My Kouign Amann challenge (Fail!)

Kouign Amann is a kind of pastry/cake item from Britanny, land of salted butter. It is made with salted butter! The idea seems to be to have plenty of flaky layers, plus some nice caramelization from adding plenty of sugar.

A Kouign Amann (I say "Queen a-MON," no idea if that's correct) is not that hard to make, but it does take time and involves carefully following directions. I was using David Lebovitz's recipe, and there are a lot of particular steps to follow. Here I picture and annotate some of those steps:

After dissolving yeast in warm water, I made a sticky dough.

The dough is kneaded until smooth and still a bit sticky. Then set in a warm place for ONE HOUR to rise. (I use caps because I want to emphasize that this recipe takes over THREE HOURS in proofing/rising/chilling time. No big deal, unless you haven't read the recipe carefully first.)


Directions say to roll the dough into a 12" by 18" rectangle. I was being serious so I used a tape measure.

Chilled butter pieces are placed in the center, followed by the first sprinkling of sugar.

The two sides are folded in over the butter.

The second sprinkling of sugar. Then, it is folded into thirds again.

Set on plastic and ready to chill for ONE HOUR. Everything went well up to this point. Beyond this point... things got screwy.

The chilled dough is rolled into another rectangle. Two complaints--the sugar started to melt during the chilling process, making my hunk of dough a little drippy. I don't know enough about baking chem to know why--is my fridge humid perhaps? Also, the directions didn't say to cover the dough (with plastic?) so I put it in the fridge "nude." This caused it to develop a skin on top. When rolled out, it caused the patchy dry bits you can see above. (And I forgot to put the sugar on before I rolled it out... I added it right after.)

Rolled into thirds again. Back into the fridge for ONE HOUR.

I hauled my still-drippy dough out of the fridge for the last bit of work before baking. The giant squashed pieces of butter were starting to make things fall apart; I decided that must be a good thing. Rolled into a round to place in a buttered pie plate.

Last sprinkling of sugar, a spiral of melted butter, and into the oven.

Hmmm. I prefer to call the edges "overcaramelized" and not "burned." As my main taster pointed out, I was SO CLOSE. I think I left this in the oven just 10 minutes too long. ("Just"! I guess that's a long time.) I admit I was making dinner for 4 at the same time, so I just set the timer on 45 minutes and never looked in on it again. Probably a terrible baking faux pas.

But you know what? It tastes pretty good.

Conclusions: I'll probably try this again. I am not a great baker (clearly). But the recipe was helpful and the ingredients simple. Despite my complaints, I don't think the dripping and whatever else are a huge deal. Do you? Let me know if you have any critiques besides the obvious one of checking on it while it's baking. I do want to taste this when it's done JUST RIGHT.


Vicki said...

I've had that recipe bookmarked for quite some time, and have been scared to make it, ever since my pogacsa experiment - I had problems with the folding/dripping/drying with that one. Maybe if the butter was cut thinner and more evenly dispersed?

Alice said...

i had a similar thing happen to me when i attempted british flapjacks (bon appetit march 2010 issue). SIGNIFICANTLY easier recipe, and tasty-but not embraced in this house at all.

"Prof. Kitty" said...

Vicki--good point about the butter. Those chunks of mine do look tremendous! (Although the recipe says 1/2" pieces.) I'll definitely try smaller/"evener" butter bits if I make this again!

Alice--drat! Those sound really good!