A Great Kouign Amann, in Paris

frenchpastries

I’m not going to say a thing, because I’m certain I did the same thing back in the day. But a lot of people who are en route to Paris ask me where they can find things like bouillabaisse, a true salade Niçoise, or Kig ha farz, and when I answer, “You can’t”, they either don’t believe me, or get irked because they think I’m being elusive and keeping those addresses a secret and probably say mean things about me behind my back.

To get those things, you need to go where they originate; they just don’t travel outside their particular region in France. I’m not sure if it’s because in America, we’re used to things being available whenever and wherever we want. Or because of our “melting pot” status, we readily accept foods from other parts of the country and the world with a little more fluidity than they do elsewhere.

But I’ve been duped one too many times in places like New York City, that advertise “San Francisco-style” burritos, which are about as close to the original as most of the rice-plumped salades Niçoises you’ll find on the Île-de-France are.

(The true salade Niçoise should only contain raw vegetables: cooked eggs are allowed, and in some cases, canned tuna or anchovies. But that’s it, folks. And don’t get me started on those New York City burritos…and I use the term “burrito” loosely. If you cut it in half and can see any air pockets, it’s not a burrito.)

I’ve learned my lesson and will stick to Black & White cookies, corned beef sandwiches, and the Halal stand in Manhattan.


And I’m staying away from the barbecue sticklers, but let’s just say that if you want to get Texas or Kansas City BBQ, people who live in those place would likely not recommend addresses elsewhere. So I think this regional-centricism holds partially true in the land of the free and the brave—albeit uninsured—as well.

3frenchpastries

Often I’m asked by folks coming to Paris where they could find a good Kouign amann, the Breton pastry made by folding an overload of butter and sugar between sheets of puff pastry, then baking it until the whole things caramelizes into one bronzed, buttery disk. I suppose I brought it upon myself for bringing it up in the first place, since it’s not well-known elsewhere. But when you bite into a good one, it should shatter into a gazillion buttery-wisps that stick to your lips, flutter and flit around, leaving evidence all over your shirt and jacket. And while I’d seen decent versions of them in Paris, and have heard rumors of vendors from Brittany sneaking them into some of the outdoor markets in Paris, I’d not seen one that I would recommend with certainty—until I saw this one at Blé Sucré bakery.

I’ve been to Brittany numerous times and had plenty of Kouign amann, which means “Butter Cake” in Breton. But since they’re not Parisian (like me), they’re either too-fancy, or too restrained (unlike me) with the butter and caramel, which leaves me craving the real thing even more. But this one, this impeccably-slick disk was practically talking to me from the shelf at the shop. I kid you not. I was taping a television segment there and I could barely wait for the camera to stop before I could swoop down on one.

And if they play back the tape and hear a little voice, in French (or Breton) saying, “Daveed…mangez-moi!“…or however they say it in Breton…then you’ll know I wasn’t imagining it and you can stop laughing at me.

quetschtart

One thing I’m sure I wasn’t imagining was this flaky tarte aux quetsches, made with the last-of-the-season prune plums, fused to the laminated layers of buttery pastry underneath. Like the Kouign amann, and everything else at Blé Sucré, it’s nothing to snicker at. But the jury’s still out on me.

Blé Sucré
Square Trousseau
7, rue Antoine Vollon (12th)
Tél: 01 43 40 77 73
Métro: Ledru-Rollin
Closed Sunday & Monday

Related Posts

Brittany’s Butter Bonanza

Larnicol: Kouign Amann in Paris

The Best Madeleines in Paris

Kouign Amann Recipe

Pimping my Crêpes

Allegedly The Birthplace of Kouign Amann

The Best Crêpes in Paris

Kig Ha Farz (Buckwheat dumpling) Recipe

54 comments

  • I must admit, I’m sceptique, but knowing how good so many of the things at Blé Sucré are, I will give this the benefit of the doubt and rush over there asap to see if it is indeed as good as the absurd quantity of Kouign Amann I’ve had en Bretagne (I even usually bring extra back to distribute as gifts so other people know what a real one tastes like) over the years. Thanks David!

  • I have yet to attempt this pastry. I’ve visited your recipe on many occasions, read and looked at pictures of other attempts elsewhere on many occasions and I still I resist. It’s because of the butter. We just don’t have that butter here in the states and I just don’t want to hack out an inferior version of this and be disappointed. Am I just being too picky? Is this so good that even with inferior butter, it would still be a spectacular pastry?

  • David, you are driving me crazy writing about Blé Sucré – I was staying in the 12th just a few streets away last month, but never made it there. Too much else to do in just a week, I guess, but next time it’s at the top of the list! (and how I love that neighborhood)

  • watch out! next thing you know you will be asked for the Kouign amann recipe!

    thanks for always making me smile.

  • Susan: You can get cultured butter in America, from places like Straus and Vermont Butter & Cheese, as well as elsewhere. (If anyone tells me you can’t get good dairy in the great American farmland, the midwest, I won’t believe you.)

    It does taste a lot better and you can read more about butter either at Dorie Greenspan’s butter tip sheet and my post, butter tips, including links to how to make your own cultured butter, right at home..no matter where you live!

  • I think we are several people to beleive you : those little things absolutely talk. And the more butter, the more quality ingredients they contain, the louder their voices. Last century discovered electricity, this century discovered telecoms, I bet next century will discover and explain the telepathic abilities of good pastries :)

  • I think I could use one of those “tripple coronary bypass” Kouign Amann!

  • Well, Spencer, actually not. I returned yesterday from Bretagne, and while there I took the pleasure of reading the obituaries in “Le Telegramme de Morlaix”. It’s a funny thing to do, you know! Anyway, the deceased people were mainly in their eighties or nineties. There were, true, also a few in their fifties, but I am told it’s the cancer.
    Sorry, David, for the jolly comment! But, people there are mostly slim and fit, even though they eat a quart of butter every two days. Has the rouge anythihg to do with?

  • Mmm, that Kouign Amann certainly looks like the real deal, 9000+ layers of butter and all! In Paris I have only had a Kouign Amann by Pierre Hermé, which is pretty spectacular too. I had Blé Sucre on my to-go-to list a few weeks ago in Paris but didn’t make it there. Next time, nothing is getting in my way.

    Have you had Hermé’s Kouign Amann?

  • Adorable. And sweet. The kouign amann. And the post. Nothing to snicker at, only to smile. Thank you so much.

  • When I was in Paris, I lived only steps away from ble sucre. I’m pretty sure I bought everything available there at least once (and brought lots of their yummy jams home with me). Reading your post, David, and seeing those gorgeous pastries made my heart break a little!

  • Hmmm well I am going to Brittany for a week after Christmas in Paris so will be on the lookout for these guys. Of course, might have to try them in Paris too!!!

  • Just arrived to Paris today and I have already had a WTF moment :)
    Keep up the great posts, I have some chocolate to find!

  • thanks for posting such a delight, it brightened my Monday, and made me smile. I have to try it one day.

  • I am so pleased that you clarified this misconceived notion. I want to tear my hair out whenever people from New York tells me the best burrito to be had is from Chipotle. This is a great post for visitors to calibrate expectations or at least shatter the assumption that simply because it comes from a certain special city, it’s the best.

  • Hi, just discovered the blog and I’m so much enjoying it. I’m a French living in NY, I lived 10 years in Paris after leaving “mon Sud-Ouest natal”. And yes, Americans are LOUD and it’s a thing I still have to adjust to (especially in restaurants) after 2 years of NYC…Kouign Amann is so good, I miss all those things, I didn’t think you could find a good one in Paris. thanks, next time I’ll try it.

  • I’m visiting Paris for the first time ever with friends over Thanksgiving and have many of your recommendations plotted out on my map. Your food photos are fatting in and of themselves; can’t wait to try some of the goodies you’ve mentioned over the past few months in person. Enjoyed “The Sweet Life…” and learning more about France and cooking through your blog. Merci!

  • “Rice-plumped salades Niçoises” – WTF? That’s just… so wrong. For all the amazing food France puts out, they sure come up with some strange combos. Makes for great writing, though, especially when the writing comes from you.

  • Fournée d’Augustine’s Kouign amann is highly, dangerously. addictive. (Fournée d’Aug: Nation, rue Raymond Losserand, Batignoles).

  • Jill: Just one??

    Dawn: I don’t know what’s up with the cafés in Paris that dump a pile of rice on the salads. I like rice, but it doesn’t belong on a Niçoise salad, that’s for sure. Purists even say that potatoes don’t belong on one, since they’re cooked. But if given the choice between boiled rice and roasted potatoes, I’ll pick the taters.

    Bridget: Glad you enjoyed the book…thanks!

    Carole: I’ll say. Whenever I go back to the states, I’m stunned at how loud people are in restaurants. (Although sometimes you have to shout over the music, which should be outlawed.) But I don’t understand why everyone is so loud either. I like to talk to the people I’m dining with and can’t figure out why that’s virtually impossible in so many places in the state.

    Mardi: I love Brittany. Have fun…and be sure to hit some of the markets. I’ve done a couple of posts about the region, which you can find by using my search engine.

  • David, much of the din in restaurants is due to the decorating trends which eliminated things like carpet for stone floors and walls for open plan. There is little to absorb sound and so the noise bounces around at dangerous levels and then they play music overly loud to be heard over the noise, and then you have loud Americans shouting to be heard. There was much made of this a few years back, saying it was damaging hearing of servers, but I don’t see anything ending the trend.

  • A-MEN to the New York City burritos. They are just sad. As another Bay Area-born transplant I have a very hard time not taking it as a personal insult when someone counters my assertion that there’s no good Mexican in New York with “Well, but we have Chipotle!” It’s a real struggle not to walk in the opposite direction as fast as my little legs will carry me!

    But goodness that pastry looks amazing! If only they made them here in Ireland… you wouldn’t happen to know of a great French bakery in Dublin, would you?

    P.S. You’re nothing to snicker at! Food totally speaks. :)

  • Just realized I’m replying to Christine@Fresh, above, whoops! But obviously, it’s a shared feeling of disgust!

  • David, long shot — know of any SF/Bay Area bakers that do the Kouign Amann? I’m scared to attempt it as well. Mostly because I don’t want to know exactly how much butter I’m eating. If that thing talks, my hips are all ears.

  • Yum! I need to try a kouign amann right now! I wonder if Ble Sucre will ship to North America??

  • Laurie, in the Bay Area try Satura bakery (locations in Palo Alto, Los Altos, Campbell)…that’s where I first fell in love with the Kouign Amann! Some day, I would love to try the real deal in France…but these are pretty, darn good!

  • David, unfortunately good dairy products can be hard to find in the American Midwest, and dairy farmers nation-wide are going broke, selling their best milk cows for hamburger. It’s insane. Dairy farmers costs are way up but the prices they are getting for their milk is way down. The supermarkets, however, have not reduced the prices of dairy products to the consumer, so demand stays lower than it should be. Ah, corporate greed!

  • I was also going to mention that Satura Cakes in the Bay Area has a delicious Kouign Amann. It’s the only place I’ve tried one and I fell in love on first bite!

  • Don’t get me started on those “authentic” burritos from San Francisco. If it’s got rice in it, then that’s not a proper burrito –it’s an abomination. You might as well go to Taco Bell.

  • Just a note to tell you your book is my current bedtime reading up on the mesa west of Colorado Springs. Paris-sorry to say- is not coming up on my travel schedule anytime soon. (Though I am going to New York this weekend and will not have a burrito evidently. ) I have to make do with your heart-lifting prose for quite some time, I’d guess. Thanks!
    One thought about eating great local food locally: we can’t get Colorado lamb in Colorado unless we order it off the internet and pay to have it delivered frozen by Fed Ex. My sister orders it for me from Florida for my Christmas present. Hmmmm.

  • LindaH & Alyce: That’s like in Hawaii, if you want to buy a pineapple, they’re often more expensive than they are on the mainland since large corporations own the plantations. Luckily a lot of small places are springing up in America, like the cultured butter manufacturers I mentioned.

    I was in Ohio a few years, which a lot of people imagine is a culinary backwater. Then I went into a Dorothy Lane Market and was blown away by all the products they featured. They told me they had people come from Japan just to study what they’re doing!

    lee: That’s true to some extent. But almost all of the cafés and bistros in Paris are hard surfaces: mirrors, walls, tile floors, un-upholstered wood chairs, and hard tables without any noise-absorbing tablecloths and they are a lot quieter than restaurants are in the states. So while those factors do come into play, people keeping their voices down really helps reduce the din. (That said, you do hear people jabbering on their cell phones from time to time, but those people usually get nasty stares from others; it’s considered very rude.)

    Rodrigo: You, and Jonathan Gold, disagree with us Northern Californians about the San Francisco burrito. (What is a burrito?) I guess my allegiance is still to the Bay Area, which is why I call it a San Francisco-style burrito. Thank goodness for hypens! ; )

    -For those of you who have asked about mail-order sources for Kouign Amann: I haven’t tried it, but Les Madeleines bakery in Salt Lake City makes, what looks like, a pretty nifty Kouign Amann, which they ship.

  • I am from Southern California, David. So, yes, I’m at odds with almost anything you nocals think or say! I’m right on the border with Northern Mexico where burritos are much smaller and simpler. My personal favorite? Pork rind cooked in salsa with a slather of slightly-soupy-refried beans on the tortilla…. I never said burritos were healthy down here, just delicious. And thanks for the great links!

  • The sweet torture of this blog some days is that it dearly makes me wish I could once again eat gluten and dairy. And a few other things that I can’t/don’t, but those are the biggies for now. Maybe someday I will be able to eat it all again — I keep hoping this is not a permanent thing for me. There is a part of me that hesitates at writing the preceding as I really hate whiny people who go on and on about their health issues in a self-centered sort of fashion, especially in the comments of someone else’s blog. Ick. I don’t want my comment to denigrate into that. So, here is a little gratitude.

    I am totally grateful you have blogged about how and where people who have food intolerances can eat here in Paris — that post is how I became a regular reader here.

    And, to try to put a good spin on the grief I feel looking at the beautiful photo of the tarte aux quetsches up there, I am at least glad I can eat vicariously through the lovely photos and descriptions you write. I am also grateful that, in general, I have food to eat everyday (some are not so lucky), and I am grateful that I have gotten to experience living in Paris, something not everyone has had a chance to do. I have a lot of blessings to count.

    Now that I have spread some gratitude around, I really do have to say that there are days where it truly p*sses me off that I have come to live in a city that is known for being the best in the world for its freakin’ pastries!!!! Argh! :D Said with a smile, for there is a lot of very humorous irony in my figuring out in the Pastry Capital of the World that I cannot eat gluten & dairy. I have not lost my sense of humor in regards to this.

    Meanwhile, please keep writing sentences like this one: “… the Breton pastry made by folding an overload of butter and sugar between sheets of puff pastry, then baking it until the whole things caramelizes into one bronzed, buttery disk.” Oh *siiiigh* While, like sex, it is not as good to read about food/eating as to do it, at least reading about it is SOMETHING. LOL. Thank you.

  • Just luscious and thanks for a wonderful address. When in Brittany, I usually stick to Far and crepes (after a meal of crab or moules) and have yet to try a Kouign amann. I guess now I must. I’ll go with Hilda.

  • Oh David, you make everything sound soooo good! I was just recently in Brittany and didn’t happen to try any Kouign Amann! Next time… or I’ll have to try my hand at it…
    Just wondering- who were you taping a television segment for, and do you have any idea when we might possibly be able to catch it?

  • I’ve not had a Kouign Amman, but I think I will bookmark this page for when I go to Paris again. Hopefully Ble Sucre will still be there.

  • Natalie: It was for The View from the Bay, which will air in the spring, in conjunction with a San Francisco exhibition at the De Young Museum of paintings from the Musée d’Orsay Museum, in Paris. I’ll put it on my Schedule page, when I know the air date.

    (Except I think the host got mad at me because he wanted a raspberry brioche and they had a whole bunch of them in the showcase. But I said, “Oh, don’t worry. They have plenty.” Or course, while we were taping, someone came in and bought them all in one fell swoop. Oops…)

  • Thank you David for your article. It looks really delicious.

    I was wondering though about the plums they call “questches” in France. I have been there, in the north, maybe in Alsace, I don’t remember exactly but one day in a restaurant I had “questches au sirop” for dessert. Sooooooooo nice! Since then I’m trying to find a way to have our plums in a syrup like in France but they always get very muchy and not nice to look at.

    So I wondered if ou could help me with this simple dessert. Really I think I would have the same reaction you had when you saw your pastries waiting for you on the counter top. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Those French people are sometimes so simple with their food and it’s always wonderful. Thank you in advance to take the time to think about it for me. I wait impatiently for your answer.

    Have a good day!
    Cécile

  • It’s photos like these that make diets null and void.
    Thanks, David.
    jo

  • No, Lee–many, many Americans are loud mouths–no matter where they are.
    I have been in so many Parisian restaurants, cafes, etc and been embarrassed
    to my toes by the brash, loud laughing, yelping. It has also happened on cruises in the fine restaurants on board. Sometimes, it is shocking other times, disgusting.
    From the viewpoint–hey, if you look around and see people talking quietly–what gives them permission to take over the airwaves? (Ahhh, Lee, you have hit my pet peeve)

    David–I finished your book, The Sweet Life . . . and wished it could just go on and on and on–and I guess it does via your blog. When I see you in my in box–my day begins on a high note for sure. Leaving Bay Area for the holidays and taking the book and recipes with me to share with family and friends.

    I feel like we are old friends–a comfort to hear what is going on in Paris, sans nous :(

  • I ran out and got one this morning on the way to my university… Delicious! Very sweet and buttery but the texture was amazing. I would recommend Ble Sucre to anyone in Paris, everything has outstanding quality. They have perfect, cheap sandwiches too!

  • Your picture made me run out the door to Ble Sucre!
    fortunately it was at the end of my trip not the beginning or I don’t like to think what I would have worn on the plane home…a large paper bag:?
    I loved their K.A. and meant to get the Ketch but they forgot or I forgot or who knows.
    I will never go to Brittany -not a safe place for me…

  • That picture literally made me drool! Another thing to add to my list of reasons to visit Paris.

  • Okay, so I have ran into a few more WTF moments. It’s only been two days!
    Wanna meet me at the Musee D’Orsay to sign your book? A girl can hope–can’t she?
    Gotta go find more chocolate…

  • I have visited Brittany many times and tasted the alleged son of the inventor of this beautiful pastry. Though it could have been a tourist tale!!! But when I am in Paris I go here for my Kougian Amman top up in Montmartre.
    http://www.coquelicot-montmartre.com
    Truly wonderful and great bread and coffee too.

  • I am SO going to make your Kouign Amann this weekend. I get very excited over laminated dough!

    And as far as burritos go… I love eating and traveling, and traveling and eating, and staying home and making things to eat that I ate when I was traveling, and San Francisco holds fond traveling and eating memories for me. But I have noticed that every time I hear someone make the statement, “You can’t find good (fill in the blank with any ethnic or regional cusine) in New York”, the aforementioned person never leaves Manhattan and thinks that if they take the F train past Lexington Ave. they will enter some Twilight Zone wasteland and get eaten by monsters. Try taking the F or the 7 to QUEENS, to a little neighborhood called JACKSON HEIGHTS. There aren’t any monsters there– unless you count some of my in-laws after the Mets lose– but there are really good burritos (among other wonderful things).

  • There is a lick mark on my screen.

  • As a child I used to spend my holidays in Brittany! I have sweet memories of the Kouign amann (beside crepes de blé noir, crepes sarasin with hot chocolate…). It is just so good and so pleasant to see that here!

  • I meant to go to Blé Sucré when I was in Paris in April and didn’t. I am in deep regret right now.

  • I haven’t tasted your definitive version,but tried a Kouign Amann recently at the pretty fab Mrs. London’s bakery in Saratoga Springs.New York.It’s a damn good pastry-will make a note to visit Ble’ Sucre on my next visit…

  • Is a kouign amann similar to a palmier then? In that it is puff pastry with caramelized sugar?

  • You should check out the great Kouign Amann chez Patisserie des Rêves. I don’t know if it tastes authentic or not, but it is really, really good.

  • I’ve had the best Kouign Amann at Ladurée in Paris. Every time I visit Paris I must get this sweet treat.

  • Brittany H: I’ve had the Kouign Amann at Ladurée and it can be very good, but I’ve found sometimes they’re dry. Next time give their Kugelhof a try—that’s usually exceptional!