In February, 2016, I started to learn to make Kouign Amann. It has been a long road with many missteps in getting to this recipe and set of notes.
Kouign Amann comes from the Brittany region of France. The words mean ‘Butter Cake’ in the Breton language. It seems to be a somewhat catch-all name for a type of dough which people make into many different types of pastry; on the Internet, I find images that show it as bun shaped pastry as I will give herein, as a large pie shaped pastry from which individual pieces are served like pizza slices, and as rolls much on the order of cinnamon rolls. The bun-shaped pastry can be various sizes; the two most common are a 2 inch base, made in muffin pans, or a 4 inch base made in larger muffin/pastry rings.
In Seattle, we had tried Kouign Amann at two bakeries- Bakery Nouveau and Le Reve. The former made their Kouign Amann in the larger 4 inch rings, while the latter had the 2 inch muffin pan form. We decided that we liked the larger pastry better and that was the experience I have tried to create in this recipe. The only difference is the container in which the pastry is cooked; a muffin pan or a 4 inch pastry ring.
After early research into the Kouign Amann, it is basically a puff pastry product and I wanted to use my Croissant Dough recipe. And I wanted to make the Kouign Amann in 4 inch pastry rings, I didn’t have those and so I made my first attempt in muffin pans.
If you use muffin pans to form the Kouign Amann, dump them out of the pans as soon as you take them out of the oven! If they aren’t removed from the tins while they are still very hot, the sugar will harden and they can not be taken out in a single piece.
In my research, I found one chef who indicated that the dough for the Kouign Amann should not be milk based as milk (and egg used in Danish pastry) promote browning and there is already enough sugar and butter in the dough to cause browning. That means I shouldn’t use the Croissant Dough recipe directly, but should switch to a different ingredient list. It also appears that unlike most pastries, the Brittany pastries are made with salted butter. Interesting.
One of the characteristics of the dough in the final recipe is it is a very moist dough. I ran into problems with other doughs in that the sugar would pull the moisture out of the dough leaving it dry, and it didn’t want to rise during proofing.
Since the dough is a version of puff pastry, it is layered with butter and sugar, and folded around the additions. Like most puff pastry recipes, after rolling the dough out, it is folded into thirds- the bottom third up over the middle third, and then the top third down over the middle.
It is also very difficult to make the additions as we would normally do in making puff pastry. Normally, the addition is made to the top 2/3 of the rolled out dough before it is folded. With this dough, I had trouble doing it that way- the dough is too moist to allow spreading the butter, and the sugar addition would fall off down to the fold when the top was brought down over the middle. I changed the method slightly. I add the layer in two parts; the first part is after the dough is rolled out, and goes on the middle third of the dough. Then the bottom is folded up over the middle, and the second part of the addition is placed on the bottom third (now in the middle) before the top third is folded down.
Finally, I experimented with making disposable pastry rings with aluminum foil and found they work without any problem. I will give directions for making the rings at the end of this post. (Because I was making so many Kouign Amann, I decided to buy some 4 inch muffin rings. I have made a half recipe- 3 pieces- a week for about the last 8 weeks trying to get the bugs out of the recipe and notes. If you are interested, 4 rings for less than $10.00 on Amazon- by Fox Run. [Actually, they are 3.5 inch rings.]).
Below are two recipes; the full size recipe and a half size recipe. Because I was making the Kouign Amann so often, I needed to create the half recipe for testing my changes; you may want to make a half recipe just to experiment with the dough and techniques before going for a full recipe
Kouign Amann (full recipe- )
Kouign Amann (half recipe- )
|Differences||Full Recipe||Half Recipe|
|Size for adding butter/sugar||10 x 18||7.5 x 12|
|Goal for flattened butter||10 x 9||7.5 x 8|
|Sugar per third of dough||1/4 cup||2 Tbs|
|Final rectangle for 4 inch rings||11 x 16||6 x 16|
|Final rectangle for 2 inch rings||8 x 22||8 x 11.5|
|Squares and size for 4 inch rings||six 5 x 5||three 5 x 5|
|Squares and size for 2 inch rings||twelve 3.5 x 3.5||six 3.5 x 3.5|
- Prepare the dough. Mix the first four ingredients in a mixer bowl, and let the mixer run for 3-4 minutes to knead the dough
- Let the dough rise. Put the kneaded dough into the bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place it in an area with a temperature in the 70-72 degree range. Let the dough rise to double in size; this might take a couple hours.
- Prepare the butter packet. Refrigerate the dough in its covered bowl for 1 hour. Meanwhile, place the cold butter on a piece of parchment paper. Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the butter. With a rolling pin, beat the butter to flatten it. Between beating and rolling, try to get the butter to be 2/3 the size to which the dough will be rolled. This will make it easier to put the butter on the dough. Place the flattened softened butter on the parchment paper in the refrigerator.
- Prepare the dough packet Place the chilled dough on a lightly floured rolling surface, flour the top, and roll it into a rectangle for addition of the butter. Place half of the softened flattened butter on the middle 1/3 of the dough. Now fold the bottom not buttered piece up over the middle buttered third and and place the other half of the butter on the folded up piece of dough. Now fold the top third of the dough down. Pinch all the edges together. This completes the first turn. The dough is three layers with butter between each layer.
- Complete turn 2. Rotate the dough so it is like a book ready to be opened with its spine to the left. (Each turn will start with the dough in this position- a book with its spine on the left). Roll the dough into a rectangle the same size for additions, although nothing is added this time. Again fold the bottom third up and then the top third down completing the second turn. Wrap this dough package in plastic and place it in a baggy in the refrigerator over night. (I always leave the dough in the refrigerator over night, but I suspect that you could continue with the following steps after cooling the dough for 2-3 hours. Since we will not use flour any more, the rolling surface needs to be cleaned at this point)
- Turn the dough 2 more times and while adding sugar Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a sugared rolling surface (about 2 Tbs) in the position of a book ready to be opened. Sprinkle the top of the dough with another couple tablespoons of sugar to keep it from sticking. Roll the dough out into a rectangle for addition of the first sugar. Sprinkle the middle third of the dough with its sugar; fold the dough bottom third up. Now sprinkle the addition sugar over the bottom third and fold the top third down. Rotate the packet into book position and reapply sugar to the rolling surface and the top of the dough. Again, roll the dough into the addition size rectangle and sprinkle the middle 1/3 with an addition of sugar and fold the dough bottom third up. Sprinkle it with another addition of sugar and fold the top third down. Refrigerate the dough while preparing for cooking. (the four additions of sugar in this step adds up to the amount of sugar given in the ingredient list [4 Tbs = 1/4 cup])
- Prepare the Pastry Rings This step assumes that if you are using temporary foil rings, they have already been made. Place a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of a sheet pan. Spray the inside of the pastry rings with cooking spray and place them on the parchment paper, opening the rings to as round as possible.
- Form the Kouign Amann. Sprinkle the rolling surface with sugar and place a packet of dough on the surface. Sprinkle additional sugar on top of the dough. Roll the dough out into its final rectangle. Trim a 1/2 inch off all sides of the rectangle so that the layers of dough are visible. Cut the rectangle into its squares. Sprinkle each square with about 2 tsp of sugar, then pick up the square by its 4 corners flipping it upside down so that this latest sugar is on the bottom. Place the square in a pastry ring. Put about 1/2 tsp of sugar in the center of the square and tuck the corners over onto the center of the pastry so they do not hang over the edges of the ring.
- Proof the Kouign Amann.Let the pastry rise until slightly puffy- 40 to 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the middle of the oven. (while recipes seem to all say the oven rack in the middle, I found I needed to move the rack down one notch, and then place the sheet pan inside a secnd nesting sheet pan to insulate the bottom from being closer to the bottom heat).
- Bake the Kouign Amann. Place the sheet pan in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes; after 15 minutes, tent the Kouign Amann to keep the tops from browning too fast. The pastry is done when the tops are deep golden and the tips look like they might just be starting to burn. It takes this last almost burned state to get the caramel at its peak.
- Remove from pan and cool. After removing the pan from the oven, use a pancake turner and tongs to remove the Kouign Amann to a cooling rack without their pastry rings. Cool the Kouign Amann upside down.
Making Disposable Pastry Rings
From my experience, these rings work as well as hard metal rings. The length of the foil should be 12 inches for 4 inch rings and 7.5 inches for 2 inch rings. The overlap point is 11 inches for the 4 inch rings (actually 3.5 inches) and 6.25 inches for 2 inch rings.
- For each ring, cut a piece of aluminum foil that is 4 inches wide by the suggested length.
- Fold the 4 inch dimension in half twice, resulting in a 1 inch strip that is 4 layers of foil.
- Mark the overlap point from one end (End A).
- Loop the foil strip, bringing End A to the marked overlap point.
- Staple the overlapped part of the ring twice to hold the rings shape. When the ring is used, its shape can be straightened to more closely resemble a ring.
It is interesting that the softness of the ring doesn’t seem to be a problem. I think that is because a circle is a very stable figure, and as the pastry rises and expands, it pushes fairly evenly all around the ring bringing it back into a circular shape. And, when the baking is finished, there is no washing of the rings; they are tossed in the trash.
So, why are the sizes for the half recipe not closer related to the full recipe sizes? For example, the size for adding ingredients for the full recipe is 10 x 18; why not either 5 x 18 or 10 x 9 for the half recipe? I don’t like the 18 inch height for my rolling surface, and I don’t like the ending shape for a 10 inch wide since that would be longer when turned to roll out again than that goal which would be 9 inches. It all has to do with the area of the surface of the dough. For the full recipe, the area (in this case) is 180 square inches; half recipe would be 90 square inches. And 7.5 x 12 is 90 square inches.