Individual Kouign Amann aux amandes
These are my own version of Kouign Amann. Kouign Amann (which is pronounced “Queen Ah-mahn”) means butter cake in the Breton language. They are the mouthwatering, buttery, salty, caramelized, sweet pastry from Bretagne- the region of Brittany in France.
With the addition of a bit of marzipan and toasted almonds they become a heavenly cross between traditional Kouign Amann and our favourite almond croissants. They become “Kouign Amann aux amandes”. We think that they are the ultimate – the bomb- the “I’m having a transcendent moment here” pastry!
I first learned of Kouign Amann through reading Madeleine Kamman’s lovely book, “When French Women Cook- A Gastronomique Memoir”, written in 1976. Her book takes you through the dishes of several regions of France represented by women she knew growing up there- friends, family and friends of the family-from 1934 to the 1970s. I wish I could duplicate her journey but sadly those days and places are lost to the march of time and history. She hosted the PBS series “Madeleine Cooks” in the mid 1980s and has contributed much to the interest in and teaching of French Cooking in the USA. I am not using her recipe here, it is an amalgamation of several others I’ve read with my own tweaks added here and there.
I’ve also mentioned before that our favourite local place to buy these if you don’t make them yourself is Les Madeleines Bakery. They are exquisitely made there- lovely, gooey and carmelized. If you live in Salt Lake or are passing through do give them a try- they are worth the trip. Rick and I got addicted to them at Les Madeleines and I remembered seeing them in “When French Women Cook” and several other French cookbooks I own- so I started making them at home.
Back to the pastry…laminating a not too rich dough (you can even start with plain white bread dough) with salted butter and sugar is the secret to making Kouign Amann. They are not difficult to do as long as you keep everything cold, chill between “turns” and are patient in your rolling. They take a bit of time is what I am saying here- it is at least a two day process so make sure to plan ahead. 🙂 (BTW I have made a very good version using homemade quick puff pastry and laminating in sugar with a pinch of salt to make up for the unsalted butter in the puff pastry.)
A word about equipment first- you don’t need lots of special stuff to make these but I find these things helpful: a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and also a paddle- a bowl, spoon and elbow grease will do if you don’t have one; a flexible straight sided ruler 18″ to 24 ” is very helpful -I have a flat plastic graphics ruler that I have marked with black marker at 8″, 12″, 18″ and 24″ increments; a soft pastry brush; a large french style rolling pin; english muffin rings (or a jumbo muffin pan), a flan ring if making a large version and heavy duty baking sheets lined with parchment or silpats, plus a sharp knife or pastry roller cutter.
First and Third Turns Marked
Kouign Amann aux amandes
- 1 package active dried yeast = (1/4 ounce) or 1 level Tablespoon of Bob’s Redmill instant yeast
- 1-3/4 cups warm water about 105F
- 1 large pinch of granulated sugar, plus 1-2 cups more for laminating and rolling and for topping the pastries
- 5 -6 cups of all purpose flour (start with 5 add the other if needed -see below)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt, plus another pinch for the topping
- 1/8 cup melted butter, cooled
- 1 pound best quality SALTED butter, cold (or use unsalted and mix in a little fleur de sel when forming the block)
- 7 ounces best quality home made or prepared marzipan
- slivered almonds- to top -about 1/3 cup total
Mix the yeast, warm water and a pinch of sugar together and let stand until foamy- a few minutes. Place the flour, salt and melted butter in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix together, add the yeast mixture and mix until a smooth dough forms and begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. This should only take a few minutes. If you don’t have a stand mixer, use a bowl and a wooden spoon and then turn out to knead on a lightly floured counter until a smooth dough forms. Place the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise to double- about an hour. When doubled, punch down and chill for about an hour, meanwhile get the the butter block ready.
Place the cold butter in the clean bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment this time, or beat it with a rolling pin between two pieces of parchment paper until it is pliable but still cool. Form this into an 8″ square block (about 1/2″ thick) and cover with parchment or plastic wrap and place on a tray in your fridge to chill. Chill for 30 minutes. So the dough will have been in the fridge for about one hour and 35 minutes and the butter block that was already cool has joined it in for about 30 minutes. This will make them approximately the same temperature.
Remove the dough from the fridge and roll it into a uniform 18″ square with the center a bit thicker than the edges. Remove the butter block from the fridge and place it catre-cornered on the dough square- in other words have the corners of the butter point at the center of the sides of the square. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter to overlap on top and pinch to seal. Roll out to a 24″ by 8″ rectangle – use your ruler to keep the dough straight and squared off, then brush off any flour with a pastry brush. Sprinkle with about 1/4 cup sugar and press with the pin to roll in. Fold the right edge over the middle third of the dough and the left edge over the whole right side edge you just folded over (as if you were folding a towel or book into thirds, so the 24″ becomes 8″ and the 8″ stays the same dimension.) Dimple the dough with your finger once to mark this as your first “turn”. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place on a baking tray that will fit in your fridge and chill for 30 minutes. Remove and repeat the rolling and folding but roll the opposite way so the 8″ side of your folded “towel or book” will become 24″ and the other side will become 8″ when rolled( thats why it’s called a turn- you are turning the dough package to roll and fold the opposite direction from the previous way. Fold again the same as above, brushing off excess flour and rolling in sugar before folding, and marking two dimples for the second turn. Repeat 2 more times but chill an hour between these turns. When you have completed 4 turns in total (of course chilling between) wrap and chill the dough overnight or for at least 6 hours. The next morning….
Place some sugar on your rolling surface and roll the dough out to 24″ x 18″, cut to the desired size- I usually make twelve 4″x 4″ Kouign Amann and one larger sized pastry with the remainder of the dough. Knead the marzipan and place in the center of whatever shape you choose, fold the edges over to meet in the center and pinch to seal. Top each pastry with sugar mixed witha tiny pinch of salt and some slivered almonds. Place each pastry into english muffin rings on a parchment or silpat lined heavy sheet pan or even a jumbo muffin pan (no need to grease them) for the 4×4″ size and use a flan ring for the larger size .To make a “Bretagne Braid ” such as the one shown here – make a rectangle and put the marzipan lengthwise down the middle, cut in from the long sides towards the filling at 1/2″ even, intervals and alternate bringing the side strips over the filling to make a braided pattern, turn under the ends and pinch to seal, place on a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet, cover the pastry with plastic wrap and (proof) place in warm place until slightly puffed- about 30 to 40 minutes. Preheat your oven to 425F. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, rotating the trays about halfway through and bake until golden, and puffed. Remove to a cooling tray immediately.
They are good warm or cool but they do stale quickly so eat them or share them the same day- although we have nibbled them for up to four days they lose their stellar quality. I have frozen some, untopped, at the preproofed stage to pull them out proof them, top them and bake them as needed.
Proofing individual and large sized pastries
They make an awfully good breakfast!
Wow that was a long one! Hope you enjoyed the journey.