Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Kouign amann

This caramel-y, sticky cousin to the croissant is a must-try item for breakfast or dessert. Crispy, sugar-coated layers of buttery dough are folded and re-folded to create this muffin-shaped pastry.

Kouign amann. A what-a-what-a? For those of you who have not seen this term before (that was me before this year), it's pronounced "queen a-MAHN." This pastry is a cousin to the croissant and originates in an area of France called Brittany.

So how is this pastry related to the croissant? Well, the dough starts off very similarly to the croissant, where you create a base dough and butter square. Then you fold the dough over the butter and keep folding the dough, chilling it, and folding it again. This process of "turning" the dough creates those deep, flaky and buttery layers that we all love so much.


The main difference in the kouign amann is that it's dusted with sugar and baked in a muffin pan so the resulting pastry has crispy, caramelized sugar bits dispersed throughout. Almost like a freshly fried sugar donut.

I am hosting our What's Baking group this month, and we decided on croissants as our challenge. My 3 original options for the month were croissants, kouign amann and homemade puff pastry. Since I have already tackled croissants, I figured that I'd try the kouign amann too. If the process was similar to croissants, then this wouldn't be that difficult.

Thankfully, I was right that the kouign amann was just like making croissants. The dough starts out very similarly and both recipes require a butter square/rectangle. Even the folding of the dough was almost exactly the same. The biggest difference is that the kouign amann requires a sprinkling of granulated sugar before the folding process.

These French pastries were not nearly as time-consuming that I imagined, but I do recommend allowing the final turn of the dough to chill for a good 1-2 hours before cutting and baking.


The final products were just as I envisioned them to be - crunchy, flaky and full of caramelized sugar. They were sweet, but not tooth-achingly sweet. If you are a coffee drinker, then I imagine these would pair perfectly with a cup of joe. I gifted some to our neighbors, and they said that the pastries were simply amazing.

Now that I have tackled these French pastries, I'm curious to try my hand at a few more varieties. We'll see what comes next!

Kouign amann
  • 1 cup water, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) SALTED butter, cold (I don't have salted butter, so I used unsalted butter and sprinkled on Maldon sea salt)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • extra butter for greasing the molds or tins
  • extra sugar 
  • extra flour for the butter square/rectangle
(To view pictures of the step-by-step process for making the butter square and folding the dough, please view my croissant post)

Directions

Make the dough: Combine the water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and allow it to sit for about 5-10 minutes or until frothy. (If you are not using a stand mixer to knead the dough, simply put the ingredients in a large bowl) Add the flour and salt and knead the dough by hand or using the dough hook attachment for about 4-5 minutes or until the dough is soft, smooth and no longer sticky. Place it in a large bowl (or keep it in the same bowl if you hand-kneaded), cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Then chill the dough for at least 30 minutes or overnight until ready to use.

Make the butter square/rectangle:  On a clean working surface, sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of all-purpose flour. Add the butter and sprinkle another 1 Tablespoon of flour on top. Using a rolling pin, gently tap the butter (be careful because the flour will tend to splatter everywhere). Keep tapping until the butter is about 1/4" thick and in the shape of a rough rectangle. Using a bench scraper or another flat surface, fold the butter in half. Sprinkle additional flour on top and roll the butter until it is 1/4" thick. Fold and sprinkle flour as needed. Repeat folding and rolling one more time. Finally, roll the butter into a rough 6"x10" rectangle and transfer to a baking sheet. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until ready to use.

Assemble the kouign amann: Take the cold dough out of the refrigerator and roll it into a rough 12"x20" rectangle. Place the chilled butter in the middle of the rectangle and fold one side of the dough over the butter and then the other (you're essentially folding the dough into thirds, with the butter in the middle). This time, fold one third of the dough away from you and the remaining third towards you, like you are folding a business letter. Repeat this process of rolling and folding one more time. Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Once the dough has chilled, roll it into a 12"x20" rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with 3/4 cup of granulated sugar. Press the sugar into the dough by rolling over it with a rolling pin. Fold the dough into thirds, then roll it out into a 12"x20" rectangle again. Sprinkle with the additional 3/4 cup of granulated sugar. Fold into thirds, wrap in plastic wrap, and allow to chill for an additional 30 minutes or more.

Generously butter or grease a standard muffin pan. 

Sprinkle your work surface with granulated sugar and roll the dough out to a 8"x24" rectangle.  It should be about 1/4" inch thick. Sprinkle the surface with more granulated sugar. Slice the dough into 12, 4-inch squares. Take one square and fold the corners towards the middle. Place the square into your generously greased muffin well. Repeat with the remaining dough. Now you can either get these pastries ready for baking or place it in the refrigerator and bake them the next day (if you decide to refrigerate, make sure you let the dough thaw for at least an hour before baking). Allow your dough to rise for another 30-40 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  Place a rimmed baking sheet underneath to catch any drips (more than likely the butter will bubble up over the top of the muffin pans so make sure you have something underneath the muffin pan). Once the pan is in the oven, decrease the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the tops of the pastries are golden brown and are on the verge of looking burnt.

Remove the pastries from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Then take them out of the muffin pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. THIS IS IMPORTANT! If you leave the pastries in the muffin pan, the sugar will harden and it will be almost impossible to get them out of the pan later.

Pastries are best eaten the day they are made but will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for about 2 days.  Reheat them in a 300 degree oven for about 5-10 minutes if desired.

Yield: 12 pastries

Source: use real butter

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