I’m not exaggerating when I said this pastry changed my life.
The first time I tried kouign amaan was during my summer abroad in France, visiting St. Malo on a day trip on the Brittany coast. This area is known for its salty air, so when wandering into a pastry shop we immediately started looking at the salted caramel sauce.
I bought the sauce and my friend bought a pastry called a kouignette and we left, then she took a bite. Then we all took a bite. Then we all went back in and I bought 6 and that was my dinner. I’m not joking when I say they literally leaked butter when you bit into them.
That was my first experience with kouign amaan (they were individual sized, hence kouignette), a pastry that is traditionally full cake sized and is dough and butter and sugar laminated into beautiful layers and caramelized into heaven in a pastry.
Since that fateful day, I’ve tried about 4 different recipes and this is by far the winner. It’s from Dominique Ansel’s cookbook, and I feel like the man who invented the Cronut knows something about butter. It’ll take you about 4 hours all in, but oh boy is it worth it.
- 3 cups and 2 tbsp flour, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 1/4 cups and 2 1/2 tbsp tepid water
- 26 tbsp softened butter (I used salted, if you use unsalted then add another tbsp of salt)
- 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, water, 1 tbsp butter and yeast and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and knead the dough for 5 minutes (the dough will be sticky, so sprinkle more flour as needed). The dough will be smooth, slightly tacky and elastic.
Lightly grease a medium bowl and place dough in the bowl, covering with a cloth. Allow to rise at room temperature for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Once risen, punch down dough to release the gas and place on a large piece of plastic wrap. Press into it to form a 10 inch square, wrap tightly and place in the freezer for 30 minutes, flipping the dough once after 15 minutes to ensure it chills evenly.
Meanwhile, on a large piece of parchment paper, draw a 7 inch square. Flip the paper so the mark is on the other side. Place the remaining 25 tbsp butter in the square and spread evenly (I used a butter knife) to fill the square. Refrigerate until firm but pliable, about 20 minutes.
Remove butter from fridge and ensure that it is still pliable (it should bend slightly without cracking). Remove dough from freezer and place it on lightly floured work surface. Place butter on top of the dough square in a diamond formation as shown below, and pull the corners of the dough over the butter as if making an envelope. Pinch together the seams to seal the butter inside.
Take your rolling pin and roll the dough out from the centre until it triples in length, dusting surface with flour as needed. Your rectangle should be 24×10 inches, with the long side running left to right. From the right side, fold one third of the dough into the middle of the rectangle and repeat on the left, as if you’re folding a letter. Line up edges to ensure the rectangle is even.
Now you will have a smaller rectangle again. With the dough seam on your right, roll out dough again vertically until you have another rectangle that is 24×10 inches. Fold it like a letter, as before.
Once again, roll out the dough vertically to a 24×10 inch rectangle and fold as before like a letter. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in the fridge for 30-40 minutes.
Sprinkle a thin, even layer of sugar on your work surface and place chilled dough on it. Roll out the dough again to a 24×10 inch rectangle and sprinkle a thin layer of sugar across the top of the dough, folding into a letter fold.
“Re-sugar” your work surface at this point, again sprinkling sugar all over it and placing the dough on top. Roll out the dough one last time to a 24×10 inch rectangle and sprinkle a thin layer of sugar across the top. Cut dough into 4 inch squares using a chef’s knife.
Sprinkle a bit more sugar on your work surface and place a square on it. Fold in the corners of the square to the centre, pressing down. Then fold the new corners formed into the centre and press down.
Either in a greased muffin tin or on a sheet pan lined with a silicon mat and using pastry rings, sprinkle sugar on the bottom of each tin or on the bottom of the mat. Place a square of dough in each tin compartment, or if using pastry rings, in the middle of each ring, folding in the excess dough as needed. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
Bake at 365F on the centre rack for 15 minutes, then turn the pan 180 degrees and bake 15 minutes more, until golden brown and doubled in size. Allow to cool inverted (flat side up) onto a room temperature sheet pan.
Recipe adapted from Dominique Ansel: The Secret Recipes