|Sure, there are
three steps, but the
first step is easy
and the last two
steps don't require
any work at all!
|April 17, 2014
Hail the Queen!
Kouign Amann (roughly pronounced “koween aman”) is the queen of
pastries. Think of a croissant with extra sugar and carmelization. I’ve tried
to make Kouign Amann off and on at home over the past few years but have
usually fallen short. As with most recipes, I started looking for inspiration
from the English language masters, Bernard Clayton and Julie Child, but
neither of them seemed to have much to say about Kouign Amann. Next I
tried Local Breads (Dan Leader), the (original) Tartine cookbook, and Baking
Illustrated. I struck out again. Finally, I resorted to that chaotic depository
of recipes, the internet.
Sure, you can find any recipe you want on the internet, but as the number of
available recipes has gone up, the quality has gone way down. Back in the
days of the Betty Crocker and Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks, test
kitchen chefs baked, tinkered and rebaked until they came up with a recipe
that actually worked for everybody. The old standbys as well as Cooks
Illustrated and Martha Stewart still have test kitchens, but otherwise it’s a
jungle out there. For example, last week I made a “Decadent Chocolate
Cheesecake” recipe that looked scrumptious on Pinterest. Looking at the
recipe, I could tell right away it wouldn’t work as written. There were way
too many ingredients for a 9 inch springform pan and the recommended
baking time would barely be enough for cookies, let alone cheesecake. So I
made the cheesecake with the needed recipe modification and it turned out
well. It left me scratching my head though. Why couldn’t the person who
published this recipe get it right? I think internet publishers are rewarded for
the amount of their content, not the quality, and unsuspecting bakers suffer
because of this.
Let’s see, where was I? Oh yeah, kouign amann. The recipes most referred
to online were David Lebovitz’s kouign amann and Martha Stewart’s kouing-
aman. (See, nobody can agree on how to spell it, let alone how to
authentically make it). Later on I referred to a recipe by Irvin Lin, one that
had some nice folding and shaping variations. Finally, the April 2014 issue of
Bon Appetit’s “The Project” features kouign amann. There is a nice tutorial
on lamination but the sugar is folded into the dough too early, which can be
one of the main pitfalls in making kouign amann. Sugar is very hygroscopic
(attracts water) and when folded into the dough and refrigerated for hours, it
draws huge amounts of water out of the dough. This makes the dough very
messy and hard to work with. So never, ever fold in sugar early on, when
you fold in the butter.
In contrast to croissant lamination, salted butter is used for kouign amann.
Most experts recommend European butter; unfortunately, around here
European butter is expensive and not very fresh, making it hard for me to
recommend use locally. I’ve tried a lot of butter lamination techniques over
the years, ranging from cutting the butter up into small pieces before forming
a square to allowing it to warm up to just under room temperature before
forming a square. The technique I have settled on is used here, where the
butter is basically pounded into submission with a rolling pin. The pounding
and folding seems to help the butter’s structure and the lamination seems to
go better for me when the butter stays good and cold the whole way.
The shaped pastries can be placed into a jumbo muffin tin or pastry rings on
a sheet. Given the propensity of the sugar to bring out moisture, I prefer the
jumbo muffin tin. Things are a bit more cramped in the muffin tin, but the
tasty syrup formed during the final rise and baking oozes into the dough
rather than leaking out the bottom of the pastry ring. For a slightly more
dense pastry that emphasizes the lamination, baking at a lower temperature,
say 350 F for a longer period. If you like a lighter pastry, turn the oven up
to 400 F to get additional initial puffing up. I took a middle road here and
baked at 375 F. Keep the pastries in the oven until good and dark brown,
just short of burned to maximize carmelization.
Kouign Amann, multigrain, from sourdough
Plus about 1/2 cup of flour for the butter square, about 2 cups of sugar for
sprinkling, and 2 Tbsp melted butter for the pans.
This recipe makes enough dough for 24 kouign amanns but assumes you are
baking only 12 at a time. You can bake the other 12 right after the first or
keep the dough in the refrigerator to make another 12 the next day.
Step 1: Mix up the one step sourdough, 1-2 days prior to serving
In a large bowl, stir the stiff levain and water a bit and allow to soften for a
few minutes. Add the dry ingredients and stir until a single, moist, shaggy
mass of dough has been formed. Add a few Tbsp of water if the dough still
looks a bit dry, then stir another 30 seconds. Cover the dough and allow to
rise at room temperature for 8-12 hours, until about doubled, then refrigerate
until ready to use.
Step 2: Initial Butter fold, 3-24 hours prior to serving
Sprinkle ¼ cup flour onto a work surface (I use parchment paper both top
and bottom) then place 6 sticks of cold butter in the middle and sprinkle the
tops of the sticks with ¼ cup more of flour. With a rolling pin pound the
butter until a flat disc has been formed. Fold the butter in half and peel it off
the work surface with a pastry scraper or spatula. Sprinkle the work
surface with another 1 Tbsp of flour and pound and roll the butter out again
with a rolling pin. Fold it again and roll out into a 12 by 12 inch rectangle.
Place the butter square into the refrigerator while you roll out the dough.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured
work surface into a 12 x 20 inch rectangle. Place the butter on the left 2/3
of the dough rectangle then fold the 1/3 of the dough on the right over onto
the butter. Fold the left 1/3 of the dough over the middle third and seal the
edges of the dough around the butter, so no butter is showing. Fold the
dough into thirds again then rotate the folded dough 90 degrees and then roll
out into a 12 x 20 inch rectangle again. Again, fold the right third onto the
middle third of dough and the left third onto the middle third. Fold in half
then wrap tightly in 2 layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2
hours. After at least 2 hours, the dough should be expanding tightly against
the plastic, looking like it wants to explode.
Making the Butter Square, steps going clockwise from top left
Folding the Butter Into the Dough, steps going clockwise from top left
Step 3: Fold in the sugar, 30 min prior to shaping the pastries
Once again, removed the dough from the refrigerator and perform two more
folds, but this time with sugar placed in the folds instead of butter. On a
lightly floured surface roll the dough into a 12 x 20 inch rectangle and
sprinkle ¾ cup sugar over the left 2/3. Use the rolling pin to press the sugar
into the dough a bit. Fold the right 1/3 over the middle third, then the left
third over the middle third. Now fold the dough into thirds then rotate the
dough 90 degrees and repeat the process with another ¾ cup of sugar. Fold
the dough in half and wrap the dough tightly in 2 layers of plastic wrap and
refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Folding Sugar into the Dough
Step 4: Form the pastries, 30 min prior to baking or the night prior to
Generously butter 12 jumbo muffin tins or pastry rings with 2 Tbsp melted
butter and set aside. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and cut in
half. Rewrap half the dough in plastic and refrigerate until ready to roll out
for the second batch. Roll half the dough out on a work surface sprinkled
with ¼ cup sugar. Form the dough into a 12 by 16 inch rectangle then
sprinkle with ¼ cup more sugar. Use the rolling pin to push the sugar into
the dough a bit. Cut the dough into 3 by 4 rows of 4 inch squares. Either
fold each square from the corners and place in the jumbo muffin tins or
pastry rings or cup each square in your hand , leaving the edges toward the
tips of your fingers and the middle toward your palm and place in jumbo
muffin tins. Sprinkle the tops of the pastries with another 2 Tbsp of sugar.
Cover the jumbo muffin tins with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator
until ready to bake or allow to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes then
Step 5: Bake
Place a cookie sheet on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any butter that
boils out during baking. Preheat the oven to 425, then place the muffin tins
in the oven. Turn the oven down to 375 and bake for 30-40 minutes until
deep golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool in the pan for a few
minutes then use a table knife to loosen sides and remove from the pan to
cool. Do not wait longer than a few minutes to remove the pastries from the
pan as removal becomes progressively more difficult as the pastries cool.
Submitted to Susan's yeastspotting at the wildyeastblog.com