Because nobody else is going to save you any, that’s for sure. It’s just too sweet and buttery. Tender on the inside and crispy around the edges like a croissant, it has a crackly caramel top that adds just the right je-ne-sais-quois (I wrote that in French because I don’t know how to say it in Breton).
I’ll admit that this “simple butter cake” kicked my can this week. I went into it thinking I’d be able to do it blindfolded, since I consider lamination something of a specialty. Five days, two sacks of flour and $40 worth of butter later, my pride was in the ash can, along with sixteen awful kouigns. Say what you will about the recipe I finally settled on, it’s been tested!
Earlier in the week I wrote that I’d be leaving the sugar out of the folding process. However rolled-in sugar is one of the defining features of this bread. In the end I couldn’t leave it out. The kouign amann that resulted didn’t rise as high as the version without the rolled-in sugar, but the result is probably a lot closer to the real thing. Here’s how it goes. Combine your flour and yeast in a mixer fitted with a paddle and add the melted butter…
…and the water.
Stir until everything is moistened, then switch to the dough hook and knead for about a minute. The dough will be a bit shaggy, that’s OK. If it’s very shaggy and won’t hold together at all, add a bit more water. It will smooth out and become more elastic as it rises.
Press it together into a ball, put it into a large bowl and apply some oil or nonstick spray. Since this dough has lots of yeast and no salt, it’s going to take off like a rocket. Half an hour should be plenty of time for rising.
When the dough has about ten minutes to go, make your butter block according to the directions for laminating dough under the Techniques menu. Pastry Chef Laura suggested that working a couple tablespoons of flour would help absorb moisture and make the resulting pastry flakier. Why didn’t I think of that? Add it.
When the dough has risen and is nice and puffy, you’re ready to roll. Literally.
Lightly flour your board…
…and pat the dough into a square.
Apply your butter. My block isn’t perfect, but by this time I’d made kouign amann nine times. I was frustrated. Anyway, this is a rustic pastry, right? Oh, and I should mention that you want the best quality salted butter you can lay your hands on for this. As with every laminated dough, butter is the star, so don’t skimp if you can help it. Euro-style cultured butters will not only taste better for this, they’ll be drier, and that will give you a better result.
Make your butter envelope…
…roll it out…
…and letter fold it.
Lay it out on a lightly floured sheet pan (I forgot the flour here), cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 20 minutes. This is the first of your three “turns.”
After twenty minutes, do another “turn”, which is to say, repeat the rolling and letter fold and return the dough to the refrigerator for another twenty minutes. The dough will hold at this point, if you wish, for 2-3 days in the refrigerator and 2-3 months in the freezer, cut into pieces of course. If you don’t want this much dough you can cut the below recipe in half, even half again if you only want to make one pastry.
When you’re ready to make your pastries, do your final turn. This time you’re going to add sugar to the top of the dough before you fold it. Here I’m adding too much. What can I say, I got excited. I brushed about a third of it off.
But Joe, you said sugar is a no-no for laminated doughs! Yes, and it is if you allow the butter and sugar to come into direct contact. However if there’s a layer of dough in between, you don’t get the same reaction, provided you don’t allow the sugared dough to sit for very long (as in several hours).
Fold the dough and put it back into the fridge.
Prepare your pan. Line a cake layer pan with parchment.
When you’re all set to roll, take the dough back out of the refrigerator and cut it into pieces (there’s enough dough here for four pastries, just under 16 ounces each). Turn one piece out onto your floured board and apply the pin.
Roll it to a rough circle and place it in the pan. Let it rise for about 1 1/2 hours until puffy. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400.
At that point, apply your egg wash…
…and a generous amount of sugar. This is necessary to create crunchy caramel top.
Bake until the bread has risen nicely and the top is a deep brown. Say, that’s not a particularly appealing picture.
Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ bout.
Eat it warm. With wine or spirits it’s especially good, and trust me, I needed that after the week I had.
UPDATE: Reader Evan D. adds:
I wanted to mention that Kouign Amman can be made from scrap croissant dough, and that this is how a lot of bakeries do it. An extra turn or two with superfine granulated sugar is all it takes. A little jam in the center really ties it all together.
UPDATE AGAIN: Reader Asthe adds:
“I do not know”" in Breton that should be: n’ouzon ket (ne.. ket is the negative form, and ouzon must be “to know” ) and you can say “i’m sorry, i don’t know”: pec’hed eo, n’ouzon ket ! (pronouce: “c’h” as “RRR”)
Ain’t the web wonderful?