Cro-Nutting: The Privilege of a Great Houseguest

cronuts trader joe's frozen croissants dessert

Cro-Nutted Croissants

Cro-Nutting, v. The Art of Frying That Which Should Not Be Fried.

Truth – I don’t like to fry, deep fry, stuff in my apartment. A few good reasons…

  1. cronuts kitchen frying

    Coffee Tin

    It’s a bit messy and the hot oil can escape the cauldron and dirty surrounding cabinets and counters.

  2. When the frying is over and after you’ve overindulged in a good fried treat, you’re left with a large vat of used oil and no where to dispose of it…OK, you’re supposed to put in into an empty coffee tin and freeze it before throwing away…But, I think you have to go back to 1985 to find an empty coffee tin.
  3. The frying leaves a certain odor – note, not really aroma, but odor – in your tiny living space and on your furniture, walls, carpets, floors and towels.
  4. OH, yeah….and technically frying anything is super fattening.

So, I only fry during away games. Listen, I’m a great house guest. Someone even recently named me guest of the decade. I mean, I keep a clean room, cook, entertain people’s kids, run errands and always wash my sheets and towels before my departure. So, letting me do a little frying in your kitchen seems like a small price to pay.

On a recent visit to the middle – that space between New York City and LA where my brother and his people live – I decided to entertain my two favorite teenagers with a frying bonanza.

Prior to my arrival, I emailed the kids with some culinary options that we could deep fry in their large suburban kitchen.

But the only thing they wanted was….Cronuts, the croissant/donut hybrid that is all the rage in NYC right now, a treat that is not yet available in Cincy.

The attention span of any teenager is similar to that of an ant – even my incredibly intellectually advanced niece and nephew. So, I knew that creating cronuts from scratch wouldn’t be an option. I did some research and decided the best way to go would be to cronut frozen croissants from Trader Joe’s.

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. Don’t deep fry in your apartment for reasons already outlined above
  2. Do be the best guest to earn the privilege to deep fry when guesting outside of the city

Cro-Nutted TJ’s Croissnts (servings…really, no one should eat any of these, so at a serving size of one bite, this’ll make about 24)

Ingredients:

  • trader joe's frozen croissants cronuts

    NOT mini

    1 Box Trader Joe’s frozen croissants – they come  8 to a box – AND the box says ‘Mini’…but, they are not mini

  • 1 Large Cauldron of vegetable oil – about 1 1/2 – 2 inches deep
  • 1 Candy Thermometer – I’ve been trying to find the one that has the temp taker attached to a long cord vs the glass one that clips to the side of the cauldron…but, haven’t found it yet. LMK if you have any ideas
  • 1 Fry Spider kitchen tool – readily available everywhere and a kitchen must
  • 1 Tub of Dolci Frutti Chocolate hard chocolate shell OR A Jar of Nutella Hazelnut Spread

1. The night before you want to make these ridiculously caloric and fat heavy treats…You have to take the frozen Trader Joe’s Croissants out of the package, separate, set on a plate and let sit out overnight. The frozen croissants magically rise while you’re sleeping and double in size – again, not mini

2. Pour 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil into a large, deep cauldron….Or big pot

3. Heat the oil to 350 degrees. OK, maintaining 350 degrees is tricky – so, heat the oil higher, then turn it way down. Oil must be between 325 – 350, so keep checking that now dangerously hot glass candy thermometer that’s clipped to the side of the cauldron and adjust the stove as needed

4. Using a tiny (1 inch) biscuit cutter (remember, buy the full set of biscuit cutters that nest) cut the croissants into little bite-sized pieces

sur la table biscuit cutters

Space Saving Biscuit Cutters

5. Gently…very gently….using a spider or other good frying tool…lower the croissant cut-outs into the scalding oil

croissant cronuts trader joe's frying with kids

Gently frying away

6. Fry each side for about a minute – you’ll know when to flip cuz they brown up nicely

7. Remove the friedness from the oil and transfer to a paper towel to blot the excess oil – this is a step that just makes you feel better…but really, these are fried, so get over it.

cronut recipe trader joe's croissants

Fried Goodness – light, flaky and….FRIED

8. While frying, in the microwave melt up some of those Dolci Frutti chocolate shell chocolate chips

dolci frutti chocolate dip cronuts trader joe's

Find in Produce Section

9. Once the Cro-Nutted Croissants are quasi cooled – hand them along with the melty chocolate to your niece and nephew who can then spoon chocolate-y goodness over the deep fried delight

10. Eat….But eat only one, seriously

I always gain about 500lbs when I go to the middle…Or does just the fat go to the middle, whatever. But, you can’t put a price on entertaining kids with the art of deep frying. And, if you want to feel a little better, Cro-Nutted Croissants are technically vegetarian. Just remember to be a good guest and clean up. You don’t want to lose your fry-privileges.

Infinity is Still Bigger than Google: My Mom’s Christmas Cookies

mom's christmas cookies

Decorated, Baked and Ready for Gifting

Pre-Google, moms could just tell you stuff. Like make stuff up to answer your billions of questions. And we just believed her – because she was the mom. Sure, sometimes she might say ‘Let’s look that up in the encyclopedia’ or ‘I’m not sure, let’s ask your dad.’ But, in our house, there was a point at which with four kids bombarding mom with our questions, she just simply made it up.

google logo

The Google

Now, there’s the Google – a world where we can find anything out in the click of a mouse. The Google (I like to say ‘the Google’) has changed the way we learn and the way we argue. Now there’s no arguing, there’s only The Googling. I mean, why take a side when in just a nano-second you can be proven wrong…or right?

Pre-Google we were led to believe many things…One of the greatest and most delicious lies of my life was that the Christmas cookies we made and decorated every year (back in the day of suburban cookie exchanges…do they still do that?) were created from a recipe handed down for generations on my mother’s side.

A few years ago, when I decided to take a stab at the recipe in my apartment and treat my coworkers to a long-storied family holiday secret…I found out the truth.

I Googled ‘Christmas Cookies’. And ‘decorating Christmas cookies.’ And ‘holiday sugar cookies’….And, there it was. Right there on the screen of my Mac.

Did ‘Annie’s Mom’s Secret Christmas Cookies’ come up? No, no it did not.

As it turns out, what I believed were My Mom’s Secret Christmas Cookies…really belonged to someone named, Mary. Mary. They were Mary’s Sugar Cookies…But, still the best Christmas (or Chanukah or Festivas) cookies out there.

And, if you don’t believe me, you can Google it.

Mom and Mary’s Christmas Cookies (makes 5 dozen)

NOTE: There’s a chilling period of 3 hours … so plan ahead!

Ingredients:

  • Christmas Sugar Cookies

    Decorating Mise En Place

    1 1/2 Cups sifted powdered/confectioners sugar – I sifted using a mesh strainer – but for the sugar, a real sifter would be easier…and quicker

  • 1 Cup softened butter
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 TSP Vanilla
  • 1/2 TSP Almond Extract/Flavoring
  • 2 1/2 Cups Gold Medal Flour sifted – sifting flour through a mesh strainer is actually really easy and quick – much easier than sifting the confectioners sugar
  • 1 TSP Baking Soda – sift this in with the flour
  • Christmas cookies

    Sifting the Dry Stuff

    1 TSP Cream of Tartar – sift this in with the flour and baking soda

  • Colored Sugar Crystals for decorating – I bought India Tree Sugar Crystals, expensive but really fun colors!
  • Cookie Cutters – saved here by buying an assortment box at Bed Bath & Beyond
christmas cookie decorating with kids

Super 7-Year Old

And the most important of all ingredients…One super 7-year old girl – you can substitute any child of any cookie decorating age here. But, my 7-year old sous chef was the best!

1. In the bowl of a Kitchen Aid mixer, mix together the Sugar and the Butter

holiday sugar cookies

I heart my Kitchen Aid

2. Add the egg, the vanilla extract and the almond extract

3. Mix in the Flour, Baking Soda, Cream of Tartar mixture 1/2 a cup at a time until smooth

Mary's Sugar Cookies

Add Flour in Stages – scrape down side of bowl

4. Remove the dough from the mixing bowl, divide into same sized balls. Cover each with wax paper and refrigerate for at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

holiday sugar cookies

I doubled the recipe

Go Christmas shopping. Sing carols. Decorate your home. Watch ‘Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town’.

Preheat Oven to 375 degrees

5. Remove one of the dough balls from the fridge and allow to warm a bit (about :10mins on the counter)

6. Roll out the ball on a heavily floured surface to about 3/16″ thick. I like them thin and crispy – but this is really your call

christmas cookies

Decorating!

christmas cookies cut out

Decorated and Oven Ready

7. Using cookie cutters – cut out holiday shapes

8. Decorate

9. Put into the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes depending upon thickness of cookies

christmas cookie cutters

This one is an angel..but, looks like MothMan…right?

10. Remove from the oven, transfer cookies to a rack and allow to cool for a few moments

11. Carefully place the cookies into a holiday themed box or cookie tin.

12. You can eat them, gift them, or take to one of those suburban cookie exchanges!

holiday themed cookie box

Boxed and Ready for Gifting

I love the Google. But, ever since its introduction, we’ve all probably been forced to realize the little lies and deceptions our mothers may have told us.

holiday christmas cookies

More Love than Infinity

There are still some things that are immune to the Google. The other day, my 7-year old sous chef asked her mom: ‘What’s bigger…Google or Infinity?’

Her mom didn’t have to Google that one and she didn’t have to lie…She honestly replied: ‘Infinity’…

And, that super 7-year old didn’t miss a beat and said: ‘Well then, Mommy, I love you more than Infinity.’

I don’t know who this cookie baking chick Mary is or was…But, I do know that the cookie recipe is just part of the equation in creating the perfect Christmas cookie. The magic, intangible ingredients come from the family tradition of making the cookies, decorating the cookies, sneaking a slice of the chilled dough from the fridge as a snack. The magic is in the super sous chefs and little helpers who carry more love than infinity. Because Infinity is still bigger than Google.

You Will Never Be Gymnast Meringues

The morning of the tryouts for the swim pre-team was a rare, cold, rainy June morning. I was 6 and would need to just swim one lap of a 25 yard (not meter, yard) pool in order to earn my spot on the team. I stood at the side of the pool shivering as my goosebumps grew goosebumps from both the cold and my own nerves. By the time it was my turn, I could barely breathe. I jumped in and began to swim as my peers and my mother looked on. As cold as the air was, the water was colder and my red and white speedo swim suit did nothing to insulate me. My teeth were chattering and as I turned my head to take a breath I took in a mouthful of water and started to cough.  Gasping for air, I grabbed for the ladder about 3/4 of the way down the length of the pool and ended my swimming career.

I wasn’t ever meant to be a swimmer and decided later to have a go at diving. Not surprisingly, this also turned out to be a challenge for my lanky 10-year old body. The most common thing I heard following any one of my very low degree of difficulty dives at a meet was ‘Fail Dive’. When I finally quit the diving team two-years later, my coach smiled and thanked me.

These failures at water sports were painful – but, I really wasn’t all that disappointed. Gymnastics – that was my passion, my everything. Every four years when the summer Olympics start I am reminded of my experience with competitive gymnastics. I was 11 and had convinced my parents to send me to Murial Grossfeld’s Academy for Gymnastics summer camp in upstate NY. Before Bela Karolyi there was Murial Grossfeld. Murial was known as ‘The Tyrant of Girl’s Gymnastics’ and once told a 12-year old: ‘Don’t be a lady on that beam! Be an animal!’. She was a big deal in the sport for Americans. After a week of intensive 8-hour days training on all the apparatus, each student was granted a ‘hearing’ with Murial. My meeting with Murial was the most important moment of my life. I entered the room and was completely in awe of her. Even though I had been at Murial’s camp all week, I had yet to be in her presence. I walked in slowly and sat down as she directed. Ms Grossfeld looked at my skills evaluation report that lay on the desk in front of her and then looked up at me. Sigh. Pause. And then….’You will never be gymnast. Find something else.’ And that was it. My gymnastics dreams shattered in two terse sentences.

In spite of my shattered dreams of Olympic gold, my passion for the sport did not diminish. I love gymnastics and will spend the next 14 days glued to the television watching the US Women and Men perform.

Tonight is the Olympics opening ceremony. I am gathering with friends to watch and have been charged with bringing dessert. In an effort to make something patriotic, I am preparing Red, White and Blue Chocolate Chip Meringue cookies. The recipe below is a tweak on Claire Robinson’s from the Food Network. These are so easy – just a little time consuming.

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F.

In a large bowl, using a hand beater, or, better yet, a KitchenAid Mixer with the whipping attachement, beat 4 egg whites, 1/4 tsp cream of tarter, a pinch of salt and 1/4 tsp vanilla until soft peaks form. Divide the egg white mixture into thirds. In the first third, gradually add 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until the sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form – about 3 minutes.

Remove the white meringue mixture from the bowl.

In the second third, gradually add 5-7 drops of red food coloring and 1/4 cup of sugar. Beat until the sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.

Repeat this process with the final third using 5-7 drops of blue food coloring and 1/4 cup of sugar.

Into each color,  gently fold 1/3 cup of chocolate chips.

Drop the batter onto silicone mats or parchment lined baking sheets (will need 2) with a teaspoon, spacing at least 2 inches apart.

If you’re not putting in chocolate chips, you can use a pastry bag to make prettier meringue cookies. Bake until the meringues are dried through, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. The cookies will remove easily from the parchment or silicone mat when ready. And their red, white and blue color will be the perfect dessert for any Olympics themed event.

I have long since accepted that I will “never be gymnast” and I did eventually ‘find something else’. The kitchen is my stadium and the stove top, my torch. And instead of being adorned in gold medals, I’m surrounded by copper pots.

Go Team USA!