I know – you’re all like, wha????
Let me explain……
Do you ever “discover” something you’ve never seen before, and then it seems like you see it everywhere? All the time?
This is like that – except it’s the exact opposite.
Bear with me…….
Remember when I participated in the NYC Food Blogger Bake Sale? In addition to donating these cookies, I also worked a shift at the sale. Of course, I couldn’t help but take a bunch of goodies home myself. And while most people gravitated toward the rich chocolate cookies and brownies, I spotted something that just looked like it would be right up my alley. It was labelled “kouign amann”, baked by this talented chef.
I had no idea what it was, but I decided to take a chance.
And it was the single best thing I took away from the sale.
Crispy-chewy, deeply caramelized – heaven.
Kouign amann (pronounced “koo-ween ah-mahn”) is French in origin – from Brittany, to be exact – and tastes as if a palmier and a croissant were baked into a cake.
I was thrilled to have “discovered” this delectable dessert, and I was convinced that now that I knew about it, I would see it everywhere.
Except I didn’t. Literally, I could not find this pastry anywhere.
If you follow me here, you know that I recently took Chelsea to Paris. And kouign amanns were everywhere. At the farmer’s market. At a little bakery near our hotel. And in some of the fanciest patisseries in the city.
And I came home determined to make them for myself.
Yet even an exhaustive internet search yielded very few recipes. There were plenty of French sites, but if you’ve ever translated a recipe on-line you know that the instructions are sketchy at best. For example:
“Let stand for at least one hour thirty-two hours.”
“Remove from oven and sprinkle the cake with melted butter which is in the mold, or leave the cake alone drink butter!”
I’m not even kidding.
But then I found “the” recipe, from the indubitable David Lebovitz. His instructions were clear, concise and best of all, in English! And I was delighted to discover that kouign amann was not hard at all to make.
And I encourage you to do the same.
I’ve since found out that one of my favorite bakeries in New York – Dominique Ansel – carries kouign amann. You may have read about this place recently due to the “cronut” craze that has taken over the city. It’s been quite a phenomenon, inspiring foodies to wait on line up to two hours before the store opens (they only make 200 a day, sell out in minutes, and once they’re gone that’s it). And in true New York fashion there have been sightings of cronut “scalpers” (buying up the maximum 3-per-person and re-selling them for up to four times the original price), as well as wannabes at other bakeries (derisively called “fauxnuts”).
I’m banking on the fact that most people are completely overlooking the kouign amanns, which ensures that there will be plenty for me.
I like bucking trends anyway, don’t you?
adapted from David Lebovitz
1 T. active dry yeast (not instant)
3/4 c. warm water (between 105 and 115 degrees)
2 c. flour
1/2 t. sea salt
1 c. (200 g) sugar, divided, plus extra for rolling out the pastry
1 stick salted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled (see notes, below)
2-3 T. additional salted butter, melted
In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water with a pinch of sugar – let stand for 10 minutes until foamy.
Gradually stir in the flour and salt. The dough should be soft, but not too sticky. Lightly dust your work surface with flour and transfer the dough onto it. (see notes, below)
Knead the dough with your hands until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes. If the dough is very sticky, knead in a little more flour, one tablespoon at a time.
Brush a medium bowl with melted butter, place the dough in (rolling around to coat lightly) and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest in a warm place for one hour. Meanwhile, line a dinner plate with plastic wrap and set aside.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12″ x 18″ with the shorter sides to your left and right (you can sprinkle the dough with a little flour to help with any sticking).
Place the butter pieces in the center of the dough and sprinkle with 1/4 c. (50 g.) of sugar. Grab the left side of the dough, lift and fold it over the center, and do the same with the right side. You should have what resembles a 3-level pastry.
Sprinkle the entire length of the dough with ¼ cup (50 g.) of sugar, roll it flat and and fold it into thirds again.
Place the pastry on your prepared dinner plate, cover and chill for one hour.
Dust your work surface generously with sugar.
Place the chilled dough on your work surface, and sprinkle with 1/4 c. (50 g.) of sugar, pressing it in a bit with your hands. Roll into a rectangle, fold it into thirds, cover and chill for an hour.
Pre-heat your oven to 425. Generously butter a 9″ pie plate (see notes).
Roll dough into a circle about the size of your pie pan, sprinkling with sugar as needed to help with the sticking.
Gently lift the dough and place into your prepared pan. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 c. (50 g.) of sugar and drizzle with 1 T. melted butter.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is deeply caramelized. Place the pan on a cooling rack for a few minutes, and then run a thin angled spatula around the edges to release the cake. Cool completely on the rack.
1. Of course you should use the best French butter you can find. That said, you can fake it by sprinkling a little fleur de sel across the top of the butter/sugar mixture prior to folding, and then again across the top before baking.
2. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, you can use it to knead the dough instead of using your hands.
3. David Lebovitz recommends using a non-stick pie pan. Not having one, I used one of my Pyrex pans, greasing generously. I don’t know if I didn’t coat it enough or what, but the cake was very difficult to remove. I did go out and by a non-stick pie pan (about $7 at Chef Central) – and it made ALL the difference.
This delicious recipe brought to you by Sheri Silver