The Return Of Salted Butter

Forget everything you’ve been told about salted butter.

Ok.
There, I hope that was easy.

(Now forget my last column.)

I’ve recently reconverted to salted butter.
Most recipe-writers like myself call for unsalted butter because it’s easier to gauge how much salt will be used in the recipe and everyone seems to be on an exactitude kick when baking. Lighten up, home cooks. If people followed traffic rules with the same methodical precision they followed recipes we’d all be a lot safer.

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Kouign Amann took me a few years to learn to pronounce (although I tried to describe this to a French person) it’s pronounced like “shwing” from Wayne’s World, which lost something for better or worse in the translation. It’s perhaps the best known dessert of this region. Driving through villages and cities, you’ll find them piled high in the window of bakeries. Layers of flaky pastry cooked with obscene amounts of salted butter and sugar. When cooked right, the combination of melt-away pastry and salty caramel is unbelievable.

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However since I wrote the last column on getting larger, I figured I’d better hold back on further descriptions of Kouign Amann and switch to gâteaux Bretons and palets Bretons. Both are basically buttery shortcakes with that lip-coating-just-near-the-ocean saltiness that cuts the richness of the butter.

Palets Bretons are small, cake-like confections (shown piled above) that have the consistency of rich cornbread with the exact blend of tender-toughness that Clint Eastwood is beginning to aspire to. Gâteaux Bretons are larger cakes made of rich better, poured into a cake mold, scraped with a fork, then baked until golden brown. When done right it’s perhaps the most delicious thing in the universe. The picture that you see here means that a lot of people will get to experience that delicious-ness themselves.

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My favorite place for palets Bretons is C. Ferchaux on the rue Général de Gaulle in Ploubazlanec (Bretons have a different language, and many of the names and places are full of “z’s”. You should have heard me trying to give directions.) I practically died walking in the bakery. The overwhelming smell of butter was greater than that of a butter farm I once visited. On the countertop was a big pot of rice pudding that the woman informed me gets cooked in the oven alongside the bread for 4 hours. I took a picture, but it would take a better food stylist than me to get rich pudding to look unctuous in a photo, so I skipped it in favor of the cakes.

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1 comment

  • I’ve never made Kouing Amann…I couldn’t afford all that butter! There’s a recipe in The Best of Better Baking.com by Marcy Goldman that looks do-able. If there’s a Kouing Amann in one of Pierre Hermés books by Dorie Greenspan, it’s probably a terrific recipe and works well (he was the pastry chef at Laduree and Dorie is a whiz at recipe-writing.) Be sure to use salted butter! I’d be interested to know how it turns out.