New York City: Dominique Ansel Bakery

Elisa:

It somehow seems just yesterday that the cronut was invented. Maybe because unlike most food fads, the frenzy has only barely abated ever since this croissant-donut hybrid first debuted. But this world-famous pastry has in fact celebrated its first birthday 2 weeks ago on May 10th and the mastermind pastry chef and magician Dominique Ansel has since been changing the public perception of pastry and tempting fans with his new creations. Indeed, ever since Dominique Ansel opened his eponymous shop in 2011, he has turned the simple act of baking into a worldwide phenomenon.
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Remember those warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies with a glass of ice-cold milk that you would have for an afternoon snack when you were a child? Well, despite not having grown up enjoying that blissful pleasure like most of us, Ansel seems to have an unexplainable, strange ability, yet maybe not the least bit surprising given his high caliber, to nail the simplicity of a chocolate chip cookie and hit all those childhood notes that we remember with his Cookie Shot ($3). It’s called the “after school” special and is available only after 3pm each day. There’s a separate line for it, outside the bakery (yes I’m not kidding. Outside, on the left hand side) and at 3pm, a staff comes out to lead the first 10 people into the shop to get their afternoon fix and after 5-10min or so, she comes out again to lead the next 10 in. But the cookie shot is totally worth the wait. It’s super buttery, super rich, super soft and crumbly when you bite into it and even with a little pressure from your fingers (do not try it) but sturdy enough to hold it gently between your fingers, and the best of all, it’s studded with a generous amount of chocolate chips. The organic milk that has been infused with Tahitian vanilla beans and sugar for 24 hours, is poured from a chilled teapot into the layer of Valrhona chocolate that coats the inside of the cookie.
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There’s no set method to eating these cookie shots. You could either take a bite and then a sip, or vice versa, and you wouldn’t need to worry running out of milk before you finish your cookie or simply needing a palate cleanser or hydrating your throat once you’ve polished everything off your fingers because you can simply request for a complementary shot of milk. Neither would you have to worry about your cookie getting soggy or softening after a while because the inner chocolate layer miraculously seems to be firm enough to prevent the milk from seeping out or dripping. The only thing you would have to worry about are those few crumbling shards of cookie and not being able to eat this gracefully. But again, that’s no big deal because you’ll have plenty of napkins available at your own service. It’s quite sweet though especially as you work your way through the final stages, vanilla-infused milk plus chocolate chips probably as sweet as the Nestlé Toll House-style, and incredibly filling. But it’s totally worth it.
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There’s a limit to 2 per person and there’s also a take-home pack of 8 sold with a container of milk, together with instructions on how to chill and serve this treat at home, for $25, although the bakery only makes 40 boxes each day. I you like that vanilla infused, organic, ice-cold milk, it is also available as a 16-ounce supplement for $3.
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Another life-changing pastry that I managed to get my hands on are Dominique’s Kouign Amann ($5.25), or simply DKA in short. Think of it as a croissant, but one with a lot more sugar and a lot more butter. Caramelized, gold and crisp on the outside, and layers and layers of flaky and slightly moist dough that has been laced with sugar on the inside. It’s texturally complex, flavor-wise too. It’s slightly sweet, but not overly-cloying, with a little hint of salt from all that butter at the end. Despite being so buttery and rich, it is still quite light and airy given the plenty amount of craggy holes that it is inside. After all, this was named one of Time Out New York’s 100 best dishes in 2012. You could watch this video on how Ansel makes his signature Kouign Amann. But at your own risk… Because that gigantic humongous block of butter that they mix into the dough is what exactly makes everything so gooood 🙂
Their Canele ($3) was also one of the best that I’ve ever had. The exterior is so beautifully caramelized and dark that you’d probably think that it’s burnt. Slightly sweet with a light crunch, it is the perfect texture and flavor juxtaposition to the custard-like and remarkably moist interior bolstered with vanilla and rum. It’s really one of those rare decadent desserts that you don’t feel guilty at all when you’ve finished it.
I also tried their Madelines that were so teeny tiny you could probably fit 4-5 in your palm. What’s so special about these gems are that they are piped, baked and served by the order. That means that after 8 minutes of people-watching or staring at all the other beautiful desserts on display, you’ll finally get your order warm and fresh from the oven. These lemon sponge cakes are extremely lighty and fluffy and because of their miniature size, you could totally pop just the entire box of 8 into your mouth at no time at all! They are that addictive. Plus it’s so good.
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Having ranked up numerous accolades from James Beard Foundation to Time Out New York, Dominique Ansel has been deemed the “Willy Wonka Of NYC” and a visit to this bakery would definitely be more about the desserts than savouries. The savoury food that we had were merely mediocre. The Avocado Toasts ($7) featured a slice of sourdough bread (that has been cut into 2) topped with (probably a whole?) avocado and finished off with olive oil. While I wouldn’t say that there’s anything incredibly wrong with this, the bread was nicely toasted and crunchy, the avocado was fresh and extremely green, I felt that it was quite overpriced given its portion. The small Minestrone White Bean Soup ($5) was also lacking seasoning and the Salad that included chickpeas, barely, tomato, feta cheese, onion and spinach ($8) definitely needed extra dressing. One small cup of dressing was not enough to coat every inch of spinach. But granted, having burnished his reputation with desserts, I shouldn’t expect his savoury food to be as imaginative and wild and mind and palate-blowing as his desserts.
Too bad the Nutella Milk Bread, Cronut and Frozen S’mores were sold out by the time I got there but that’s another reason to go back. And also to try everything else available :p Dominique Ansel really goes to proves that all it takes is hard work, passion, a creative and imaginative mind to be bold and different, in order to be successful.
Dominique Ansel Bakery
189 Spring Street (between Sullivan and Thompson)

New York, NY 10012
Tel:(212)219 2773
http://dominiqueansel.com
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