Sugary Bites

Who needs cronuts? Dallas restaurants do fancy doughnuts

Lark on the Park doughnuts
Photo by Marc Lee
Private Social
Photo by Robert Bostick
Queenie's Steakhouse, doughnuts
Photo by Teresa Gubbins
Cane Rosso zeppole
Photo courtesy of Cane Rosso
Mercat zeppole
Photo by Marc Lee

Can we officially be done with cronuts mania? One shop in New York invents a pastry crossing croissants with doughnuts, and it not only makes national news, it turns the Dallas food blog world into The Battle of the Crone-Nuts.

Never mind cronuts. Dallas restaurants have been all over the doughnuts-as-dessert trend for a while now. These are some of the newest and greatest.

Lark on the Park, the Shannon Wynne restaurant across from Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas, features the talents of pastry chef Laurel Wimberg. Her opening menu included pot de creme and doughnuts – like a twist on doughnuts with hot chocolate.

Four doughnut holes are made with a yeast dough, so they have a tantalizing sour tang that almost tastes like apple cider vinegar. It's offset – only slightly – by the restrained cinnamon-sugar coating.

The pot de creme echoes that complexity of flavors. The pudding has the quintessential chocolate-y flavor of a fudgesicle, which Wimberg achieves by using Valrhona Caribe 66 percent chocolate. The texture is so creamy, it gives you chills.

A dollop of barely sweetened whipped cream adds weight, while a sprinkling of kosher salt makes the sweetness more pronounced.

Mot Hai Ba, the new Vietnamese place in East Dallas from chefs Colleen O'Hare and Jeana Johnson, has a clever spin on doughnuts.

Five doughnut holes come on a skewer, and they're accompanied by ice cream that's been splashed with coffee. Coffee and doughnuts – get it?

The doughnuts have a classic cake texture, with a delicate crust beneath a rustic, shaggy sugar coating. There's a subtle but delightful note of anise. These are light, petite and easy to eat.

Made with condensed milk, the ice cream is rich without being heavy. As it melts, it creates a creamy, coffee-flavored milk that's a perfect finishing sip.

Chef Najat Kaanache's signature "cronuts" have been on the menu since she took over the kitchen at Private Social in March. Hers may not be the cronut in the news, but they are unquestionably different from your usual doughnuts.

You get three mini-doughnuts to an order. Presentation is a big factor. She strings them on a cord and hangs them from a hook contraption that gives the dish some whimsy.

These are not sweet; they're more neutral, like bread, and they're meant to be consumed with an accompanying broth. That broth changes; it might be barbecue sauce or a simple chicken stock.

She put them on her menu as an homage to her father, who made them on Sundays; he would serve them with hot vegetable soup.

Queenie's, Tim Love's steakhouse in Denton, has a substantial rendition of dessert doughnuts, served with a trio of dipping sauces.

You get six, served in a brown paper bag, a wise device that keeps them hot until they're brought to the table. But boo to the server's insistent order you that you shake the bag in order to coat them with cinnamon sugar. We know already!

The doughnuts are round and a tiny bit too big. Texture is cakey and "tight," with a body that's firm yet light.

Sauces are chef-caliber: house-made and quite sophisticated. Their flavor varies with the whim of the kitchen but usually includes ancho chocolate, habañero honey, blueberry cumin and salted caramel.

Demitasse spoons help you scrape up the sauces after the doughnuts are gone.

Renowned Deep Ellum pizzeria Cane Rosso was early on the doughnut scene with its authentic Italian zeppole. With 10 to an order, these are good for a table to share – but also make a good "entree" at the weekend brunch.

Made with flour, ricotta cheese and egg, these doughnuts have a crisp outer shell with a tantalizingly moist, dense center – almost like a popover. They win for the greatest contrast between the crunch of the outside and the warm, doughy center.

These are served the way you get them at Italian-American festivals up in the Northeast (which were the source of owner Jay Jerrier's inspiration): in a paper bag, doused heavily with powdered sugar that gets on your fingers, lips and shirt if you're not careful.

He serves them with a rich chocolate dipping sauce, and maybe raspberry if he has it on hand.

Mercat, the new bistro at Saint Ann's Court in the Harwood District, may be primarily French, but its dessert lineup includes the Italian version of doughnuts, called zeppole.

You get three large amorphously shaped fritters, dusted with powdered sugar and served with raspberry sauce.

The outside shell has a light crunch. The inside is moist and slightly dense, with an immediate hit of orange. In addition to flour, egg and ricotta cheese, the dough contains a generous amount of grated orange rind, which adds a bright citrus perfume to the flavor and scent.

They're almost better without the clear raspberry glaze; maybe ask for a ramekin of the chocolate sauce that goes on Mercat's profiteroles.