It all started with the cronut: a doughnut-shaped croissant pastry, fried and filled with Tahiti vanilla custard cream. A cross between a croissant and a doughnut created in 2013 by New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel. He sold 50 in just twenty minutes on the first day of its launch, becoming the trail blazer of mash ups which, according to some studies, has been one of the most successful foodie trends in recent years.
And so the chefs continue to experiment in order to intercept the new tastes of increasingly demanding and mindful foodies: we frequently come across variations on a sweet theme (bruffin, duffin, mufgel or cruffin), as well as combinations of two traditional foods, like the sushi burger. At other times they are more like tongue-twisters than actual culinary creations destined to earn their place in gastronomic history. However, when all is said and done, no cuisine can exist without experimentation: so who knows, one of these examples may be on its way to becoming the next cronut.
In the wake of Dominique Ansel’s success, most mash up experiments have come from the world of pastry-making: an area in which chefs – those in the United States in particular – have really used their imaginations by producing new recipes expressing flair and creativity.
After months of experimentation at The Bagel Store of Williamsburg, New York, Scot Rossillo patented his Cragel, half bagel and half croissant. While in Chicago, the Endgrain restaurant came up with the Doughscuit: a cross between an iced biscuit with honey and a doughnut with crême fraiche. And then we have the cruffin, a hybrid born of a croissant and a muffin, the wonut, half waffle and half doughnut, or the duffin, a muffin made from doughnut dough: not mere neologisms but a genuine attempt to satisfy a growing demand from foodies for quality mash ups.
A good example of a more refined hybrid hails from Paris, France and chez Maison Pierre Hermé: here they have launched the exclusive Miss Gla’Gla, an ice-cream wrapped in two macaron layers, rechristened as the Gla’Gla Montebello when made with pistachio ice-cream and strawberry sorbet.
Photo by Leonardo Spada e Vittoria Di Vitto
There is a very fine line indeed between an Italian food mash up and a gourmet speciality, interpreted by chefs who artfully combine cuisine and tradition resulting in new quality products for potential widespread consumption.
In 2008, well before Dominique Ansel created the cronut, Stefano Callegari – a former steward turned chef – devised an evolution of the pizza, the trapizzino: a piece of standard pizza, as is often served in Rome, cut into a sandwich shape and dressed with the assertive flavours and sauces of the capital’s gutsy cuisine (tripe, offal, meatballs in tomato sauce, amatriciana sauce, squid with peas and tongue). Its huge success in Rome means it will soon be exported to Japan.
Further south, in Naples, the three Michelin-starred chef Niko Romito has combined the bomba – a special doughnut recipe that has brought fame and fortune to his family’s cake shop – with tiramisu to create the Bombamisù: an oven-baked bomba, dipped in coffee with a creamy filling of mascarpone, fresh cream and a dusting of cocoa, making it the perfect street food. A recipe created for the publication of the book Tiramisu you can try at Gourmeet, in the centre of Naples.
Take two of the most iconic foods of our times: sushi and the hamburger. Now put them together and taste the result, maybe while you Instagram the hashtag #sushiburger: the latest trend is a double layer of rice shaped like two slices of bread and filled with raw fish and other typical maki ingredients. Simply delicious, the sushi burger was invented in Japan and combines two gastronomic traditions to produce a new recipe with an infinite number of possible variants.
Likewise, the ramen burger, created in 2013 by Japanese California-raised blogger Keizo Shimamoto, combines Japanese and US cuisines: the bread is replaced by two layers of crisply fried ramen filled with a traditional burger dressed with soy sauce. Its imitations abound but the original ramen burgers can be tasted in New York or in a few stores scattered around the States whose addresses can be found on their site.
Pecan pie, pumpkin pie and apple pie: three desserts for the same important American festivity, Thanksgiving day. How to decide which to serve on the fourth Thursday of November? Simple: try the Piecaken, one sweet that comprises them all, elaborated by pastry chef Gian Martinez at David Burke Fabrick in New York. A complicated dessert requiring up to 7 hours’ preparation, as well as massive amounts of butter to hold together its three components.
On the same theme and equally high in calories – one slice counts 1,200 calories – is the Turducken, another hybrid that comes into its own during the American holiday season: the imperfect unison of a boned chicken positioned inside a boned duck which, in its turn is placed in the cavity of a boned turkey. Legend has it that its inventor is a Louisiana chef, one Paul Prudhomme, who even went as far as to patent this bizarre creation in 1986. Initially confined to a local environment, the dish became famous throughout the United States thanks to a well-known football commentator, John Madden, who mentioned the recipe for this festive hybrid in the course of a TV commentary, which turned it into an authentic Thanksgiving tradition.