Kouign-Amann

kouign amann

Bon Appetit began running a column this month called The Project, in which they detail how to make involved dishes, ones that require ambition, energy, thought, dishes such as cassoulet or ramen or their debut project: kouign-amann, a buttery pastry from Brittany, France.

I love this idea. So often these days I am too focused on what’s easy, what’s familiar, what’s going to get dinner on the table fastest. I miss the days when I would come home with a rabbit — oh to be young! — and open up my favorite Sally Schneider cookbook to find an impossibly involved recipe for ragù, which I would make and then serve over homemade pappardelle — oh to be young! — even if it meant serving dinner at 10pm.

Today if I see more than five ingredients in a recipe, my eyes glaze over, I file it into the “perhaps-one-day” folder, and I move on to the “fast, easy, fresh” recipe.

I love the spirit of this BA column so much that I almost didn’t write this post. Because the thing is that I cheated. One glimpse of those flaky, buttery, caramelized kouign-amann, and I thought: I need those in my belly. Immediately.

And so I cheated. Because Nigella Lawson, with her food processor Danish pastry dough, has made me a cheater. I fell for her dough when I made cheese danishes with lemon-ricotta filling last spring; I fell in love with her dough when I used it to make cronuts last fall. Twenty years from now, I might just learn to laminate dough properly, but until then, whenever I see recipes calling for that butter block and that folded pastry dough and that laborious process, I will cheat. And I will not look back.

Because this is the thing: Nigella’s processor Danish pastry is hardly cheating. It’s not opening a box of puff pastry, brushing it with butter, sprinkling it with sugar, pinching its corners and calling it kouign-amann.

This pastry dough requires thought and planning and a little bit of elbow grease. The dough, made mostly in the food processor with butter, flour, yeast, etc., requires a night’s rest in the fridge. And on shaping day, it requires rolling and folding and rolling and folding and rolling and folding. And in the case of kouign-amann, it requires another night in the fridge. If you want freshly baked kouign-amann on Easter Sunday, you start Friday night. That’s tomorrow. That’s 36+ hours in advance. That is planning. That is work. That is love. And that is why you deserve kouign-amann on Easter morning — on any morning — regardless of how hard it is to make.

ready for the fridge

kouign amann

kouign amann

kouign amann

kouign amann

Of all of the pastries I have made with Nigella’s food processor Danish pastry dough, this is the simplest, and it might be my favorite. The only addition to the master dough recipe here is sugar — there are no egg washes, no fillings, no toppings. These pastries caramelize so beautifully in the oven, and they disappear too quickly — truly, they are irresistible. You likely have all of the ingredients on hand to make these but do remember to plan ahead.

A few other ways to use this magical processor Danish pastry:
Cheese Danishes made with a lemon-ricotta filling that I absolutely love.
Prosciutto & Gruyère Croissants
Cronuts — I didn’t detail/blog about this process. If you would like some guidance, please let me know.

Also, definitely check out the BA slideshow detailing how to make true kouign-amann.

Processor Danish Pastry

Source: Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess

Notes: This processor Danish pastry dough should rest in the fridge overnight, and the shaped kouign amann also rest in the fridge overnight. So, if you want to have freshly baked kouign amann for Easter Sunday, make the dough on Friday.

If you need to rush the process, see the Cheese Danishes post.

processor danish pastry:

1/4 cup (60 ml) warm water
1/2 cup (125 ml) milk at room temperature
1 large egg at room temperature
2 1/4 cups (10 1/8 oz | 286g) all-purpose flour
1 package (2.25 tsp. | 1/4 oz | 7g) rapid rise yeast (instant) or 1 tablespoon fresh yeast*
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon (1 oz. | 25g) sugar
1 cup (8 oz | 250g) unsalted butter, cold, cut into thin slices

* You can use active dry yeast, too — just let it stand with the milk and water for about 10 minutes until it is a little foamy.

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided

1. Pour the water and milk into a measuring cup and add the egg, beating with a fork to mix. Set aside.

2. Place a large bowl near your food processor. Then put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in the processor, and give it one quick whizz just to mix. Add the cold slices of butter and process briefly so that the butter is cut up a little. You still want visible chunks of butter about least 1/2 inch in size — about 5 short pulses.

3. Empty the contents of the food processor into the large bowl, then add in the milk-egg mixture. Use your hands or a rubber spatula to mix the ingredients together, but don’t overdo it: expect to have a gooey mess with some butter lumps pebbling it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, put in the refrigerator, and leave overnight or up to 4 days.

4. In the late afternoon or evening the day before you are baking the kouign-amann, take the dough out of the refrigerator, let it get to room temperature (about 15 minutes or so), and roll the dough out into a 20-inch square. (Note: Don’t worry too much about inches here — just try to roll the dough out into a large square that is relatively thin. Also, you will probably need to lightly dust your work surface with flour and add more flour as needed to your rolling pin and board. See video below for guidance.) Fold the dough square into thirds, like a business letter, turning it afterward so that the closed fold is on your left, like the spine of a book. Roll the dough out again into a large square, repeating the steps above 3 times.

5. After the three rolls, roll the dough into a 16×12″ rectangle. Sprinkle the surface with 1/4 cup sugar. Gently pat the sugar into the dough. Flip the rectangle. Sprinkle with another 1/4 cup sugar. Gently pat again. Cut the dough into 12 squares — you need a 4×3 grid. Brush excess flour from dough and surface.

6. Butter a 12-cup muffin tin. Lift corners of each square and press into the center. Fit each pinched parcel into each muffin cup. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.

7. About an hour before baking, remove pan from fridge. Note: This is different than what BA advises, which is to bake the pastry directly from the fridge. When I use Nigella’s dough, I always let it come to room temperature before baking, so that is what I’ve done here. Now, definitely take a look at the BA article/kouign-amann…the shape is different (meaning accurate) and the texture is likely different, too. In addition to being buttery, flaky, and caramelized, these kouign-amann are incredibly light, too, which I love but which I am not sure is necessarily traditional.

8. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Sprinkle remainging two tablespoons of sugar over top of pastries. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden on top. Let cool briefly before serving.

This is a really boring video provided soley to offer some guidance regarding the rolling process:

33 Comments

  1. I feel the same way you do about involved recipes. I file them away in the “perhaps-one-day” folder as well. I like that you take the time to get involved about such things. To me it is what sets you apart from other blogs.
    Your passionate spirit is reflected in your work and it shines every time you post something.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Great post, I find I am always looking for simple and easy recipes as well, but every once in a while it’s nice to tackle something a little more elaborate, but if you can make elaborate a little easier too, why not. Beautiful pics!

    Reply
  3. They are so pretty!

    I don’t mind the occasional involved recipe (I don’t have children to chase after!) but I am definitely not as ambitious as I was in my younger days. I once made marrons glace from scratch!

    Reply
  4. I just read that BA article last night. I’ve made croissants (in a great hands on class). Loved it. I will try this recipe soon!

    Reply
  5. Alexandra, what a beautiful pastry! I know I don’t get over here to comment nearly as much as I’d like to, but I hope you know that I read every single thing and I am always in awe! I default to the same–fast, fresh, easy! But I love that you took the time to do this and post the instructions! And in my opinion, using a food processor is never a cheat!

    Reply
  6. Like you, I have no time for the luxury of complicated recipes. I save them to a Pinterest board for the month of July when I don’t work and live in the country (way in the country) on top of a mountain. I want the girl back who fearlessly tried new things on a weekday night after school. I don’t know where she went. Oh, yeah; she’s earning a living still at 56! I love your blog, and I’m gonna try this soon (not waiting til July!).

    Reply
    • Oh Elaine, I know! I wish I took more advantage of those days. I don’t know where the time goes now, but it is so precious. Thank you for your kind words. I want that girl back, too :)

      Reply
  7. I have A New Way to Cook, but haven’t used it as much as I should. Any can’t-miss recipes you recommend? The one recipe I have made and would strongly recommend is Honey-Cured Pork Loin with Peppery Juniper and Fennel Seed Rub on page 294. It’s absolutely delightful, utterly easy, and the complete antithesis of the spirit of this post, but I do appreciate your/i> efforts! Happy Easter!

    Reply
    • Ann, thank you! I haven’t made the pork loin recipe — will definitely try that one. I’m excited. I need to go back and open that book to give you a longer list, but I love her brown butter orzo risotto, and her mozzarella rice, and her miso cod, and a few others. I will report back :)

      Reply
  8. This is so inspiring as usual. I just love your blog. My friends are probably getting tired of hearing me reference it constantly as the source of different recipes. :)

    Reply
  9. This is my kind of post all the way- truly a labor of love! I think we all tend to gravitate towards quick and easy meals, (myself included!) and it’s so refreshing to see a work of art like this. Thanks for the fabulous recipe! Happy Easter :)

    Reply
  10. Hello Alexandra –
    Thanks for the dandy, well explained (unpronounceable) Kouign-Amann recipe. Had to jump right on this one- and they turned out really well. Flaky, crunchy and drool worthy. (I crushed a little cardoman in with the sugar sprinkled on just prior to baking- yum). Going to try the recipe w Buttermilk next time- it adds so much complexity … Will report back on the results.
    Cheers!

    Phil V. K.

    Reply
      • Hi Alexandra!

        Glad that I can now eat AND pronounce KA’s!

        What a fun project. The brittle crackly crust is spectacular, and made sooo apparent by the light and airy middle.

        I did try the buttermilk in this weekend’s batch, (no milk- just buttermilk), and it was no problem- and a slight improvement to me. The hint of sweetness from the milk was replaced by just a (welcome) hint of sour from the bttrmilk.

        And, I’ll confess to adopting several other custom touches that seemed to work out fine too.
        * added 25 G of toasted wheat germ- (for flavor and nutrition), and a splash more buttermilk to keep it from getting too dry.
        * reduced yeast to a tsp. Had plenty of rise! (I use the SAF instant granules from King Arthur).
        * Added a bit of freshly smashed cardamom to the final sugar
        for sprinkling on top- which made some bites have a little dizzying aromatic lift!

        thanks for the great blog. (Love your pictures- the lighting, subject matter and color intensity are so appealing!)

        Reply
        • Thanks for the update, Phil! I’m so happy you are liking the recipe/dough/result. I am very excited to hear that buttermilk (which might be my favorite baking ingredient) improves the taste. Will definitely be trying that next time around. Also love the idea of using cardamom in the finish — love that flavor — and I can totally see cutting back on the yeast. They definitely rise for enough time, so less makes sense. Will try that next time, too.

          Thanks so much for writing in, and thank you for your kind words. It really means a lot.

          Reply
  11. The title of your blog created a total question mark in my mind. Huh? What’s that? So of course I had to read further. Hey your cheating is not cheating, its making modifications that fit most of our super busy life styles. I love the shapes. I have never seen a roll formed that way. Of course the pictures make you want to grab the butter and demanding a roll—NOW!

    Reply
  12. I smiled when I read this post. I saved this recipe from my Bon Appetit magazine for future use. Future meaning, “I bet Ali will find a way to make this recipe easier but just as delicious.” So, I waited. And walla! Here it is! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply
  13. God, I love Nigella. Thank you so much for sharing this! I also enjoyed that kouign amann column in BA, but this shortcut is certainly going to make it more likely that I try this sooner rather than later.

    By the way, have you tried tucking anything into the center of them? Like a piece of chocolate or cheese? I think it would work..

    Reply

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