One of the best descriptions I’ve read of Kouign Amann comes from Chef Steps: “These salty, buttery pastries hail from the coastal region of Brittany, in the northwest corner of France, where Celtic Breton tradition has prevailed since the great migration across the English Channel during the fifth and sixth centuries. It looks just like you might imagine a Celtic colony on the seacoast of France would: towering bluffs dropping straight into the sea; tiny stone houses dotting the emerald countryside; slate-colored steeples rising into the morning mist. The region is best known for its vast salt flats, where the coveted finishing salt, fleur de sel, is harvested. Here, tucked into wandering village streets, bakeries hawk this much-lauded pastry treasure, whose name literally means “butter cake” in Breton.”
Kouign Amann (pronounced Queen-ah-mann) belongs to the laminated dough family in baking. A croissant like yeast dough is layered with butter and coated with sugar to produce a crunchy, sweet, caramelized pastry that some say is a breakfast pastry and some say is dessert. I could eat them all day long and not care a wit about what time it is!
Of all the recipe descriptions I have read, only Chef Steps uses the word salty. Some recipes use salted butter, some say you must, but I don’t personally see why. Since I don’t usually have salted butter on hand I used the Kerry Gold unsalted I had. By the way, a friend of mine told me Trader Joe’s and Costco have Kerry Gold butter more reasonably priced than Whole Foods or some other grocery stores.
Many of the recipes for Kouign Amann open with the difficulty of making this pastry, although all agree it is worth every hair pulling moment. I disagree completely that it is difficult. This recipe is going to follow my version of making laminated doughs which is a less harrowing experience.
While bakeries will make these using small open ring molds, we are going to use Texas muffin pans.
One of the most important things to remember after the Kouign Amann is baked is to release them immediately and carefully. If left in the tins, they will be cemented in and no amount of coaxing will release them in one piece. However, as hard as it is, be sure to let them cool so you don’t burn your mouth on the caramelized sugar.
The Kouign Amann is an exquisite explosion of buttery, sugary, caramely (my spell checker doesn’t want to let that word go through) goodness. Enhancing these with a filling makes them even more wonderful. I have included two fillings – my favorite apricot and a cheese filling, both reminiscent of Danish pastry.
It is important to realize that even with the yeast dough, these are a more compact pastry and will not rise to etheral heights. That is what they are supposed to be like.
Before you start, you might want to go over my blogs “A Discussion of Laminated Doughs” and “American Butter vs. European”. Also remember, while I strongly believe in European butters for laminated doughs, American butter works well also. If you are new to laminated doughs American butter is firmer and easier to work with.
While Kouign Amann is not as difficult as some would have you think, it does take time due to the rising of the yeast dough and the chilling between folds. But it can be done over a series of days if that suits your schedule better.
Read through the entire recipe before starting to get a feel for what you will be doing. Follow the photos and the reward will be yours.
Kouign Amann will be one of the best, if not the best, pastry you will ever taste. And I’ll hazzard a guess that having made it once you’ll make it again.
Initial Dough (Detrempe)3/4 cup water
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (1/4 ounce or 7 gram package)
2 1/4 cups bread flour (315 grams or 11 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter (1 ounce or 30 grams)
Combine the water and yeast. Set aside to soften the yeast.Place the flour and salt in the processor. Pulse several times to mix. Add the butter to the water and pour over the flour. Process until the dough balls up. Remove from the processor and knead several times to bring it together. Form into a ball. Place in a bowl that has been sprayed. Turn it over. Cover with film, mark the time and allow it to rise for about an hour or until doubled.
After it has risen, punch it down and flatten. Wrap in film and freeze until frozen about 3/4″ in from the edge and it very cold all the way through.
Combine the water and the yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer for a few minutes until dissolved. Add the melted butter.
Combine the flour and salt. Add it to the bowl with the liquid and mix with a dough hook on low until it comes together. Raise the speed of the mixer to medium or whatever is recommended by your mixer and beat for 3 minutes to knead the dough.
Place in a sprayed bowl, turn it over, cover with film and allow to rise for about 1 hour until doubled. Punch down and flatten. Wrap in film and freeze until frozen about 3/4″ in from the edge.
Butter Enrichment – Below is an 8 ounce block of Kerry Gold. If you use American Butter you will use 2 sticks. If using American butter, follow the cutting instructions from the second picture down.
1/2 pound salted butter (8 ounces, 1 cup, or 225 grams)Cut each stick of butter in half lengthwise. Cut each piece in half.Cut each piece in half again for eight pieces.Cross cut the butter into about 3/4 inch pieces.Freeze the butter pieces until hard.
When the butter is frozen and the dough is partially frozen, cut the dough into quarters. Cut each quarter into 3 pieces.Place 4 pieces of dough into the processor. Add one third of the butter and pulse until the dough and butter are cut into uneven pieces. Pour it out onto a work area.Repeat two more times with the remaining dough and butter.
Flour the work area. Push the dough and butter into a rectangle about 6 inches long and 4 inches wide. Dust the top with flour. Roll about 18 inches x 6 inches, scraping under the dough to keep it from sticking and flouring as necessary. Keep the ends as square as possible and the sides as straight as possible by pushing the sides with your hands. This will keep errant pieces of butter from skittering away. Brush any flour off the dough. Fold the top down to the middle and bottom up to the middle. Brush flour off again. Fold the top over the bottom.
This is the first turn for the Kouign Amann. You will notice as you complete the remaining turns that the butter becomes less obvious as it is rolled in and the sides will become smoother.
Turn the dough 90° so the edges are to your right and roll again to about 18×6 inches, lightly flouring the board and top of the dough as necessary. Brush the flour off and fold as above. Wrap in film and refrigerate for about an hour or up to three days. It can also be frozen at this point. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before final turns.Final Two Turns
Kouign Aman dough
2/3 cup sugar + more for rolling
Once the sugar has been rolled in, the dough should be completed the same day. If you try to hold it, the sugar will liquefy in the refrigerator and the dough will become wet. At this point, while still good, it will not bake into a flaky Kouign Amann but be more bread like.
For the third and fourth turns, roll the dough out to about 18×6 inches. Brush the flour off and sprinkle with 1/3 cup granulated sugar.I spread the sugar as evenly as I can with my hand, then use my ruler to even it out.Place a piece of waxed paper over the sugar and lightly roll it in. Fold the ends to the middle and then fold the top down over the bottom as before. Repeat once more rolling in the other 1/3 cup of sugar. Fold the dough, wrap in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for an or two hour.
Spray two 6 hole Texas muffin tins very well. Set aside.
On a sugared surface roll the dough into a 17×13 inch rectangle. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet and chill the dough in the freezer until firm but not frozen.. Trim to 16×12 inches. I chilled mine in the freezer at this point again to firm it up. Preferably using a pizza cutter and cold, firm dough, cut twelve 4″ squares by cutting the 16 inch length into 4 strips and cutting the 12 inch side into 3. For Unfilled Kouign Amann
Fold the opposite corners together in one direction, then the other so they meet in the middle. Place in the muffin pan. Repeat with the remainder of the squares.
For Filled Kouign Amann
Make one or both of the fillings at the bottom of the page before shaping . Set them aside.
Place one square of dough on top of the muffin tin. Press it gently but firmly into the tin. Put about 1 tablespoon of filling into the center and then fold the dough around it.
Cover the tins with a towel and let rise for about 1 hour or until puffy but not doubled.
Baking – Recipes range from 425°F down to 375°F. However, I am going to lower the temperature to 350°F because these are small and compact and I think they need more time to bake through. If using dark pans, you may want to lower it to 325°F. If the tops start browning too much, cover them lightly with foil.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the rack in the middle of the oven. Sprinkle the Kouign Amann with sugar. Bake for between 35 to 45 minutes, covering the tops loosely if they start browning too much. It is fine if they become a deep brown on the bottom. Just don’t burn them. Remember the sugar is going to caramelize making a very crunchy treat.
Releasing – It is very important to get these out of the muffin cups as soon as they come out of the oven. They will get cemented in the cups if they cool.
These are best eaten the day they are made. I prefer the Kouign Amann completely cooled instead of warm as I think they are at their most flavorful and at their crunchiest!
Having said that, I would happily eat these the next day and the next day. All good, all the time.
Fillings for Kouign Aman
4 ounces dried apricots (114 grams)
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons butter, softened (30 grams or 1 ounce)
3 tablespoons powdered sugar (20 grams or 2/3 ounce)
1 teaspoons vanilla
Combine the apricots and the water in a small saucepan. Simmer until most of the water is absorbed. Combine the apricots and the remainder of the ingredients in a processor and process until smooth. Cool and set aside.
4 ounces Cream Cheese (114 grams)
2/3 cup Powdered Sugar (85 grams or 3 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine all of the ingredients in a processor and process until smooth. Refrigerate while preparing the Kouign Amann.
Flaky and crunchy with caramelized sugar, this Kouign Amann is ready to be eaten!!!!