These kouign amann from Brittany and Rose Levy Beranbaum is a buttery, sugary puff pastry that’s baked to perfection. Superb for breakfast or a snack.
I’ve long considered the sticky bun to be my number one pastry in the world, but that was until my friend Marko Gnann, a world traveler and inveterate sweet tooth, told me about kouign amann (pronounced keh-WEEN ah-mahn), a butter and sugar rich yeast pastry from Brittany. It is actually very similar to a croissant, but with less butter and a lot more sugar.
On researching the pastry, I discovered that most bakers consider it best in a commercial setting, with sheeters to roll the dough quickly and evenly, but I was determined to try to replicate it. After the first attempt, a disaster of sticky pastry that leaked tons of butter on baking, I came close to giving up. The second try was good but not laminated enough, so the texture was more cake-like than pastry and didn’t seem quite worth the effort. I put it aside for several months but eventually started thinking about it again, and new ideas came to mind: using a stronger, higher protein flour; giving the dough fewer turns (“folds”); and adding the sugar only to the final turn. With these new inspirations, the formerly undoable became easily manageable. The interior is made up of soft and open-crumbed layers of dough that capture pockets of sugar syrup, all encased in a crisp shell of golden brown caramel bliss.
The dough for kouigns amann is very similar to Danish dough but with sugar rolled into the final turn. Because sugar increases browning, the milk and egg used in Danish dough are replaced with water here in order to prevent excessive browning or burning. High-fat butter and high-protein bread flour are ideal to keep the butter layers from breaking through the dough. The consistency of the dough and butter must be the same to distribute the butter evenly throughout the dough, so maintaining the correct temperature of the butter is critical. Because the sugar compromises the structure of the dough, only 3 turns are given before shaping in order to maintain the most layered texture. The dough takes about 6 hours from start to finish, including baking. The actual hands-on time is very short, because the dough does most of the work, but it is necessary to follow the time schedule strictly.–Rose Levy Beranbaum
LC No Pastry Rings? No Problem! Note
Tempted to make these crackly yet tender bombs of butter and sugar deliciousness known as kouign amann but got no pastry rings? No problem. Just follow the easy peasy instructions below the recipe to fashion your own. Oh, and don’t worry, we can’t pronounce the name of these little lovelies, either. As if it matters, seeing as we’re too busy cramming the pastry into our pieholes to say anything.
- Quick Glance
- 1 H
- 6 H
- Makes 8 pastries
Special Equipment: Eight 4-by-3/4-inch pastry rings*
IngredientsEmail Grocery List
*How To Make Your Own Pastry Rings
You can easily fashion disposable pastry rings from heavy-duty aluminum foil or make reusable rings from aluminum flashing (available at most hardware and home improvement stores).
To make a disposable aluminum foil pastry ring, cut a 14-by-4-inch strip heavy-duty aluminum foil. Mark the foil along its length at 7/8 inch. Fold the foil lengthwise along the markings. Fold the foil lengthwise 2 more times to form a 14-by-1-inch strip with 4 layers of foil. Repeat for each ring. Wrap each ring around a 4-inch diameter can. Use 2 small paper clips to secure the overlapping ends to form a ring. Remove the ring from the can and adjust it to be as round as possible.
To make a reusable aluminum flashing ring, use metal shears or sharp utility scissors to cut a 14-by-1-inch strip of aluminum flashing. Repeat for each ring. Wrap each ring around a 4-inch diameter can. Use 2 small paper clips to secure the overlapping ends to form a ring. Remove the ring from the can and adjust it to be as round as possible.
Recipe Testers Reviews
This kouign amann recipe is not for the faint of heart nor the novice baker. That said, the recipe is so detailed, it could be used by less experienced bakers as a first foray into making a pastry based on a laminated dough. You absolutely need 6 full hours to make this recipe from start to finish. At the first turn, my dough package weighed 851 grams, slightly less than the 900 grams stated in the recipe. If you follow the recipe exactly as written, the rolling and folding will go very smoothly. Another important factor is to make sure that the butter and dough are the same consistency to ensure that the butter distributes evenly when you are rolling and folding. Shaping the squares before placing them in the pastry rings is going to take “the courage of your convictions,” to quote Julia Child. The dough needs to be pressed down as you are bringing the corners together. It may not look all that perfect and they may open up slightly, but as Rose states, that is part of the charm of these pastries. The instructions for making your own disposable pastry rings out of aluminum foil work perfectly and are a really great way to avoid buying another kitchen item that you'll probably only use once in a while. The baking time was an initial 12 minutes and another 8 minutes after rotating the pan. That may have been a few minutes too long in my preheated oven, as the bottoms of the pastries got very dark and needed to be scraped a bit after they cooled. Next time, I may lower the oven temperature to 375°F and slightly reduce the baking time. These pastries are delicious anytime—for breakfast, as a dessert, or with a cup of tea or coffee any time of day. They are buttery, sweet, flaky, and unlike any other pastry I know. Highly recommended!
Wow. This is the most successful I've ever been at making a laminated dough. All the time and effort were worth it for the amazing pastry you get at the end. The kouign amann are buttery and salty-sweet, and the sugar on the outside is caramelized while the inside is slightly gooey. I definitely think using superfine sugar and adding it on the last turns keeps the sugar from cutting through the layers. I took the butter out of the fridge after I made the dough, wrapped it in plastic, and beat in into shape with a rolling pin, and by the time the dough was ready, the butter was at the right temperature and consistency. When I rolled it into a 13-by-7-inch rectangle, it was about 3/8 inch thick. The second rolling was about the same. I did need to keep turning it to get it to remain in an even rectangle. I had trouble rolling the 8 squares evenly since the cut edges rolled out farther than the folded edges. I ended up cutting about a 1/4 inch off the folded edge of each square, and it worked much better. The last few squares were very sticky from the melting sugar. I left the squares on the counter to shape them, as I found it easier than cupping in my hand. When they got sticky, I used a little sugar. The shaped pastry opened up a little bit as they rose, some more than others. I used English muffin baking rings that are 3 3/4 inches in diameter, and they worked well. My dough took 50 minutes to rise. I baked the pastries for 30 minutes but should have taken them out a little sooner. I'm definitely glad I covered the sheet pan in aluminum foil. Holy burnt sugar! The pastries lifted out of the rings easily and didn't leak much butter. They're definitely best the first day but were still very good when heated in the microwave over the next couple of days.
Let me start off by saying that this is not an "easy" recipe. It's not something you come home and decide to simply whip up. It needs some time and a bit of skill to complete. That being said, it is very much worth the effort and the final result is such a special and unique treat that it validates all the time, effort, and rolling of dough! Usually Kouign-Amann is more of a single large cake that you slice into wedges and serve, but here it's baked in individual muffin cups and the little cakes end up with a brilliant texture. The outside is crispy crunchy and caramelized and the inside is sweet, soft, and rich. I also love that the author provides proper weights for the recipe and not just inaccurate volume measures.
I made the cakes for breakfast thinking that we'd have a few left for an after-dinner dessert with some whipped cream and berries. No such luck. They were all devoured before noon.
A few helpful points to keep in mind when attempting to this:
Read the recipe carefully. It's long but you need to follow the instructions carefully. Unless you have a lot of experience with laminated dough, you really should not improvise when making this Kouign-Amann for the first time.
When the butter is spread on the dough, it's really helpful to leave a 1/4 inch or so of butter-free dough so that the 2 layers can seal better.
When you roll the dough and the edges aren't exactly straight, I like to (based on a croissant recipe I make) trim those edges to straight lines. This way when the dough is folded everything matches up and the dough is easier to roll. The extra dough that might be trimmed can be incorporated back in.
Kouign-Amann is usually made with salted Brittany butter. It really will make a big difference in the final balance of the recipe if you sprinkle a bit of salt on the butter layer or use all or half salted butter. The cakes are sweet and some salt is a great addition.
The recipe is very forgiving when it comes to rest times in the fridge. I was making it throughout the day and ended up putting the folded dough in the fridge several times. Just make sure to let it warm up a little bit before rolling for the next fold.