Feature writing


First cronuts, now sundaes in a can

The Daily Beast

August 1, 2014

Dominique Ansel fans, worshippers at the altar of the famous Cronut, shouldn’t bother turning up at his Soho bakery on Saturday morning with the hope that he, or one of his team, will offer for sale one of the highly anticipated “Pop It! Ice Cream Sundaes In a Can.”

You may torture yourselves watching 500 of the sundaes being loaded into a bright truck, decorated in the same Pop Art splodges as the can, but there will be none for sale. The truck’s destination is East Hampton, where the much-hyped sundaes will be on sale for as long as they last for $15 each and a limit of two per person. So any rich Hamptonites hoping to bulk-buy for a brunch, forget it. Twenty per cent of the day’s proceeds go to food rescue organization City Harvest.

The notoriety of the Cronut—the slab-shaped marriage of a croissant and doughnut, which debuted in 2013—means there are still two-hour queues at Ansel’s bakery every day. I thought he’d see this daily line with pride, and maybe even forgivable arrogance, but apparently not. Queuers are fed with madeleines, and in winter receive hot chocolate. “Every day he wakes up and thinks how he can better service that line,” a spokeswoman says.

Ansel’s collaborator on the ice cream sundae project is Lisa Perry, a fashion designer influenced by the 1960s, with an impressive collection of Pop Art, including Warhols and Lichtensteins. The truck will set up shop outside her store at 67 Main Street, and the very rich will then presumably descend to violate their diets. Ansel will be there, mucking in with seven staff. Ansel’s spokeswoman said he “gets so many requests to reach his fans, and occasions like this give him a chance to do so.”

The sundae is meant to be a delectable marriage of textures: squishy and crunchy. There will be six scoops of ice cream in each can. Ansel, formerly the executive pastry chef at Manhattan restaurant Daniel, says that two people should be able to share a can. The use of can as sundae vessel is a nod to one of Pop Art’s most culturally significant objects, Warhol’s Campbell’s soup can.

Each sundae contains: root beer ice cream and vanilla chocolate chip gelato (creamier than the more frozen root beer ice cream), mascarpone semifreddo, toasted honey marshmallows, macerated cherries, and miniature cherry-flavored meringues. The can inside is coated with dark chocolate, so the contents don’t make direct contact with the side.

Ansel’s inspiration was the classic Root Beer Float, so the key ingredient to get right was the root beer ice cream: some root beers were too sweet, sometimes the texture came out too smooth. Experimentation eventually led to the right taste and amount of frozen firmness.

Fame hasn’t changed Ansel, the spokeswoman insists (well, she would say that). “If there is a broken toilet, he is the one rushing in to fix it. He’s still here every morning. He liked the idea of running the bakery in as artisanal way as possible. He spent eight years cutting and pasting bakeries in different locations for [French bakery] Fauchon. That kind of thing doesn’t appeal to him.”

Ansel doesn’t feel imprisoned by the notoriety of the Cronut, I am told; he is always innovating and creating and has “an overflow of ideas,” which becomes a bit of a nightmare for his staff who tell him, the spokeswoman says: “No, we can’t do sixteen new items next week, we can do sixteen new items every six to eight weeks.”

Ansel’s summer of surprises doesn’t end with the sundae. Up next, we are told: a summer-inspired sweet pastry with a dipping sauce.