Results tagged Brittany from David Lebovitz

Kouign Amann Recipe

Is there anything more fabulous than something created through the wonder and miracle of caramelization?

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Is there no means and ends that one won’t go to to experience that sigh with relief when one triumphantly pulls this perfectly-caramelized melange of butter, sugar, and salt out of their oven? I think not.

Those butter-loving Bretons invented this unique gâteau for delivering the maximum dose of caramel: an all-encompassing dessert, which does double-duty at tea time. And I’ve been obsessed with figuring out how to make a perfect Kouign Amann, one of my favorite caramelized things in the world. And here are my results.

I searched long-and-wide for Kouign Amann recipes, which are rare…either they’re really sketchy, assuming that no one will actually dare to make it, or they didn’t work at all and I was left with a wet, buttery mess.

This week, I pulled disk-after-caramelized-disk out of my oven in a obsessive attempt to master this dessert that I love so much. This was also much to the delight of friends and neighbors, who never thought they could get enough Kouign Amann. After all my tinkering, by now they have.

I also learned why it was so hard to find a good Kouign Amann, it’s a bit of a challenge. So if you’d like to make a Kouign Amann, here’s a few tips I learned that will help you out before you get going…


  • Use the best salted butter you can find. I use Breton salted butter, which is easy to find in France. But use whichever good salted butter you can find and flick few grains of coarse crunchy salt before folding the dough in layers and across the top before baking. It’s a pretty good approximation of the real thing.

    (There is actually only one stick of butter in the recipe, 1 tablespoon per serving, so the resulting cake seems more buttery than it actually is.)

  • This is a very sticky dough. You should have a metal bench or pastry scraper or a metal spatula handy to help with turning, as well as to keep the dough from sticking to the counter top.

  • Work fast. Letting the dough sit on the counter and warm up is not a good idea. Roll quickly.

  • Although I recommend waiting about 1 hour between rolling out the pastry layers, you can wait several hours (or overnight) for example, if you have a bit of extra time.

  • It is strictly forbidden to think about diets while your making a Kouign Amann.

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Kouign Amann

About 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 tablespoon (12 g) active dry yeast, not instant
  • ¾ cup (175 ml) tepid water
  • 2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar (which will be divided later)
  • (Plus additional sugar for rolling out the pastry)
  • 1 stick salted butter (110 g), cut into ½-inch (2 cm) pieces and chilled
  • 2-3 tablespoons additional salted butter, melted

1. In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water with a pinch of sugar. Stir briefly, then let stand for 10 minutes until foamy.

2. Gradually stir the flour and salt. The dough should be soft, but not too sticky. Lightly dust your countertop with flour and transfer the dough onto it.

Knead the dough with your hands until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes. If the dough is very sticky, knead in just enough flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough doesn’t stick to your hands.

3. Brush a medium bowl with melted butter, put the dough ball into the bowl. Cover, and let rest in a warm place for 1 hour.

4. Meanwhile, line a dinner plate with plastic wrap and set aside.

5.On a lightly floured countertop, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12″ x 18″ with the shorter sides to your left and right.

The dough may be sticky and difficult to handle. Use a metal pastry scraper to coax the dough into shape, and a minimal sprinkling of flour, as necessary.
(It will all be beautiful later, trust me.)

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Distribute the butter in the center of the dough and sprinkle with ¼ cup (50 gr) of sugar. Grab the left side of the dough, lift and fold it over the center, than do the same with the right side (like a letter). You should have what resembles a 3-level pastry.

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6. Sprinkle the entire length of the dough with ¼ cup (50 gr) of sugar and (without rolling) fold again into thirds, as before.

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Place on the plastic wrap-covered dinner plate and chill for 1 hour.

(At this point, wipe excess flour from the countertop and dust the countertop with a rather liberal handful of sugar for rolling out the pastry again.)

7. Once chilled, remove dough from refrigerator.

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Ease it away from the plastic onto the sugar-covered countertop.
(Use more sugar than shown. I was busy doing double-duty as the photographer and baker.)

Top the dough with ¼ cup (50 gr) of sugar, press it in a bit with your hands, and roll into a rectangle for the last time.

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Now wasn’t it easier this time?

Again, fold into thirds and let rest in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.

8. Preheat oven to 425° F (220° C) and brush a 9-inch (23cm) pie plate, preferably non-stick, with melted butter.

9. Remove dough from refrigerator. Roll dough into a circle about the size of the baking pan. It will be sticky; dusting the top with a sprinkle of sugar will help.

Once rolled, lift the dough and coax it into the pan. (It will want to break. If so, fold it in half and quickly slide something flat under it, like the metal bench scrape AND a metal spatula and quickly slip it into the pan. If it does break, just piece it back together in the pan.)

10. Sprinkle with the remaining ¼ cup (50 gr) of sugar and drizzle with 1 tablespoon melted butter.

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Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is deeply caramelized. Let stand a few minutes, then run a spatula around the edges to release the Kouign Amann and slide the cake from the pan onto a cooling rack.





Kouign Amann Links

Since this is an unusual recipe, readers may appreciate a few links and photos from people who’ve made it successfully:

A reader in France shows off her Kouign Amman results. (She used a false-bottom pan, which leaked a bit.)

Kouign Amann (Flickr stream)

Another Kouign Amann, made using American ingredients.

Served with Love makes this Kouign Amann.

French Letters shows-off a buttery example as well.

Brittany’s Butter Bonanza

Of all the regions in France, one of the most peculiar is Brittany. The cuisine is hearty, earthy, and dynamic…like the terrain…

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The coastline is a virtual lunar landscape of jutting rock formations, with pristine beaches tucked in between. Consequently, upper Brittany is somewhat remote and not a popular tourist destination. Most of my days began at a almost-deserted beach with a dip in a frigid, clear water, and finished at a lively crêperie, picking through a mound of moules frites, steaming-hot mussels simmered with white wine and local shallots, served with a overly-generous pile of frites that I thought I’d never be able to finish. (But of course, I always did…mustn’t be rude.)

Ah, summer vacation in Brittany. There’s not much to do here except swim in the chilly water, and eat seafood, red onions (more about them in a later post), and…the delicious salted butter.

Unlike the rest of France, the Bretons don’t eat much cheese…in fact, there’s no local cheeses that I can think of that are produced there and I didn’t see one fromagerie in ten days. But they make up for it by offering up lots of butter, which they’re justifiably famous for. When you compliment a local pastry shop or restaurant on their cuisine, they will invariably respond proudly, “C’est la buerre de Bretagne!

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There’s also not so much wine wine consumed either, since the locals drink plenty of sparkling, lightly-alcoholic apple cider. A fizzy bottle is popped open before each meal and served in a traditional bolées, similar to a squat coffee cup with a handle.

But back the butter—it’s the best I’ve ever tasted. Breton butter is notable since it’s almost always flecked with large, coarse grains of salt that crunch when you bite into them. I spread some on my toast each morning before drizzling it with bitter chestnut honey. Much of the salt used is harvested on ponds and marshes in the Guérande, where the famed fleur de sel is harvested as well. And unlike the rest of the country, Bretons often butter their bread, which is never done elsewhere in France except with oysters, which are customarily served with buttered rye bread, pain de seigle. (So next time you’re in Paris and that waiter gives you a disapproving sneer when you ask for butter, tell him you’re from Brittany.)

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Naturally much of this butter makes its way into buckwheat crêpes, or galettes de blé noir (when made with buckwheat flour, or blé noir, they’re normally called galettes rather than crêpes. You can buy crêpes at most of the local pastry shops, and if you’re lucky, they’re still warm.

One night I picked up a stack and for simple dessert, I heated a bottle of hard apple cider in a skillet, added a handful of unrefined cassonade sugar, a modest knob of Breton salted butter and some delicious prunes from Gascony. Once the cider was sweet and syrupy, I added some folded crêpes, a pour of Calvados, and voila!

Perhaps the most famous dessert of the region is the Far Breton. Far is the Breton word for ‘custard’, and the Far Breton is remarkably similar to a custard tart sans the crust. Like everything, there are good versions, and not-so-good versions (like pretzels on the streets of Manhattan). You’ll find Far Breton everywhere in Brittany; in supermarkets, outdoor markets, restaurants, and pastry shops. Like flan in Paris (which is a wedge of custard tart, and not the inverted caramel custard that many of us are used to,) a slab of Far Breton with prunes is often a mid-afternoons snack, or le goûter for hungry folks.

Although I find most of them rather dense and heavy, I knew that if I tried as many as possible like Goldilock’s, I would certainaly find the version that was “just right”. And sure enough, the best was from a pastry shop in Lesnevin called Labbé, a few steps off the main square.

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(If you’re looking for a recipe, you might want to try the one by Dorie Greenspan that appeared in Bon Appétit recently.)


Another extraordinary treat is the Kouign amann, which is pronounced (and spelled) a few different ways, depending on your accent. I learned to say it by rhyming Kouign with the word schwing!, from Wayne’s World…which I’ve tried to explain with a sharp thrust of my hips to French people but it doesn’t seem to translate very well, and people were looking at me funny, so I gave up.

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A friend who visited Brittany once wrote me and said, “A stick of butter would seem light in comparison!..” when describing his first encounter withKouign amann. And indeed, the word amann is the Breton word for butter.

I had to try one from several bakeries, since it’s one of my favorite desserts: layers of flaky pastry baked with plenty of salted butter and sugar, until it’s all dark, crisp, and caramelized? Bring it on. Sometimes they’ll sell it by the slab at outdoor markets, and they slice off a hunk for you and sell it by the kilo. But the best thing I ate all week was…

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Ok, I know what you’re thinking. Here I was surrounded by fabulous buttery creations, but then I discovered strawberries from Plougastel. But honestly, these were the best strawberries I’ve ever had. Although usually I judge fruit based on it’s aroma before I buy (and these had little smell), these looked so ruby-red and glistening, that I just had to try them. Each one was sweet-sweet-sweet! Each was juicy with flavor, like a soft piece of sweet strawberry candy and deep red all the way through. I’ve never had strawberries like that before, although I’ve seen them in the markets in Paris, they never looked so appealing as they did at that village fruit market in Brittany.



Related Links and Posts

Alledgedly the Birthplace of Kouign Amann

Le Bateau en chocolat (Georges Larnicol launches a chocolate boat, video)

Kouign Amann Recipe

A Great Kouign Amann in Paris

Kig ha farz

Larnicol: Kouign Amann in Paris