Food Fight: Battle "Cronuts" in Houston
Around this time last year, people couldn't stop talking about cronuts, the croissant-doughnut hybrid created by pastry chef Dominique Ansel in New York City. This indulgent treat causes people to line up outside his namesake bakery in hopes of snagging one before they sell out. While Houstonians can't savor the sugary breakfast pastry (unless there was a way to mail the ship the cronuts cross country in one piece and remain fresh), a few local establishments came up with their own renditions.
Photos by Molly Dunn Who makes the best "cronut" in Houston? River Oaks Donuts (left) or Pena's Donut Heaven & Grill (right)?
River Oaks Donuts named its version, the crownut (a play on the bakery's crown logo and probably as a means to avoid copyright violations), while Pena's Donut Heaven & Grill in Pearland created the dosant (another way to blend the words doughnut and croissant).
Both of these doughnut shops still serve their versions and often sell out. But, who makes the best "cronut" in Houston? We're here to answer this question in our battle of the crownut verses the dosant.
River Oaks Donuts doesn't offer nearly as many flavors as Pena's Donut Heaven. In fact, the Westheimer doughnut shop just recently added a chocolate variety topped with chocolate ganache. During my visit, the only available flavor was cinnamon -- I guess the other options like regular and raspberry sell out fast.
Photo by Molly Dunn The crownut doesn't have the signature "layers" a cronut should have.
The tall crownut is decorated with a thick cinnamon glaze beautifully draped over the sides. The top is lightly coated in powdered sugar. As I pulled the cinnamon crownut out of the bag, I was sur[rised by how dense it was. To me, croissants are light and airy due to the number of flaky layers, but this felt heavy.
If you're expecting to cut into this bad boy to find multiple, delicate croissant-like sheets of dough, then you'll be disappointed. My initial thoughts about the crownut were correct. It was dense because it lacked layers -- either the dough was not properly fried, or everything got packed together due to the lack of filling, creating a giant cake doughnut.
But, texture aside, the River Oaks Donuts crownut tastes incredible. It may not be light and airy like a croissant, but it sure is fluffy and moist. The cinnamon glaze combined with the crumbly interior makes for one heck of a bite. You just might need a glass of milk or cup of coffee to wash it down, though. If the crownut had more of the glaze or some type of cream piped between the "layers," it would have been ten times better. It needed something to separate it from being a typical doughnut.
Photo by Molly Dunn You can definitely see the layers in Pena's dosants.
One glance at the dosants from Pena's Donut Heaven and you know you're getting a fried croissant-doughnut hybrid. Pena's serves an array of flavors, including vanilla cream cheese, blueberry, chocolate and strawberry, just to name a few. Each is heavily topped with powdered sugar, and a dollop of the filling to preview what's inside. I chose the vanilla cream cheese (most plain option available) to easily compare to the cinnamon crownut at River Oaks Donuts, and strawberry cream cheese to taste a fruity rendition.
The sweet and smooth vanilla cream cheese and strawberry cream cheese are each piped throughout several thick, fried layers composing the dosants. Each bite of the golden, crispy layers bursts with oil, similar to the buttery texture of a croissant. Although Pena's dosants look more like a cronut, the fried layers are almost too soft to easily cut through. More time in the fryer would have made the dosant perfectly crispy. I want to hear that crunch as my fork and knife slice through the treat.
Both of these "cronuts" are excellent interpretations of the New York City phenomenon, but there has to be one winner in this food fight.
Verdict: Pena's Donut Heaven
Folks in Pearland should be quite thankful because they are just a hop, skip and a jump away from the best "cronuts" in Houston. The rest of you are going to have to make the trek to Pearland if you want to try a dosant.