I don’t know whether to write a love poem to the Breton people, to David Lebovitz, or to kouign amann itself. Oh, I love you, all three of you! I have been daydreaming about a homemade kouign amann since I found out this week that a long lost friend from childhood has been living in France for the last 13 years. And then I found, serendipitously, that David Lebovitz, of pastry cheffing blogging book fame, had posted recently about kouign amann and had done the homework on perfecting a home recipe for them. (Curtsy now to David.)
Kouign amann, pronounced quinn ahmahn, means butter cake in the Breton language. It is a laminated dough laced with sugar and baked until it emerges from the oven, gloriously caramelized. If you’ve made Danish pastry, it’s a snap. If you’ve never made a laminated dough before, don’t be intimidated. It’s not difficult, it just requires that you set aside a morning or an afternoon to wait while it rises and rests between turns. And, let’s face it, the messiest attempts at laminated dough are pretty spectacularly delicious. Nom nom. Give it a try.
Kouign Amann Tips
Lamination is a baking term that refers to creating layers of pastry and butter. Butter is enclosed in an envelope of pastry. When the pastry is rolled and folded repeatedly, a process referred to as turns, it creates layers which rise during the baking process. Lamination is used to create puff pastry, Danish pastry, and croissants.
David recommends French butter. I used Plugra European-style butter with happy results. He also recommends adding some additional grains of coarse salt to the butter. It helps to approximate the flavor of Breton salted butter.
To knead dough, grasp the dough with your fist and press it down and away from you with the heel of your hand. Lift the dough and continue this motion, grabbing the dough, and pressing it away from you. The dough will become increasingly smooth and elastic.
David recommends keeping a bench or pastry scraper nearby in case your dough sticks to your countertop as you’re working. A bench scraper is basically the culinary version of a paint scraper. If you have one of those, and it’s immaculately clean, use it here in lieu of a bench scraper.
If you’re looking for a warm place in your home in which to rest dough, consider a closet through which a heating duct runs. A high shelf in such a closet is a very toasty place.
I used a 10-inch springform pan, which I wrapped tightly in aluminum foil. I placed it on a foil-lined baking sheet, as well.
From David Lebovitz
Yield: about eight to ten buttery servings
1 T. dry yeast (not rapid rise)
¾ c. tepid water
2 c. all purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur.)
½ t. salt
1 c. sugar, divided, plus additional for rolling the pastry
½ c. salted European-style butter, such as Plugra, cut into ½ “ pieces and chilled
2 to 3 T. salted European-style butter, melted
- In a medium bowl, stir together the yeast and the water with a pinch of sugar. Let the yeast rest until it blooms and becomes foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Slowly add the flour and salt, stirring to combine. You are aiming for a soft dough that is not too sticky. If the dough is quite sticky, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it is workable.
- Dust your countertop lightly with flour and transfer the dough.
- Knead the dough until it is smooth, about 3 minutes.
- Brush a medium bowl with butter and place the dough in the bowl. Cover it and place it in a warm place for an hour.
- Lightly dust your countertop with flour again and roll out the dough into a large rectangle 12” x 18,” short sides to your right and left.
- Scatter the slices of butter across the pastry and sprinkle the dough with ¼ c. of the sugar.
- Fold the short sides of the pastry in to the center, as you would fold a brochure.
- Sprinkle the dough with sugar again and fold it as you would a brochure once again.
- Wrap a plate in cellophane and place the dough on it. Refrigerate the pastry for one hour.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and sprinkle your countertop liberally with sugar. Place the dough on the sugar and top it with another ¼ c. of sugar.
- Roll it into a large rectangle again.
- Fold it as you would a brochure again, in thirds with short ends towards the center, and allow it to rest for another hour in the refrigerator.
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) and brush a 9” pie plate with melted butter.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it into a circle about 9” in diameter.
- Use a bench scraper or two spatulas to transfer the dough to the pie plate.
- Sprinkle the dough with ¼ c. sugar and 1 T. melted butter.
- Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until the pastry is deep golden brown.
- Allow the finished cake to rest briefly. Then run a knife around the edge of the pan and transfer the cake to a cooling rack.