Food & Drink

Eating Out: Doughnuts are in again: Krispy Kreme returns, local shops go gourmet

A cronut with fresh fruit, strawberries, blackberries and Bavarian cream filling at Clovis Donuts. In the background is a cronut with strawberries and Nutella.
A cronut with fresh fruit, strawberries, blackberries and Bavarian cream filling at Clovis Donuts. In the background is a cronut with strawberries and Nutella.

Low-carb diets be damned, the doughnut is back.

The carbalicious sugary deep-fried treat is getting some love in Fresno with news that Krispy Kreme is coming back and sales of cronuts — the doughnut’s flashier cousin — are thriving.

Yes, you read that correctly. A Krispy Kreme doughnut shop is in the works for next year in front of Target on Blackstone Avenue near Bullard Avenue, confirmed Ted Fellner of Colliers International, who helped the franchisee find property to build on. The Krispy Kreme will be a new, smaller version of the shop known for its glazed doughnuts.

If you were around in 2001, you likely remember the near hysteria with which Fresno greeted its first Krispy Kreme in what is now Chick-fil-A in River Park. Before it was even open, 110 cars were lined up in the drivethru. The Bee’s front page story included the city of Fresno proclaiming it Krispy Kreme Day and ran a photo of then-Council Member Tom Boyajian wearing a Krispy Kreme hat and noshing on a doughnut at the City Council dais.

A few years later, the Krispy Kreme chain tanked in a sugar crash of epic proportions. Too many Krispy Kreme stores, too many outlets like grocery stores selling the doughnuts, and the popularity of Atkins and South Beach diets took the shine off that glazed doughnut. Stores closed right and left, and the Fresno Krispy Kreme shut down in 2007.

But lately, Fresnans seem to be turning back to the half-breakfast, half-dessert treat. The low-carb trend has faded, and sales of sweets and desserts are growing as people indulge occasionally.

The doughnut has evolved at some local mom-and-pop doughnut shops to include gourmet versions featuring bacon. And customers can’t seem to get enough of the rich croissant-doughnut hybrid called the cronut sold at just a few places in town.

Cronuts sell out almost daily at Clovis Donuts at Ashlan and Fowler avenues. The shop has never advertised them, using only Facebook, Instagram and word of mouth, says Dy Hin, who owns the business with his wife, Lena.

“We’ve sold out as early as 6 in the morning,” he says. (The shop opens at 5:30 a.m. If you really want to make sure you get some, call ahead.)

At Clovis Donuts, the cronuts are cut in half and filled with custard, flavored whip cream, fresh blueberries or strawberries. They’re also topped with some sugary goodness, including chocolate syrup or sometimes mini M&Ms.

They range in price from $3.25 to $3.75.

Another local cronut maker is FireHouse Cookies, which doesn’t have a storefront but supplies Kuppa Joy Coffee House in Clovis and newly opened Jitters Coffee House in Sanger with cronuts. They also take special orders.

Jannine Fitzgerald makes them in her Clovis home with a special permit.

“She gets called a crack dealer on a regular basis,” says Jitters owner Karen Gaines.

Cronuts are relatively rare because they’re a lot of work. Fitzgerald says the process takes her about three hours. It involves rolling butter into the doughnut dough, repeatedly folding the dough and putting the whole thing in the refrigerator repeatedly so the butter is pliable but not melted. The result is a deep-fried pastry that’s layered like a croissant but much richer and often glazed.

The maple cronut is the most popular kind that Fitzgerald makes, along with chocolate, vanilla and raspberry. She delivers them to Kuppa Joy on Fridays and Saturdays and to Jitters on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Jitters also carries a variation you probably won’t find anywhere else in town: cronut holes.

The coffee shop, at 1315 Seventh St., opened in March and started carrying full-size cronuts. After people repeatedly asked for knives to cut them up and share, Jitters started carrying cronut holes. They often sell out.

“It’s exciting to watch people have no clue what it is and now all of a sudden they anticipate it. ‘Is tomorrow the cronut day?’” they ask, Gaines says.

A container of six cronut holes sells for $3.25.

Jitters serves coffee and blended non-coffee drinks for kids, too, but the cronuts are “probably the best thing we’ve ever done for the coffee house,” she says.

These doughnuts and other gourmet versions are certainly different than the old-fashioned doughnuts most people grew up with. But Fresno hasn’t yet caught on to the extreme doughnut trend happening in other cities.

Places like Psycho Donuts in San Jose have doughnuts topped with powdered sugar artwork of Jason’s hockey mask from Friday the 13th. People line up for Portland’s Voodoo Doughnuts, which serves pastries topped with Froot Loops, bubble gum and other creative toppings.

As for Krispy Kreme, it will probably be a while before Fresnans can get a standard, fresh-glazed doughnut from the 24-hour shop. Construction likely won’t start on the building until fall. The franchisee, southern California-based company WKS, owns several other Krispy Kreme, Denny’s, El Pollo Loco and Corner Bakery Cafe franchises.

The Krispy Kreme brand itself is growing again, but more cautiously this time. The new stores are smaller and less expensive to build. The company also doesn’t sell its doughnuts as much to other outlets such as grocery stores.

And, hopefully, this time it will stay open.

“I still think Krispy Kreme is going to be a home run because everybody likes it,” says Fellner of Colliers.

Bethany Clough: 559-441-6431, @BethanyClough