Kouign Amman

Breton Butter & Sugar Pastry

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes one

    10 inch

    cake, about 12 generous servings

Appears in

This Breton specialty is like a cross between croissant dough and palmiers—rolling and folding in butter and lots of sugar at the same time. The result is flaky, buttery, and irresistible.

Ingredients

Dough

  • teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup warm water, about 110°F (45°C)
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Rolling and Folding

  • 8 ounces (2 sticks/225 grams) unsalted butter, chilled
  • ¼ cup flour (you may not need all of it)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • One 10-inch (25-cm) cake pan 2 inches (5 cm) deep, buttered and the bottom lined with a disk of parchment cut to fit

Method

  1. Whisk the yeast into the water and set aside.
  2. Stir the flour and salt together with a large rubber spatula in a medium bowl.
  3. Whisk the melted butter into the yeast mixture and gently stir the mixture into the flour and salt to make a soft dough. Avoid overmixing or the dough will become elastic and difficult to handle later on.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. After the dough has chilled, place the butter for rolling and folding on a floured work surface and pound it gently with a rolling pin to soften it—the object is to get the butter to be about the same consistency as the dough. Add pinches of flour to the butter, but don’t use more than ¼ cup of flour for the process. Use a plastic scraper or a bench scraper to push the butter into a cohesive mass once it is soft and malleable.
  6. Scatter about ¼ cup of the sugar on the work surface and scrape the chilled dough onto it. Use your hands to press the dough into a rough rectangle, then Hour it lightly. Roll the dough with gentle strokes until it is a rectangle about 8 × 12 inches (20 × 30 cm.
  7. Position the dough so that one of the shorter ends is facing you. Smear tablespoon bits of the butter evenly all over the ⅔ of the dough closer to you, leaving the top ⅓ unbuttered.
  8. Fold the top (unbuttered) portion of the dough over the middle (buttered) section, then fold the bottom (buttered) portion up over the middle section to make a package of 3 layers of dough enclosing 2 layers of butter (figure a). Scatter about ¼ cup of the sugar on the work surface and the dough and turn the package so that one of the short ends is facing you again. Gently press the dough with the rolling pin in even strokes to make it thinner. Roll the dough back into an 8 × 12-inch (20 × 30-cm) rectangle.
  9. Fold the dough as before, folding the top portion over the middle and the bottom portion up. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 1 hour.
  10. Place the dough back on a sugared work surface and sprinkle the dough again with about ¼ cup of the sugar. Position it again so that one of the short ends is facing you. Roll the dough back into an 8 × 12-inch (20 × 30-cm) rectangle and fold it again as in step 8.
  11. Cover the dough with a towel and let it rest on the work surface for 15 minutes.
  12. Generously sprinkle the work surface with about ¼ cup of the sugar and roll the dough out into a 10-inch (25-cm) disk. Press the corners inward as you roll so that the sides of the dough are as rounded as possible (figure b). You may trim the dough a little to help make it into a disk, but don’t waste too much of it.
  13. Fold the dough in half and place it in the prepared pan. Unfold the disk and press it into as round a shape as possible (figure c). Scatter any remaining sugar on top.
  14. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until it is well puffed but not doubled, about 2 hours.
  15. About 20 minutes before you intend to bake the kouign amman, set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F (180°C). Bake the kouign amman until it is well puffed and the sugar is caramelized, about 1 hour. Watch it carefully during the last 20 minutes of baking to make sure the sugar doesn’t start to get too dark. If it does, lower the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C) and continue baking until the pastry is firm and caramelized.
  16. Cool the kouign amman in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then invert it from the pan onto a rack or cardboard, remove the paper, and turn it right side up again on a rack. Cool completely.

Serving

Kouign amman is good at anytime of the day or night, but especially as a snack with tea or coffee—it isn’t really a dessert. Cut thin wedges; it is rich and sweet.

Storage

Keep loosely covered on the day it is baked. Double wrap and freeze for longer storage. After freezing, defrost and reheat at 350°F (180°C), and cool before serving.