James first encountered this specialty cake on a culinary tour of Brittany, where it was served as a large cake. He has scaled the recipe down to a delicate, airy, personal pastry. The word “kouign” means cake and “amann” is butter in Breton. Note that you will have to create your own sponge starter, so we've included that recipe as well.
Yields 15 pastries
- 3 cups bread flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cold unsalted high butterfat butter (European style)
- 1 1⁄3 cups milk
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2⁄3 cup sponge starter (see separate recipe, below)
- 1 cup granulated sugar mixed with grated zest of 1 orange.
- 1 stick unsalted butter melted
- granulated sugar for baking mold
- In the bowl of a heavy duty mixer, combine the flours, sugar and salt. Cut 2 tablespoons of butter into small cubes. With a dough hook attachment at low speed, mix the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. In a bowl, stir together the milk and yeast and set aside for 5 minutes. Once yeast has become active add milk and yeast to flour along with the sponge starter.
- Mix on low speed until a dough is formed. Increase speed to medium and mix dough for 5 minutes. Remove dough to a lightly floured surface and knead by hand a few times to make a smooth round. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate dough for 2 hours.
- Place the remaining 1 3/4 cups of butter on a lightly floured surface. Working quickly to keep the butter cold, with a rolling pin, gently pound the butter into an 8 inch square. Place the butter on a tray and refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.
- Remove plastic from the dough. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 12 inch by 15 inch rectangle. Place chilled butter square into the center of the dough and fold each dough edge over the butter to meet in the center.
- Roll the dough package lightly with a rolling pin to anchor the butter. Dust the dough and table surface with flour and roll into a 12 inch by 18 inch rectangle. With one long side facing you, fold the left edge of the dough over to the center of the rectangle, then fold the right edge over to the opposite side (folding into thirds).
- Turn the dough 90 degrees, so that one long side faces you again. Dust the dough lightly with flour and repeat the rolling and folding. Wrap the dough with plastic and refrigerate for 4 hours. Unwrap the dough and repeat the rolling and folding procedure once more. Wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight.
- Unwrap the dough and on a lightly floured surface roll the dough into a 24 inch by 8 inch rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with 1/2 cup of the sugar and orange zest mixture and fold the dough in thirds. Chill dough for 20 minutes. Prepare 3 nonstick muffin pans with 6 cavities each (4 inch by 2 1/2 inch).
- Brush the insides of the muffin pan with melted butter and coat with sugar. Gently turn pan over and tap out excess sugar. On a lightly floured surface roll the chilled dough into a 1/4 inch thick rectangle. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup sugar orange zest mixture. Cut the dough into 15 squares each 41/4 inch. Fold the corners of each square into the centers. Fold the corners of each square into the centers again and pinch together lightly. Place each pastry into the prepared mold smooth side down and sprinkle some sugar over the top of each pastry. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in a warm location until almost doubled in volume, about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Remove plastic wrap and place tray on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until pastries are caramelized and deep golden brown, rotating trays top to bottom and front to back. Remove trays to a cooling rack and leave undisturbed for 2 minutes. Carefully turn pan over to release the pastries.
- 3/4 teaspoon dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon malt syrup or honey
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
In a bowl, stir together the yeast, water and malt syrup or honey. Set aside until it becomes bubbly approximately 5 minutes. Stir in the flour. Cover and leave at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours.
You don't have to be a master baker like Metropolitan's James Barrett to make delicious French-inspired delights at home. Here are several favorites—some savory, some sweet—adapted by James for the home chef.