Do you know what a French cruller is and that OB Donuts has them?

by on October 14, 2016 · 5 comments

in Culture, Ocean Beach

french-crueller-5-mhBy South OB Girl

Recently I was in line at OB Donuts on Sunset Cliffs Blvd. waiting to order a muffin and a coffee.  A customer in front of me ordered an old-fashioned doughnut and a cruller.  Now that caught my attention…

I had never heard of a cruller.  What on earth was he ordering?  Perhaps I have not adventured enough into the doughnut world to know all about it.  My knowledge of baked goods is pretty thorough – but I had never heard of a cruller before.

french-crueller-3-mhI asked the young man and Mrs. Yang, “What are crullers?”

Mrs. Yang explained that the batter is different and they take longer to make.  They are more expensive to make and are made with different equipment.

(Let us note here though that “Mrs. Yang” does not go by the name “Mrs. Yang” and did not take her husband’s name – her name is Siv Lien Ung.  And her sons, famous in OB for Noodle House, have the surname Yang.)

I ordered a cruller at this point – and completely enjoyed it.  More like a pastry than a doughnut.  Quite like a cream-puff – without any filling – if you have ever had a cream-puff.

Perhaps I just had cruller naïveté.  But I am sure there are some other people out there who are strangers to the cruller like I was.

Off to do some research at this point.

The Food Network “Food Encyclopedia” had some information for me:

Pronunciation: [KRUHL-uhr]

A doughnut-style dough (usually leavened with baking powder) that’s shaped into a long twist, fried and sprinkled with granulated sugar or brushed with a sweet glaze. The extremely light French cruller is made with choux pastry (cream-puff dough). The word “cruller” comes from the Dutch krulle, meaning “twisted cake.” (And from Wikipedia, krulle comes from the Dutch word krullen, meaning “to curl.”)

french-cureller-obdonuts-mh-2Also from Wikipedia:

A traditional cruller (or twister) is a fried pastry often made from a rectangle of dough, with a cut made in the middle that allows it to be pulled over and through itself producing twists in the sides of the pastry. Crullers have been described as resembling “a small, braided torpedo” and having been “a staple of the New England diet since the Pilgrims’ day.”

Some other cruller styles are made of a denser dough somewhat like that of a cake doughnut formed in a small loaf or stick shape, but not always twisted. Crullers may be topped with plain powdered sugar; powdered sugar mixed with cinnamon; or icing.

However, a “French cruller” is a fluted, ring-shaped doughnut made from choux pastry with a light airy texture.

OB Donut’s has French crullers.  With chocolate icing, vanilla icing, or plain.  I had previously thought they were old-fashioned doughnuts.  With its twisted, round shape, the cruller could easily be mistaken for an old-fashioned.  But the inside and consistency is completely different.

In a 2012 Boston Globe article about the elusive and popular cruller– “Dunkin’s Cruller lovers have a hole in their lives – Dunkin’ Donuts specialty can often be difficult to find”

french-crueller-4-mhStan Frankenthaler, executive chef for Dunkin’ Donuts, said his own affection for the French cruller stems from its unique texture, the ‘little bit of chew’ that reminds him of pâte à choux, the French pastry used to make éclairs, beignets, and profiteroles.

The choux pastry dough that is distinctive for the French cruller contains only butter, water, flour and eggs. Instead of a raising agent, it employs high moisture content to create steam during cooking to puff the pastry.

The cruller has such a following that it made news when it was taken off the Dunkin’ Donuts menu back east.  In 2003, Dunkin’ Donuts stopped carrying traditional crullers, claiming that the hand-shaped rectangular treats were too labor-intensive, and couldn’t be simulated with new machines for mixing doughnut batter.

In 2008 the French cruller was then taken off the menu as doughnut sales declined, but then was put back on in 2011 after the French cruller topped the list in a poll asking customers which five absent doughnuts they would most like to see.

french-crueller-1-mhNot currently at risk of being taken off the menu — here in OB, folks, OB Donuts has French crullers.  When chain stores have eliminated it, this long time local business has carried on producing the labor intensive confection.  Fresh, and made here in OB.  Not delivered from a factory and mass-produced.  Baked fresh daily, as is everything at OB Donuts, by Siv Lien Ung’s nephew — every day starting around 3 am.

I have had many lovely conversations with Ms. Ung over the years.  About her sons and Noodle House.  About her son’s dog.  About her husband’s dog.  About the group of retired folks, Mike, Betty, and Frank, who gather every day around noon to visit over coffee and muffins or donuts.  And now I will be happy to order crullers more often from her.

(And guess I’ll have to go on an extra long walk on the pier to make up for the indulgence — but I’ll say it’ll be worth it.)


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

repetita_iuvant October 15, 2016 at 7:42 pm

That’s interesting and good to know what a crueller is and where it’s came from.
I got stumped on the Miller Analogies Test (graduate school test), when cruller popped up. The analogy looked like this:


a. bow ties
b. French pastry
c. German cheese
d. orange flowers

the correct answer is pastry. As all four are French and German pastries.
Yummy cruller!
Good list to know below.


South OB Girl October 17, 2016 at 11:57 am

Indeed that is a tricky analogy!! And I don’t think any of those words are used or known by many, many people!


Susana October 19, 2016 at 12:21 am

Fun article! I had no idea what a cruller was either! Sounds delicious!
And what a question to include on the GRE!


Don Johnson October 22, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Great article! If someone unjustly complains about being hungry, now you know–cross your fingers and say ‘here, have a cruller.’


Hannah September 24, 2018 at 7:45 am

I can’t understand how people don’t know about crullers! Been around forever.
The only thing I order at Dunkin Donuts or Tim Hortons. Also get them at some Walmart stores in the bakery. Note – there are about 1/3 less calories and carbs in one French cruller than in one plain donut!


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: