewood branch that's been smoked -- it's fun. It connects with people, brings back memories, good memories for people.
Do you really eat cereal for breakfast?!
Truly, yes, I eat Rice Krispies. I like Rice Krispies and I like cereals with honey actually. I add my own honey and use fresh farm milk as well. I like cereals. When I was in France, I ate a little bit of cereal but not that much.
Do kids eat more cereal in France now?
I'm not sure. To me it is like drinking coffee on the street. In France that did not exist. French people would go to a cafe and sit down. Then a few years ago when I went back to France, I saw people had started drinking coffee in the street. Habits are changing. These days everyone is rushing, and eating and drinking has become something you can do as part of your multitasking.
Where do you stand -- is pastry an art or a science?
Pastry is both. Pastry is a very artistic science. Pastry is something where you need to be precise, to measure, to know your science, your product, what goes inside, and need to know what goes behind each of the different things you mix and what chemical reactions you have. But pastry is a world where you also need to be artistic, make beautiful things from scratch, where you really can express yourself. And doing it with raw ingredients, that is very unique and special. I think pastry chefs treasure the fact that they can be be creative, be artistic.
The recipes in your book are in both metric, which you grew up with in France and trained in for pastry, and American cups and spoons. Why is that? Can you see us ever giving up our measuring cups for grams and scales?!
I always work in metric, and I think people here will work with metric. They should try -- it is a lot more precise. It is so easy nowadays to get a scale that does both, American measurements and metric, and for cheap, $20-30. For recipes, say, with yeast when you need a few grams for small batches, you need to be more precise than a teaspoon or a tablespoon. Then a scale is very useful. And a lot of people use metrics in the U.S. already: Doctors use metrics, architects use metrics, all the scientific and mathematical professions use metrics -- the more precise professions already use metrics.
Do you want to talk about the Cronut? Is there anything left to say?!
It's a beautiful creation. I still love it of course; it's not my first love, but I still love it. It's one of the most -- if not the most -- charitable pastries in the world: The Cronut has raised over $100,00 for the fight against hunger in NYC and continues to be a symbol of giving back.
But we always try to move forward, to do something else, we're not about just one item. Always I invite people to come and try the other things because they are as creative as tasty, as delicious, and as surprising [as the Cronut].
Visit Dominique Ansel Bakery
Get a copy of Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes
And listen to Martha on SiriusXM Stars Channel 109 every day at 12pm.