[maxgallery name=”mr-holmes-bakehouse-outside”]I glanced down at my phone. The screen displayed 8:55 am. The ache in my back grew more acute and the pressure in my legs increased from the persistent standing. When I arrived an hour and 10 minutes prior, I was sixth in line. Now, the line behind me was at least 60 people strong and extended to the end of the block. “Well, at least it’ll be worth it.”, a person proclaimed behind me in reference to the long wait. “Worth it? How do you know they’ll be good?”, another person responded. He was right. I thought to myself. Was this cruffin craze overblown? I had to know. And since these elusive sweet pastries sell out fast, I committed to missing out on a lazy Sunday morning and ventured out hours before to where I stood now at Mr. Holmes Bakehouse in Lower Nob Hill.
[maxgallery name=”mr-holmes-bakehouse-inside”]At 9:00am, with the rising sun still veiled by morning fog, we witnessed the arrival of the first racks of cruffins through the glass storefront windows. Those nearby stared in awe. The crowd grew excited, enthusiastic, and snapped photos reminiscent of a red carpet event. Like witnessing a rock star, people gazed at chef Ry Stephen as he walked outside to meet his devote fans and new potential followers. “Thank you all for waiting.”, he humbly pronounced and the doors opened. The line began to move and shortly after I stood at the epicenter of the cruffin madness. “Two please.”, I told the employee while garnishing a shallow smile that masked disappointment for the two cruffin per person mandate. Having the two cruffins in hand, I rendezvoused with a friend who had simultaneously waited strategically in the “non cruffin” line and now held a white box filled with a dozen other pastries. We were now ready to embark on a somewhat gluttonous eating experience that would help us understand if there was any substance behind all the cruffin hype.
[maxgallery name=”mr-holmes-bakehouse-cruffin-and-other-pastries”]In many ways the cruffin represents San Francisco’s version of New York’s cronut, a pastry invented by Chef Dominique Ansel that is shaped like a doughnut but formed from croissant-like dough. Unlike the cronut, however, Chef’s Stephen’s creation is shaped like a muffin and is baked rather than fried. Our example had a toasted layered crust dusted with white sugar granules and partially filled with chocolate chip buttercream. Stripes of chocolate sauce and sprinklings of confectionary bits completed a look that was unique and tantalizing. As we began to eat the pastry we first tore open the outer shell, which revealed folded rippling layers of baked dough more tightly packed than what you would find inside your typical croissant. These multiple layers along with the crispy outer shell and soft moist interior enhanced the bread’s delicate flavors of fresh dough and butter. The silky smooth buttercream added an additional mild sweetness and subtle chocolate flavor.
Having polished off the cruffin we sampled other pastries, which included an apricot danish, salted caramel doughnut, and white chocolate blueberry brioche. Memorable highlights included the danishes’ fresh sweet apricot marmalade, doughnut’s rich caramel filling, and brioche’s soft sweet eggy bread. Despite our positive experience with the cruffin, we were actually more impressed with the overall quality and freshness of these other pastries.
So is the cruffin worthy of all the larger than life hype? Not exactly, but what truly is? However, when accounting for all the pastries as a whole, Mr Holmes’ offerings were definitely worth the morning sacrifice and long wait.