It can be awfully hard for a restaurant to catch — no less keep — the public’s attention in New York. Even when they open their doors with plenty of pre-buzz and critical acclaim, there’s always a slew of hot, new eateries coming up behind them, ready to steal their thunder. And it’s even more difficult to stand out if you’re a bakery, because how often does the blogosphere blow up over Whoopie Pies and Chocolate Chip Cookies?
Well, meet Dominique Ansel, the Daniel alum behind the SoHo phenomenon, Dominique Ansel Bakery. He was recently nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef, on the strength of an army of treats that have taken the city by storm. His first masterstroke was the Cronut, a cream-filled croissant and donut hybrid, which has literally garnered worldwide attention, garnering three hour-long waits in line (actress Emma Roberts was infamously turned away by security after trying to cut in), and despite being trademarked, has inspired scores of imitators, from the “Dough’Ssants” at ChikaLicious to the “Cro-Do’s” at Stew Leonard’s shops upstate.
While tracking the seasonally changing flavors of Cronuts (Caramelized Apple Crème Fraiche is the newest), has effectively engaged the media, the ever-creative Ansel has refused to rest on his Cronut laurels. He’s continuously kept the momentum going with a line of extravagantly conceived and intricately constructed pastries, including the Frozen S’more (a cube of Vanilla Ice Cream enveloped in Chocolate Feulletine and torch-toasted Marshmallow), and the Magic Soufflé; a Chocolate Grand Marnier Soufflé tucked inside of an Orange Blossom Brioche.
But perhaps the tastiest (not to mention prettiest) treat yet is his current autumn-inspired invention, a Chocolate-Encased Gingerbread Pinecone. Ansel begins with a base of crunchy Hazelnut Feuilletine, topped with a moist, Nutmeg-flecked Cake filled with Speculoos Mousse (made from Spiced Shortcrust Cookies), and capped with a cloud of Ginger and Caramel-flavored Pastry Cream. The whole thing is covered by a thick shell of Valrhona’s 66% Jivara Chocolate, and finished with concentric rings of pure Chocolate Pinecone ‘Petals.’
Like all of Ansel’s desserts, the eye-catching Pinecone is shockingly inexpensive (only $6.25), especially considering the painstaking work that goes into it. That being said, you’ll have to devote the better part of your morning just waiting to getting your hands on one, so be sure to fill up a box once you get to the front of the line (unlike with Cronuts, there’s no two-per-customer limit). And while you’re at it, you’ll probably want to check out his other seasonal items, too, like the Apple Tart Tatin made from an entire Gala Apple, as well as the Sweet Potato Mont Blanc, Gluten-Free Lychee Coconut Pavlova, Butterscotch Mascarpone Religieuse, and Pumpkin Cranberry Tart with a Cinnamon Marshmallow Knot. Is your mouth watering yet? With unique sweets like these, we can’t wait to see what the industrious pastry chef has in store for winter!