Admittedly, I spend a lot of time scrolling on TikTok, so I'm somewhat of a food trend expert. Like everyone else on the internet, I loved the feta pasta trend. The yogurt toast didn’t impress me. I was obsessed with green goddess dressing. But when I saw a video for a dessert called a "crinkle," I was immediately intrigued.
Made with a base of phyllo dough, the crinkle emerges from the oven a crispy, sweet, custard-covered delight. If TikTok is to be believed, it's not only gorgeous, but delicious, too. But is too good to be true?
Before diving in head first, I rooted around the internet for some history. A TikTok creator named Ramena, who uses the handle @Ramenasaidwow, claims to be the dessert's inventor and runs a bakery business selling them. From what I can deduce, her method is as follows: Accordion fold two pieces of phyllo dough at a time (that’s where the "crinkle" comes into play) and snugly place them next to each other in a baking pan. Continue folding phyllo sheets until you fill the pan. From the looks of it, you might need several boxes worth of phyllo.
Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees before pulling out the tray and covering the whole thing with two sticks of melted butter. Thrust it back into the oven for ten minutes; in the meantime whisk up 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of milk, 2 eggs, and 2 to 3 teaspoons of vanilla. Then pull out the fast-crisping phyllo pastry and drench it with the milky, eggy blend. Bake the tray yet again for 30 to 40 minutes, until the phyllo is crisp and entrenched in custard. Once out of the oven, slick the whole thing with a drizzle of extra-thick sugar syrup.
Of course, no dish on the internet is ever the same dish for long. Once the crinkle caught fire, other creators started adding their own spins. Some topped their crinkle with strawberries, while others opted for pistachios or rose petals. Others still baked the phyllo sheets into gorgeous spiral shapes. (Swoon.)
I was inspired, not only because I’m a huge phyllo dough fan—it's endlessly versatile and can be used to create impressive dishes without a ton of effort—but because, well, I'm a sucker for a good viral dessert.
Still, I remained skeptical that about whether the phyllo could soak up all that liquid. How does it stay crispy? I forged ahead by combining two folding methods—the accordion fold and the spiral fold—to create a "Starry Night" effect. I may or may not have forgotten to defrost my phyllo dough ahead of time (whoops) but pro tip: Microwave it in 30 second increments for about two minutes. It'll be just fine.
I popped my phyllo-filled tray into the oven for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees, per Ramena's instruction. Then I poured one stick of melted butter on top and baked again for another 10 minutes. I whisked together a half cup each of whole milk and sugar, one egg, a few teaspoons of vanilla—and a few shakes of cinnamon for good measure. (Riffing is what viral food trends are all about!)
I poured the sugary mixture over the phyllo dough and baked for another 30 minutes. Then, I topped it with a sticky, sugar syrup—one cup of sugar and half a cup of water simmered until thick—and sprinkled some chopped pistachios on top. I nestled some fresh sliced strawberries into the phyllo's crisp folds and stood back to admire my creation.
She. Was. Gorgeous. The dessert's surface boasted a glossy, shimmery appearance thanks to its final sugar syrup bath, while the phyllo beneath remained impossibly crisp. Pops of red, green, and purple from the strawberries and nuts gave the tray a festive party vibe, while its twists of phyllo gave the (false) impression of a dessert that took hours to perfect.
But looks are one thing. A truly great viral dessert needs to taste fantastic, too, and well—the crinkle delivers. My take tasted like the love child of a kringle and baklava, with just a hint of cinnamon-spiked sticky bun. The soft and creamy interior contrasted brilliantly with a crunchy phyllo crust, which shattered gloriously against my teeth.
Three hours after I pulled my crinkle from the oven for a third and final time, a quarter of it had already disappeared. I guess that's what happens when you leave it out on the counter and steal a sliver every time you walk past. (Who needs self-control when you have a crinkle?)
But what I love most about this pastry is how little pastry skill it requires to produce such beautiful and tasty results. I absolutely plan to add it to my baking rotation—maybe next time I'll add espresso powder? Chocolate chips? Or perhaps some brown sugar, citrus zest, or sesame seeds… The endlessly customizable crinkle is ripe for reinvention, it seems. I'll definitely be impressing some friends with it soon.