Chef-baker Hans Rockenwagner is sitting in a meeting room at his Rockenwagner Bakery headquarters with his director of operations Pat Sullivan. In front of them are three flavors of his croissant-doughnuts: vanilla pastry cream with vanilla icing, raspberry-jam filled with raspberry icing and Nutella chocolate-hazelnut filled. He cuts into the vanilla croissant-doughnut and tastes. "It's nice," he says. "My vote goes to the vanilla."
Rockenwagner has jumped on the faux-Cronut bandwagon. "To be honest, I did not want to pursue it at first," says Rockenwagner, who a couple of weeks ago rolled out his version of the Cronut, the croissant doughnut by Dominique Ansel in New York that sparked a global craze after it launched in May. "It's a fad. But Pat pointed out to me the cupcake craze. I kept saying, 'It's gonna die, it's gonna die,' and eight years later it still hasn't died. So why not our version of Cronuts and be able to direct the trend? And people keep asking for them."
Having had the original Cronut at Dominique Ansel and nearly every incarnation of faux-Cronut I could get my hands on in Los Angeles -- including Spudnuts' in Canoga Park, the brioughnut from Confexion Cupcakes in Pasadena, SemiSweet Bakery's crullant, Crumbs' version, Kettle Glazed's and more -- it's the closest thing to Ansel's in L.A. that I've tasted. It is a high, compact croissant-doughnut much like the Cronut, but is a little smaller in diameter and only slightly shorter; has a pastry cream filling (some knock-offs don't); and is similarly coated with a sprinkling of sugar. Its glaze is not as silky -- in fact it's a little brittle -- and has more of it. But Rockenwagner's is also crisper than the original.
What's this version called? "Doughssant," says Sullivan. "Crö-dough," Rockenwagner says, "I like Crö-dough, with an umlaut over the o."
For now the bakery is making them once a week on Fridays or Saturdays for its Rockenwagner Bakery and 3 Square Cafe locations, their availability advertised on social media. Meanwhile, special orders are flowing in -- for up to 4,500 Crö-doughs.
Yes, a single order for 4,500 Crö-doughs. The Rockenwagner commissary bakery already runs 'round the clock and has grown from eight bakers in 2009 to "70 to 80 bakers now," Rockenwagner says. It turns out 70 different doughs for 350 products, including breads and pastries such as the pretzel croissant and Linzer cookies.
The Crö-dough is made with Rockenwagner's croissant dough (regular not pretzel), whose fat content has been tweaked "so it gets a little more crispy," he says. "It took a couple of experiments," Sullivan adds, "with the folding of the dough to get the right height."
Next, Rockenwagner is toying with a maple bacon Crö-dough. One of his bakers brings in an early iteration: It looks a little like Rockenwagner's Berliner but a little flatter and is filled with large chunks of bacon. Rockenwagner says it needs work. "It needs more layering, more height. The bacon seeps into the dough, and you can see where [the dough] isn't fully developed. These doughs are so delicate anything you put on top of it, it really weighs it down. Maybe cut it square instead of round. The less adulterated the dough the better." It's a work in progress.