In less than two years, Tenderloin pastry shop Mr. Holmes Bakery has become a worldwide sensation. That’s thanks in part to its genius branding and social media presence, and in part due to its stellar pastries, led by the showstopping cruffin. For the uninitiated, they’re croissants baked like muffins, and filled with a daily-rotating flavor of sweet cream. Past options have included chocolate passionfruit, apple pie, honey lavender, bourbon orange, and much, much more.
To get a taste — and perhaps more importantly, a photograph — every day, people from around the world line up hours before cruffins become available at 9 a.m. The #cruffin hashtag has been used 19,408 times since its inception, helped along by two locations in Seoul and a recently opened Los Angeles outpost.
The cruffin may now be jetsetting across the globe, but that A-list pastry had its humble start right here in SF. Here’s how it all happens.
The process for the cruffin you eat starts two days prior, when Mr. Holmes Bakehouse chef Brittany Dunn (or one of the other ladies in the kitchen) mixes bread flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and milk together to the exact right texture. The last secret ingredient is milk powder. “Milk acts as conditioner and gives it softness and protein,” Dunn explains. “Powder adds those without adding the moisture.”
While Dunn precisely measures out each ingredient on a scale, milk is added on a case-by-case basis. “You need to be flexible,” she says. On the day Eater SF was on the scene, it was 54 percent humidity in the kitchen— the week before humidity had reached 70 percent, causing an adjustment in the amount of milk used.
After a lot of mixing to break the glutens, and when Dunn is finally satisfied with the look and feel of the dough, she portions it out in big, chilled black garbage bags (which, apparently, are easier to work with than plastic wrap) and cools it in the fridge for 24 hours.
The next day, the dough is folded and rolled out in the sheeter. It’s a multi-hour process: The dough is put through the sheeter and rested for an hour three separate times.
The next step is the cruffin magic. It’s shaped just so and put into muffin tins. While Mr. Holmes wouldn’t allow photographs of the proprietary shaping process, Dunn did say that it’s the most important step. “The look of it and how's it's balanced will dictate how it was formed,” she explains.
It ain’t easy being a pastry, and the persnickety cruffin needs lots of rest. After another 12 hours in the fridge, it’s proofed for two to three hours at 80 to 82 degrees and a set humidity level. Once the cruffins are fully proofed (“They feel like a super soft marshmallow,” according to Dunn), they’re ready to bake.
It only takes 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for the cruffins to reach golden perfection. From there, it’s go time, as a line of hungry pastry fiends has already started to form outside the kitchen door.
Finally, the still-warm cruffins are rolled in straight sugar, filled with the day’s pastry cream (apple cardamom on the day Eater was there), and topped with a garnish (apple cardamom scone). “The filling has to be the right balance of sweetness to not overpower and be sugar on sugar on sugar,” Dunn says. “They're very sweet— it's a fine line to gross.” The team tastes new flavors together and makes tweaks from there.
The final step: The cruffins are sold to the salivating and never-satiated customers, mere seconds after the kitchen team finishes making them. 120 are made Monday through Thursday, 150 on Friday, and 180 on Saturday and Sunday; if any are over- or under-baked, though, they are not served.
Once it’s in the hands of customers, the cruffin has a short life span. But often, before it’s eaten, it endures a photo shoot in front of the store’s neon sign.