I first tried a kouign-amann at a cafe in Salt Lake City. Caramelized sugar makes them crispy all around the edges, which cradle a center of buttery, flaky layers. They are pure heaven.
I did some Wikipedia searches to find out the kouign-amann is a cake originating in Brittany, the northwest corner of France. After experimenting with a recipe I pieced together from a few different sources, I have sadly discovered mine does not taste exactly like the ones in Salt Lake (And trust me. I know this without a doubt after eating five or six of them today).
However, I do think my recipe more approximates a traditional version. But I can’t be sure. I’ll have to visit France. To be honest, I actually think the ones is Salt Lake taste more like palmiers. Remember those curly cookies you make with puff pastry? If you happen to have some puff pastry left over from Christmastime—because I know you all made it—try cutting it into squares, rolling the squares generously in sugar, placing each square into buttered muffin tins, sprinkle with more sugar, and then bake at 350 for 20 minutes. You will get something absolutely delicious, and then you won’t nee to get out more butter or your rolling pin.
But if you want to go the distance, to make a more traditional kouign-amann, you’ll make a risen yeast dough. This recipe is about as labor intensive as the puff pastry, but does take a little more time. You’ll want to start making the dough the afternoon before you bake it—like you would with croissants. Mmm, those sound good. I’ll try making croissants as soon as my arteries are running clear again.
For more instructions, you can also see David Lebovitz’s post on kouign-amann. His post was a huge help to me.
This recipe doubles easily, but that may give you a dangerously large amount of cake. You have been warned.
14 ounces flour (about 3 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 cup warm water
pinch of kosher salt
2 sticks cold salted butter
1-2 cups sugar
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix together flour and yeast. In a liquid measuring cup, combine honey, butter, and water. Pour into the flour mixture and set the mixer to low. Add in salt. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, or until the dough is nicely combined and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
2. Press out air bubbles in dough, shape into a ball, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours. Place butter on a piece of parchment paper and pound with a rolling pin until soft and pliable. Shape into a 5-6 inch square. Wrap with the parchment paper and refrigerate until firm again.
3. Roll dough out onto a board into 12 inch square. Place the butter in the center and pull up the corners of the dough around the butter, almost like an envelope. Pinch the edges of the dough to seal. Flour the board again, and use the rolling pin to beat the dough and butter until slightly pliable. Roll into a long rectangle, about 10 inches by 18 inches. Sprinkle the middle third of the dough with sugar. Fold the dough up in thirds, like you were folding a letter, so that the sugar is covered. This completes your first turn. Turn the dough so opening of the “letter” is facing right. Roll out again into the long rectangle, and repeat the process. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
3. Repeat the turns, by rolling, sprinkling with sugar, and folding, repeating, and refrigerating (refrigerate after every two turns), until you have completed 6 turns. The dough will be sticky and scrappy looking. But that’s okay. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
4. In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread sugar on the board, and roll the dough out in the sugar. Cut the dough into squares slightly larger than the pan (or pans) you’ll be baking them in.* Place the dough in the pan. Place another square on top, and turn so the corners of the dough do not match up. Fold in the edges.** Sprinkle with more sugar, and dot with more butter, if desired. Cover, and let rise another 40-50 minutes, or until slightly risen. Bake until golden and caramelized, about 20-35 minutes, depending on the size.
*If you will be using a springform pan, use a piece of aluminum foil to loosely cover the bottom and the sides of the pan to prevent leaking.
**Those heart-shaped kouign-amanns are what happened when my original attempts failed. So what you see in the picture, is actually a cake made with a bunch of scraps of the dough, thrown in.