This is my easy version of this wonderful Breton pastry, Kouign-Amann, roughly pronounced “queen ah-marn” which loosely translates as buttery cake. And these are indeed buttery and flaky, with terrific caramelisation. There is also very little hands-on time when it comes to making them.
I have been making Kouign-Amann, on and off, for just over a decade, after trying my first one in France, highly intrigued by a pastry that I had never seen before!
Essentially, you make a croissant dough (a quick version works excellently, as I have done here), with sugar incorporated to the final turn when making the dough. The dough then gets sprinkled liberally with sugar, before shaping and baking: the sugar caramelises wonderfully during the bake.
Which tins to use?
These can be baked in small buttered rings or buttered deep muffin tins. Either way, as an extra precaution to prevent the bases burning, you can pop a small piece of greaseproof at the base of each ring or muffin tin hole.
You can even put several of them in one large cake tin if preferred, for a kind of tear-and-share treat, as described below the recipe.
Recipe: Kouign-Amann (makes 16 individual ones)
- 300g strong plain flour
- 25g vanilla caster sugar (or use standard caster sugar)
- 7g fine sea salt
- 7g easy-blend yeast
- 190ml-210ml water (or a mixture of milk and water)
- 220g fairly firm unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
Sugar & salt mixture (for the final “turn”):
- about 50g vanilla caster sugar (or use standard caster sugar)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
To glaze (optional):
- 4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon whisky
(1) Mix the flour, salt, yeast and the 25g caster sugar in a bowl and stir to incorporate. Stir in the chunks of butter and most of the water. Stir gently until it forms a soft dough, adding more water if necessary, taking care not to break up the butter chunks too much.
(2) Cover with clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or ideally a couple of hours*. Turn onto a lightly floured surface.
*the longer you leave it, the better the flavour of the baked pastries. The chilling also ensures the dough is firm enough to roll out easily.
(3) Roll out to a rectangle about 15cm by 45cm, or a bit larger. To be honest the dimensions do not need to be precise: you simply roll it out to a long and thin rectangle but without going so far that the dough resists and shrinks. Lift the bottom third into the centre and then the top third over this. Give the dough a quarter turn and then repeat this process: this is now 2 turns completed. If the dough is resisting at all when you roll it out a second time, or if the butter seems to be softening too much, chill the dough for 30 minutes or so.
(4) Cover with clingfilm and chill for several hours or overnight: this is important for flavour development, as well as for relaxing the dough which makes it easier to roll out.
(5) You are now ready for the final turn. Mix the sugar and the salt together. Rotate the dough again and roll it out again. Sprinkle over most of the sugar and salt mixture. Fold as before.
(6) Roll out the dough fairly thinly and trim the edges to form a square a little more than 32m by 32cm. If you find the sugar is making the dough layers slide, making it harder to roll out, place the dough in the fridge for about 15 minutes: a bit of the sugar will start to dissolve just enough to help it roll out. NB: don’t chill it too long, otherwise the sugar will melt too much and you get a very sticky dough.
(7) Sprinkle half of the remainder of the sugar-salt mixture on top of the dough. Carefully flip the dough over and sprinkle over the rest of the sugar-salt mixture. Essentially you have a square of dough that is very well dusted with sugar – which is what you need in order for the pastries to become caramelised while they bake.
(8) Cut into squares about 8cm by 8cm and gently pinch together the opposite corners of each. Push these into the prepared tins (see Which tins to use?, above). Cover and leave to rise at room temperature until a little risen and puffy.
(9) Towards the end of the proving, preheated the oven to 200C(fan). While the oven is heating up pop the tins of risen dough in the fridge. When the oven is at temperature pop the tins on the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 180C(fan). Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the tops are a very deep golden.
(10) Carefully remove the Kouign-Amanns from the tins while they are still hot (if you leave them to cool in the tin they will stick) and place them onto a cooling rack. If you want to glaze them (and this is not at all traditional!), mix the maple syrup and the whisky together and brush liberally over each hot Kouign-Amann.
Larger cake-sized Kouign-Amanns:
These can be filled or unfilled. Roll the dough into a large rectangle and, if filling, spread with a mixture of cream cheese and lemon curd, which gives a lovely sharpness to cut through the buttery, sugary richness.
Roll these up like a Swiss roll and cut, giving rolls about 5cm long. Pop these cut side up loosely into a circular cake tin that has been well buttered with the sides dusted with sugar. Cover and leave to rise until most of the gaps have been filled.
The ingredients in the recipe below will make 3 “loaves”, using 6″ cake tins for each: they freeze well, needing only to be defrosted and heated up to re-crispen.
Filled individual Kouign-Amanns
The dough can be filled before putting into the tins, but this is not traditional: just pop a small amount onto the centre of each square before bringing the corners together. Some of my favourite fillings include fruit curd, chocolate ganache or cherries steeped in rum or kirsch.