My sister’s name is Sahara. Like the desert. And her middle name is Rose. She is almost exactly two years younger than me. But she is much taller than me. Really only by 4 inches or so, but enough for people to think she’s the older one. She came and visited me here in Santa Barbara a couple weeks ago. We made Kouign Amann.
The first time I had Kouign Amann was while sitting in a coffee shop one summer in Seattle drinking a soy latte. We sat in the coffee shop while she ran to Crumble and Flake to pick us up some Kougin Amann. Up until this point I had only heard of the pastry and had no idea what its texture or taste would be like. After biting into that strong carmelized crust, shard of wispy thin sugar falling, I knew Kougin Amann were something special.
I make a habit of visiting a lot of bakeries. In Santa Barbara or anywhere I go. When I see Kougin Amann behind that glass bakery case, I order one. The one bakery in town that has Kouign Amann is C’est Cheese on De la Guerra. That place is great.
I never thought of attempting to make Kougin Amann but when Sahara came to visit she wanted to do an “ambitious baking project” (her exact words). So not only did we both make Kouign Amann for the first time but we added rye flour to the dough and packed some dark chocolate inside a few of them. And not surprisingly for first timers, they turned out just ok, not great. But, actually pretty impressive, considering. We used the croissant dough recipe from the Bouchon Bakery cookbook.
Here’s how it works:
The night before you are going to make the pastry, you need to make a “poolish” or starter. You mix together water, flour, and a pinch (seriously just a pinch) of yeast. You let that stew overnight.
Next morning you make your dough by combining more yeast, flour, sugar, with the poolish. You mix all of that in your stand mixer for 20 minutes.
You rest the dough and you make your butter block by pounding a bunch of butter into a flat square. Wrap in parchment and refrigerate.
Get out your dough and roll it into a big ol’ rectangle. Place butter block in the middle and fold it up like it’s a treasure of a present. Refrigerate.
Let warm a bit when you take it out of the fridge. This is the part where you’ve got to be careful and meticulous. Sprinkle the dough with a hefty first of raw sugar. You then roll out the dough with the butter block locked away in there. You don’t want the butter to be too cold or it will break but you don’t want it to be too warm so that it melts. It has to be just right to be distributed evenly as you roll out into another large rectangle. Then you fold into a square and refrigerate.
Repeat this process two more times and refrigerate. Remove and roll out again into a large rectangle. At this point you need to cut square of dough that you will fold in on themselves to be placed in a buttered muffin tin. You know those fortune tellers you used to make in elementary school out of pieces of square paper? Well the first step of making one of those is how you fold the Kouign Amann. Or in other words, you fold each of the four corners into the center of the dough and then pace in a muffin tin. But before you fold, spoon some raw sugar into the middle of that square. Let rise.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake Kougin Amann until very brown and puffy. Here’s the recipe:
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon all purpose flour
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons + 2 1/2 teaspoons water about 75 degrees F.
pinch of yeast
12 to 15 hours before you plan on making the dough, prepare the poolish.
Combine flour and yeast. Add water and mix until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit.
11.6 ounces butter
Place a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface. Place the butter on the paper and top with a second piece of parchment. Begin to pound the butter from left to right with a rolling pin. The butter will start to warm up and flatten. Remove top parchment and flip the butter over, rotating 90 degrees. Re-top with the parchment and continue to flatten the butter until it resembles a 6 3/4 inch by 7 1/2 inch rectangle. Wrap in parchment and refrigerate.
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon + 1 3/4 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon malt powder
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons +1/14 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon + 1/4 teaspoon all purpose flour
3.5 ounces room temperature butter
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons
Combine flour, sugar, yeast, malt powder. Pour half of water around the poolish to loosen it. Add poolish to the dry ingredient mixture. Add the rest of the water – except for 3 1/2 tablespoons. Add butter. Mix on low for 2 minutes. Add salt. Add reserved water if it feels dry. Continue to mix for 20 minutes.
Remove dough from mixing bowl. Pull out left side of dough and fold into the middle, pull out right side of dough and fold into the middle. Repeat the process from the top. Place seam side down into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit and rise 1 hour.
Remove dough from bowl and roll out into a large rectangle about 10 by 7 1/2 inches. Freeze for 20 minutes.
Remove from freezer, sprinkle raw sugar on top and begin to encase the butter in the dough.
For rest of instructions see above.