Every other Friday, Yossy Arefi from Apt. 2B Baking Co. shares dessert projects that demand a little extra time and effort. Because your weekends should always be sweet.
Today: Meet the croissant's sweeter, caramelized cousin.
Kouign amann (pronounced queen a-mahn) is the sweet and caramelized cousin of the croissant, hailing from the Brittany region of France. Brittany is known for its incredibly delicious, sea-salted butter, so it is no surprise that its most famous pastry is nearly 50% butter by weight.
More: Store your best butter in this French butter keeper.
Traditionally, kouign amann is baked as one large cake, but I think that individual treats are much more manageable. They also have more edges, which means more sweet, caramelized bits -- my very favorite part.
This recipe starts with a simple yeasted dough that is laminated with layers of salted butter much like a croissant, but then it is also laminated with a generous sprinkling of sugar, which melts and caramelizes as the pastries bake. I admit that, like making croissants, making kouign amann at home is a bit of a process, but it's totally worth it, especially if you can't find them locally.
This recipe is quite lengthy, so make sure to read it through at least once before starting. If you'd like to make these treats over the course of a couple of days, there are a couple of places where you can pause the process, and I've noted them in the instructions below.
1 cup water at 110º F
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces salted butter, cool but pliable
1 1/2 cups sugar
Additional butter, to grease the molds
Additional sugar, for rolling
Combine the water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to dissolve the yeast. Let the it proof for about 5 minutes, or until bubbly. Add the flour and salt and stir to combine with a wooden spoon. Using the dough hook attachment, knead the dough for 4 to 5 minutes or until it is smooth, but still tacky. If the dough sticks to the bowl, add flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is smooth.
If the dough seems stiff and dry, add water one tablespoon at a time until the dough is smooth. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let it rise for one hour, or until it doubles in size. Alternately, let the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight, covered with plastic wrap.
After the dough has risen, put in in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes. This will help keep the butter cool in the following steps. If the dough proofed overnight in the refrigerator, this step is not necessary.
Roll the dough into a roughly 12 x 20-inch rectangle on a well-floured surface. Gently and carefully spread the cool-but-pliable butter on to the left two thirds of the dough. Leaving the right third bare.
Fold the right, unbuttered side of the dough over the buttered dough, then fold the remaining 1/3 of buttered dough over to the right, like a letter. Gently press the seams of the dough to hold the butter in place.
Flour the board again if necessary, rotate the dough 90 degrees, and roll it into a roughly 12 x 20-inch rectangle. Again, fold it into thirds like a letter. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured quarter sheet pan and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes. Be careful to not let the dough get too cold; otherwise, the butter will harden and tear the dough when you try to roll it out again.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and transfer it to a well-floured surface and again roll it into a 12 x 20-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with 3/4 cup of sugar and press the sugar into the dough gently (this will seem like a lot of sugar -- don't worry!).
Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter, and repeat the rolling, sprinkling, and folding process with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Transfer the dough back to the floured quarter sheet pan and chill for 30 minutes.
While the dough is chilling, prepare the muffin tins by very generously buttering them and arranging them on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and transfer it to a surface that has been generously sprinkled with sugar. Roll the dough into a rectangle roughly 8 x 24 inches. Use a pastry wheel or pizza cutter to cut the dough into 12 even squares.
Fold the corners of each square towards the center and tuck each square into the muffin tin or pastry ring. Let them rise until slightly puffy, 30 to 40 minutes. Alternately, the kouign amann can be refrigerated overnight (before rising) and baked the next day. If you'd like to take advantage of that option, make sure to bring the pastries back to room temperature and rise before baking.
While the kouign amann are rising, preheat the oven to 400º F. Place the baking sheets into the oven and lower the temperature to 350º F. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the pastries are a deep golden brown -- they should be just shy of burnt.
Let the kouign amann cool briefly, then remove them from the muffin tins or pastry rings. Do not let them cool in the pans, or they will stick and you will have a real mess on your hands. These treats are best enjoyed warm, the day that they are baked.
Photos by Yossy Arefi