For the past few weeks, I’ve had a few encounters with the french pastry known as the Kouign Amann (pronounced: queen ah-mahn). I first heard about the pastry while visiting Salt Lake City, where there is a bakery called Les Madelines that specializes in making them. Of course when we got to the bakery, they had just sold the last one 20 minutes prior. My first taste of this flaky, buttery goodness was not to be! But I was intrigued. What was this pastry people were so excited about? I made a mental note to research it when I got home.
The day after we got home, I opened up the FoodDay section of the Oregonian and the Kouign Amann in all it’s glory was the main story. It was complete serendipity when a friend called a few hours later and invited me over for brunch on Sunday, asking if I could please bring something sweet. I had to make these and am so glad I did.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think I have found my sweet weakness. It’s true! Even though I bake quite a bit–I enjoy bringing sweets to life and playing alchemist in my kitchen. However, I am usually pretty good with eating a little and giving a lot away. Or, in some sad cases, throwing a lot away (when I simply can not eat any more, Andrew forgets about it and hasn’t eaten much, and I didn’t get a chance to give it to anyone). But these, these pastries are different! And once I start eating one, I have to finish it and possibly a second. Thank god I took these to a brunch, otherwise I’d have languidly laid about today nibbling away on the whole batch while I finished a book. Heavenly and decadent….
Imagine taking the best of all worlds when it comes to baked goods–the lightness of a yeasted bread, the buttery flakiness of a croissant, and the chewy caramelization of butter and sugar baked together, making the bottoms a satisfying stickiness. These little pastries in all their glory tasted of light and celebration–a special delight enjoyed a few times a year.
The brunch today was a lot of fun–there were butter-lambs (yes, butter that was molded into the shape of a lamb! amazing), fruits of all kinds, orzo pasta salad, goat cheese with olive oil, crushed garlic and rosemary poured over it, fresh squeezed juices, and the Kouign Amanns. We even died Easter eggs! It was a wonderful spring feast.
And now it’s April…can you believe it? Here’s to spring, cheers!
1 packet active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups warm water (110 degrees)
5 cups all purpose flour (1 2/3 pounds), plus more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups cold, salted butter, (preferably European-style; 4 sticks), plus 2 tablespoons melted (divided)
About 2 cups granulated sugar, for dusting and sprinkling
In a medium bowl, stir the yeast into the warm water until disolved. let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, salt and melted butter on low speed. Add the water-yeast mixture and continue to mix until well combined, about 2 minutes.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down the dough, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Slice the remaining 4 sticks butter into squares about 1/2 inch thick. Refrigerate until ready to use.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the chilled dough to an 18-inch square. On top of the square, arrange the chilled butter pieces so that they form an 8-by-8 inch diamond. Fold the sides of the dough over the butter to enclose, and pinch the edges to seal. Roll out the dough into a 24-by-8 inch rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds as you would a business letter, aligning the edges carefully and brushing off any excess flour. Wrap the dough in plastic; chill for 20 minutes. This completes the first of three turns.
Repeat the rolling and folding process two more times, starting the rolling with the dough positioned with the flap opening on the right, as if it were a book. Refrigerate at least 1 hour between the second and third rollings. After the third rolling, wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate 6-8 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. on a well-sugared work surface, roll out dough to a 24-by-12 inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick. Using a pizza wheel or knife, cut dough into eight-teen 4 inch squares. Working with one square at a time, fold each corner toward the center, pressing down firmly to seal, thus creating a smaller square–flower like. Repeat on all the squares. Sprinkle generously with sugar, place on a baking sheet as you work. Let rise in a warm place until slightly puffed about 30-40 mins.
Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until the pastries are golden brown and edges are caramelized, 30-35 minutes. immediately transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. These are best eaten the same day they are made (and you may not be able to help yourself otherwise!)
My pastries came undone in the oven so instead of looking like the nice little flowers in the dough image, they were more flat–but still delicious. You can also make this as a whole cake, explained by D. Lebovitz.
Happy Kouign Amann making! And eating!