Few food trends I've seen have developed such mass appeal as the cronut. While the true Cronut is a registered trademark of Dominique Ansel Bakery, imitations with other names have sprung up around the world.
The croissant/doughnut hybrid has managed to trickle all the way down to the mass-market drive-thru lane in record time. Not one but two different establishments now serve their own versions of the deep-fried laminated pastry. Whose is better? Let's eat.
See also: Cronuts: Chow Bella Shows You How to Fry Up the Latest Pastry Fad
In This Corner: Dunkin' Donuts The Set-Up: Dunkin' Donuts has been a long-time titan in the coffee-and-doughnuts game. Their croissant doughnut is bigger than their standard offerings, comes topped with their standard doughnut glaze, and costs $2.49, a significant upcharge over their 99¢ regular doughnuts.
The Good: The pastry part of the doughnut was especially delectable and toothsome, with a rich buttery flavor. It's bigger than Jack in the Box's diminutive model, so one of these at 300 calories each does less caloric damage than the 400-plus calories in Jack's cronut 3-pack.
The Bad: As far as mass-market doughnuts go, this sucker is on the expensive side, at $2.49 each. It's only half the price of a genuine Cronut (tee-em) from Dominique Ansel Bakery, but that's hardly a good excuse. I now know why most Cronut clones I see only have a light smear of icing on top. The confection was tooth-achingly sweet thanks to a heavy hand with the glaze. If you're getting coffee, you'd better order it black.
And in This Corner: Jack in the Box The Set-Up: For many years, Jack in the Box has catered to something of a niche market: People who have spent their evening drinking or getting stoned, and now have a serious case of the munchies. They must be doing something right, because those so-bad-they're-great tacos have been 2-for-99¢ for as long as I can remember. In addition to a variety of deep-fried salty snacks such as egg rolls and the infamous tacos, they also have a somewhat disturbing variety of warm sweet treats, including cookies, churros, and now croissant doughnuts.
The Good: I love that they used the same cinnamon sugar that coats their mini churros to cover the croissant doughnuts. It's still pretty sweet, but a better balance than your average fast food milkshake. Undoubtedly the best part of Jack's croissant doughnuts is that they are fried to order. They come to you piping hot to the point that they're still plenty warm by the time you're done scarfing down your burger and curly fries. The price is also quite attractive (likely to lure an easy impulse buy, goodness knows I've succumbed in the past), coming in at one petite cronut (a Cronette?) for 89¢, or three for $1.99.
The Bad: More often than not, the croissant doughnuts come out undercooked even after sitting in their bag for a few minutes, leaving a slightly doughy interior. In most cooking cases, undercooking is an unconscionable sin. In the case of sweet baked goods, a little soft squish isn't necessarily a bad thing. Just think of cookies that still have a barely gooey center. Whether it's seen as a bug or a feature is a subjective matter. But, for the purposes of battling it out, they really should cook them for a few more seconds before serving.
And the Winner Is... Without a doubt, Jack in the Box's Cronut clone clobbers Dunkin' Donuts's. Even though Jack's cronuts are a little undercooked, getting a freshly fried doughnut of any variety beats the pants off of one that was cooked in the wee hours and trucked out to a store. Even at room temperature, the lower price and better sweet balance seal the deal. Still, if you're hooked on Dunkin's coffee, one of their croissant doughnuts will turn the drink into an enjoyable afternoon snack.
I'm just hoping that one of these days, the people at the metro Phoenix mini-chain BoSa Donuts realize that since they already make croissants, making croissant doughnuts will be all too easy. If they figure it out, our collective waistlines are doomed. Doomed, I tell you.