Not too long ago, most people didn’t know what a kouign amann was, let alone how delicious this sweet bread is. If you were familiar with the pastry—a buttery Breton specialty that’s somewhere between a croissant and brioche, with a layer of crispy caramelized sugar on top—you probably couldn’t shut up about it, and you probably moaned the fact that they were, up until recently, rather difficult to find outside of the coastal region of Brittany, in the northwest corner of France. Make them at home? Sure, you can try, but it’s not a casual undertaking… as I learned when it was part of Rose’s beta test list.
Kouign-amann (pronounced QUEEN-ah-mahn) is made of laminated dough— think croissant dough—that’s all butter and yeasted dough. They’re generously dusted with sugar right before baking; the sugar caramelizes, creating a beautifully burnished cake (“kouign” is the Breton word for “cake;” “amann” means “butter.”)
I ate my first Kouign Amann almost a year ago during our testing run. Back then it was December 25 and after my family sampled the buttery sweet bread and “oh” and “ah” during the eating - our Christmas day ended with a very competitive game of rock-paper-scissor to see who was going to get the last piece in the plate.
Then they made me swear that I would make them again, and again.
Sadly, I have let my family down. Here we are, almost a year later and no repeat performance – even thought I had the following 3 recipes booked marked in order to give them a try and compare them to Rose’s:
But then, as it often happens, everything comes full circle – It’s kind of fitting that almost a year later, our first inaugural recipe for our Baking Bible bake-along is the Kouign Amann.
Marie, my family (specifically my husband) would like to send a BIG thank you.
I’m going to be honest: They are sort of hard to make. They take a full day of investment, and you might not get it right the first try. Your kitchen will be a mess. You may get stressed out (and curse up a storm). You will need to do math and use a ruler and keep an eye on a timer. But when you do get it right (and you will), oh goodness! There is no prouder moment in the life of a dedicated home baker than when we present these pieces of heaven to our flabbergasted friends and family.
Since this was my second time at this rodeo, I was not dreading the whole process, but I did procrastinate a bit, until yesterday when I entered my kitchen at 8:00 AM and did not leave it until 6:00 PM when I took them out of the oven.
The recipe starts simple enough. Flour, yeast, water, salt and some melted butter, they all take a 4 minute toss in your Kitchen Aid until it all comes together to yield a smooth, elastic and somewhat sticky dough.
Cover and place in warm area and let it take a 30 min rests.
During this time, take that very expensive butter (Oh yes, you did invest in the expensive European butter with its fancy schmancy name – trust me, this is no time to be frugal with your ingredients – go for the Plugra or Kerry Gold) into its square shape (bring out the ruler). I took the high road and use my rolling pin to pound it to room temperature (and take out some much needed frustration out of my system) and made a nice little square pack, which I then put back in the refrigerator to wait on the dough.
Step numero tres – You are ready to laminate! Meshing the butter and dough together. I floured lightly my cold marble and rolled my dough into a rectangle, then placing the block of butter in the center I made a nice little package, and then gave the dough its FIRST roll. Tip: Do not press down so hard during the rolling that the butter squeezes out – slow and steady… but fast enough, making sure the butter does not melt on you – something that, here in Florida you have to be on high alert. Once done, do a final envelope 3-fold and wrap it up in parchment or plastic wrap and into the refrigerator it goes, for its first 1-hour chilling.
Read a book, clean your house, watch dumb shows on TV – you got 1 hour to do your chilling too.
Step four – 1 more rolling, folding and some more chilling.
Step Five – (you are nearing the final stretch – high five yourself!) Final roll and time for the dough and sugar to fist-bump each other. Sprinkle a half-cup of the granulated sugar on the work surface. Place the dough on top of the sugar and sprinkle one-fourth cup on top. Roll the dough out. As you fold the dough in thirds, try to keep the sugar in an even distribution. The sugar will bunch together at the crease as you fold, so use your hand to brush it evenly across the base surface and place the folded layer on top. And yes, sugar will get everywhere – make peace with it. If you have a dog, let him lick the sugary floor.
Fold the dough once more into thirds and chill it again.
If you need to make homemade baking ring, this is the time to do it – if not prep your baking sheet… and go back to waiting on that precious dough.
Step Six – final roll-out, make a pretty rectangle using your ruler, so you can cut 8 square-pieces and then fold the corner toward the center to shape each of these morsels. Place in the prepare baking rings.
Let them get one final poof round and then into a 400 degree hot oven they go to get all nice and caramelized and golden. Mine took 20 minutes to cook and had zero sugar/butter spillage.
By the time I was taking them out of the oven, I had all of Casa P in the kitchen (including the dog) wanting salivating over a piece. That smell of baked butter and sugar cannot be beat.
As last year, they were a hit – four of them were devoured… and the last four, after giving it a nice toasting in our oven, were eaten for breakfast the next day.
Once more I was made to swear that I would make them again. I can tell you that this time around they were far easier to make than the first time – maybe I go for broke and make them again before the year is out.
Jury still out on that thought.
Things I did different than Rose’s recipe: I added a bit of salt on top, along with the sugar before baking - I think it gives them an extra AHA!
You can check out the rest of The Baking Bible Alpha Bakers doing their stuff by stopping at the bake along blog.
Disclaimer: As previously noted, No recipes are shared in my Cake Bible posts, due to restrictions in sharing the recipes by the publisher of Rose’s The Baking Bible. But, you can support me and her by purchasing the book