The Korea Herald

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Cronut trend hits Seoul

Dunkin’ Donuts’ New York pie donut creating a stir

By Korea Herald

Published : Aug. 9, 2013 - 20:26

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After chef Dominique Ansel launched his croissant-meets-donut dessert at his New York-based bakery this May, the pastry, christened the Cronut, quickly went on to become the sweet of the moment.

Even the bakery is aware of its dessert’s overwhelming popularity, stating that the Cronut “is taking the world by storm.”

The site goes on to explain what a Cronut is, detailing how it is crafted from “a laminated dough which has been likened to a croissant.”

It is almost as if the bakery foresaw the global trend that the Cronut seems to have sparked.

Soon after crowds first clamored for Cronuts in New York, multi-layered hybrids began popping up throughout the U.S. and elsewhere.

The trend seems to have also hit Korea.

There are at least three companies that have recently released croissant-meets-donut desserts here, including hole-in-dough goliath Dunkin’ Donuts; and when Dunkin’ Donuts’ Korean arm, which is run by SPC Group affiliate BR Korea, rolled out its New York pie donut in late July, news traveled as far as America.

New York Magazine’s website noted “the arrival of DunDoCronut has even spawned very long lines.”

“Dunkin’ Donuts has jumped on the croissant-donut hybrid bandwagon,” posted The Huffington Post, briefly noting how Dunkin’ Donuts, a large business, is unlike the majority of small bakeries that have been spinning out these trendy desserts.

“I found it amusing,” Dunkin’ Donuts’ Korea marketing product manager Kim Ki-do said of the overseas press coverage.

“We move separately from the Philippines’ branch,” said Kim, 36.

“I think people find it fascinating and new,” said Kim of the croissant-donut combo phenomenon. “I hope the trend will last long here but I don’t feel like it will have staying power.”

Kim, who was part of the team that developed the pie donut, explained how it all began.

“Right around February, we started looking to make a different donut, something with a different form. We tried out a pretty diverse set of shapes and concepts, including one that used pastry dough.”

After honing in on a pastry dough-driven donut formula, Kim said that he and his team members struggled with the concept.

“Pastry dough itself is meant to be baked so if you fry it, the oil seeps right in,” he said. “So the first couple products we created were very greasy, so greasy that it was hard even for us to stomach.”

The team also tried a variety of fillings and eventually came to the conclusion that a pared-down, pastry-style donut, served fresh out of the fryer, would be best, said Kim. 
Dunkin’ Donuts’ New York pie donuts (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald) Dunkin’ Donuts’ New York pie donuts (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

What emerged was a no-frills, filling-free product, essentially just a huge, bouffant, multi-layer donut coated in good, old-fashioned sugar.

Kim explained that the whole point of simplification and of getting as far away from rich and oily as possible was to appeal to the Korean palate.

The resulting donut is incredibly light and clean-tasting.

While the outer layer of the pie donut is fried, just like any other donut, the center is incredibly soft and bun-like, similar in texture to the popular red bean buns that can be found in many bakeries throughout Korea.

Those who have tasted the NY pie donut might even liken it to the classic Korean “kkwabaegi,” a pastry twist.

Kim agrees that some parallels can be drawn between their product and the Korean sweet of yore.

“Since it tastes like an old school donut, our elderly patrons like it as well,” Kim said.

To ensure customers can get fresh-out-of-the-fryer pie donuts, Dunkin’ Donuts only produces them three times a day in limited amounts at four stores in Seoul.

“In August, we plan to sell NY pie donuts in four more outlets in Busan, Daejeon and Daegu,” Kim said.

Dunkin’ Donuts’ NY pie donuts are currently sold at the Gangnam and Myeong-dong flagship stores, and the Kukkiwon and Jamsil Bon-dong stores.

Pie donuts cost 2,000 won each and are available in limited quantities at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. at the Gangnam flagship and the Kukkiwon stores, and at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at Myeong-dong flagship and Jamsil Bon-dong outlets.

By Jean Oh (oh_jean@heraldcorp.com)