Kouign Amann is a buttery flaky pastry made with a yeasted dough. The process to make the the dough is very similar to making croissant dough, with the big difference being the final shaping and the addition of sugar between the final layers.
The shatteringly crisp layers are so delicious. I immediately ate two about 15 minutes after they emerged from the oven.
Kouign Amann originated in the region of Brittany (Bretagne), on the northwestern corner of France. It was an independent kingdom up until the 16th century, until it became part of France. The name Kouign Amann reflects the original Breton words for butter and cake.
I learned about the Celtic heritage of that particular region of France the first time we visited Dublin. We were in a restaurant and our waiter sounded French, so we asked him if he was from France. His answer, "No, I'm from Brittany." This Breton was very proud of his heritage!
These little pastries take a few hours to make, most of that time being hands off to allow the dough to chill in the refrigerator between turns. If time is an issue, you can make and chill your dough overnight and do your turns in the morning, or you can complete all of the laminating in one day, and then chill your shaped Kouign Amann overnight, to be baked in the morning. This is what I did, and had fresh Kouign Amann for Sunday breakfast.
"Turns" you ask? That is the process of laminating the dough with a thin layer of butter. A butter block is wrapped with the dough, and then the dough is rolled out and folded in thirds four times, creating thin layers of dough separated by thin layers of butter. If I've done my math correctly, there are about 80 layers of butter in this dough. The trick is to keep everything cold, but not so cold that the butter cracks.
Because there is such a manageable amount of dough, this is the perfect recipe to try laminating for the first time. Give it a try! Even if your butter gets lumpy or peeks through, press on. The results are amazing.
Kouign Amann Recipe
300 to 340 grams unbleached all purpose flour
5 g instant yeast
3/4 tsp salt
200 ml warm (90 to 95 degrees F) water
25 g unsalted butter, melted
250 g cold unsalted butter (about 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons)
100 g caster sugar (finely ground sugar, you can do this in a mini food processor)
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add 300 grams of flour, yeast, salt, water, and melted butter, and hand stir with the dough hook to wet all of the ingredients.
- Knead on low for two minutes. Check the hydration of the dough. It should be tacky but not overly sticky. 300 grams of flour was fine for me. Be careful not to add too much flour.
- Knead on medium for 6 minutes.
- Scrape the dough out of the mixer, and form it into a ball. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for one hour.
- In the meantime, create the butter block. Roll the butter between two pieces of parchment into a 5 1/2 inch square. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 8 inch square. Place the chilled butter block in the middle, on an angle (so the points are in the middle of each "side" of the dough), and fold the corners of the dough over it like an envelope to enclose the butter completely.
- Roll the dough/butter envelope into a 6 inch by 18 inch rectangle. Fold the bottom third of the dough over the middle third of the dough. Fold the top third of the dough over that, as if folding a letter. You should have a square. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Repeat this process two more times, refrigerating the dough for 30 minutes between each turn.
- After the last chilling of the dough, roll it into a 6 inch by 18 inch rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with sugar and then fold it into thirds again. Quickly roll the dough into a 16 by 12 inch rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with the caster sugar, and cut it into 12 squares.
- Butter a 12 cavity muffin tin. Gather the squares up by their four corners and place them in the buttered muffin tins. Press the corners together. Sprinkle with more caster sugar. At this point, you can either refrigerate the pastries overnight, or bake them immediately.
- Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let sit until slightly puffy, about 30 minutes. If you have refrigerated them, let them sit for about an hour to an hour and a half at room temperature before baking.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Tent with foil (check at about the 15 minute mark) if they are getting too brown too early.
- Remove them from the oven and wait just a couple of minutes before turning them out onto a cooling rack. Let cool about 10 minutes (if you can!), and then serve.
- To save for later, individually wrap each completely cooled Kouign Amann with plastic, and place them in a freezer bag. When you are ready to eat one, defrost it, and then place them in a 350 degree F oven for about 5 minutes.