In many ways, this has been the year of the Cronut™, as New York City pastry chef Dominic Ansel's doughnut-croissant hybrid went from being a cult favorite to a worldwide sensation, seemingly overnight. Not surprisingly, the East Bay has seen no shortage of copycat versions, many of them too sweet, too oily, and just too much altogether. Of the many that we tasted, Pizzaiolo pastry chef Kiri Mah's comparatively understated miniature "cronini" was the clear-cut winner. Finally, we understood the hype — the crisp flakiness of a croissant married seamlessly with the cool, vanilla-flecked center of a next-level cream doughnut. Mah's version stood apart for being surprisingly ungreasy and light — not diet food, certainly, but indulgent without making you feel like a bloated glutton. The labor-intensive cronini is only sporadically available during Pizzaiolo's morning coffee-and-doughnuts service, usually only on holidays (say, Thanksgiving weekend or National Doughnut Day), and with little advance notice. Count yourself lucky if you snag one.
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