Kouign-Amann (pronounced queen amann), is a sugary, buttery pastry from Finistère, Brittany in France. The kouign-amann dates back to 1860 and the literal translation of the Breton words are kouign=cake amann=butter. The recipe resembles a croissant dough, but with less layers and no proving time.
Pastry is wrapped around a butter block (beurrage) and then rolled and folded, much like puff pastry. The laminated dough is then rolled in sugar, cut into squares and folded to take on the traditional shape. Kouign-amann have become more popular since they appeared on The Great British Bake Off and they are sometimes made into a spiral as well.
There seems to be a variety of methods for making the kouign-amann, some allow for proving time once they have been shaped and others just let the dough rest in the fridge before shaping and don’t allow any proving time before baking. The most important part though is the caramelisation and all recipes agree on this one. The sugar is added at the end and folded into the dough. Instead of rolling out the dough in flour, it’s rolled in sugar and shaped in a sugar mound.
When you make these, be sure to use a good butter as well, it makes all the difference as these are basically butter, sugar and flour. When I say a good butter, I mean something with a high butterfat content, Lurpak or any of the French brands are always a good choice.
I used fresh yeast to make these, but I have included amounts for dried yeast too, and you can use this handy conversion if you’re not sure of the quantities to use.
- 275g Plain Flour
- 5g Salt
- 235g Unsalted Butter, plus extra for greasing
- 5g Fresh Yeast/3g Active Dried Yeast
- 165ml Tepid Water
- 225g Caster Sugar, plus extra for folding
- Put the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook fitted. Rub in 10g of the butter. Mix the yeast with the water, then add to the flour and mix to form a dough. Knead for 6-8 minutes until it becomes elastic, then chill for 1 hour. Take the remaining butter out of the fridge and shape it into a rectangle measuring 10x6cm.
- Roll the dough into a rectangle large enough to cover the butter on a lightly floured surface. Place the butter in the centre and fold over the sides of the dough to encase it. Roll the dough into a rectangle, fold one third of the dough up from the bottom like a letter, fold the top down to cover the bottom third of dough.
- Turn the dough clockwise 45 degrees, roll it into a rectangle and repeat the same fold and turn. Cover the dough in cling-film and leave it to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/Gas 4) and grease 12 pastry rings and place them on a non-stick mat on a baking tray, or grease a muffin tin. Sprinkle half the sugar on the work surface and roll out the dough, sprinkle the remaining sugar on top and make another turn, folding the dough like a letter.
- The dough should take all of the sugar, roll it so that it is all included and the dough makes a square that is 4mm thick. Cut the dough into 12 9cm squares and work quickly to keep the kouign-amann cool.
- Make a sugar mound on the work surface and place a square of the dough on top. Fold in all four corners and press them into the centre. Take the new four corners and press them into the centre, so you have almost what looks like a circle of dough now.
- Place the sugared dough into the prepared pastry ring and repeat with the remaining 11 dough squares, bake for 25-30 minutes until golden. Leave to cool slightly, then run a knife or spatula around the edge of the rings or tin and release the kouign-amann. Don't leave them too long or the sugar will set hard and you'll never free them in one piece from the mould.
I used my AEG SteamBake oven to bake half the batch of kouign-amann and then I baked the other half without steam, so that I could do one of those TV style comparisons. The batch baked with steam had more space between the layers, a more even rise in the oven and a really delicious crunchy texture on the outside and soft on the inside. The SteamBaked kouign-amann is the one on the left in both photos.
I will be doing a comprehensive review of the AEG SteamBake oven in another blog post and I’ll let you in on all of the features, including the self-cleaning function :-).
Whilst I was photographing these kouign-amann I did have a little helper, who really wanted to try one himself, but he was very restrained and after I finished photographing them, he may have had the tiniest of crumbs.
Thanks for reading.