What was I thinking when I decided to conquer kouign amann last weekend? It all started with a step-by-step photo essay (with recipe) on food52. They made it look so approachable. Easy, even. Although I made laminated dough a few times in baking classes, I only made it once at home a long time ago. I am just not a huge fan of all that waiting for the dough to relax before another envelop fold. Somehow, the promise of buttery caramelized treat trumped all my hesitation and I tackled the recipe like a champ.
What is kouign amann you ask? Think of a croissant with caramelized sugar built into the buttery layers. So instead of folds of butter-bread, you have stacks of butter-bread-caramelized sugar. It’s really awesome actually. It is a little messy to make but I can think of many more challenging baking projects. With the weather forecast calling for thunderstorm on Sunday, I thought I had a whole day to make kouign amann at a leisurely pace.
Before I went to bed on Saturday, I made the simple yeast dough and let it rise in the fridge overnight. I woke up the next morning by a text message from one of my skating buddies. He said “training in 45 minutes, will you be there?”. Thank you weather forecast for being wrong. I was still in bed and it would take me 25 minutes just to drive there! I was too groggy to think straight and said yes immediately. I traded in my rolling pin for skates and helmet without a second thought.
Skating went alright and my concussion symptoms have not returned. By the time I got home, it was close to noon and I was seriously short on time to get my kouign amann done before evening plan with friends. I rushed through the folding and turning without letting the dough rest in between. I had good reasons though. First, my house was cold and the butter was in no danger of leaking. Secondly, the dough was very pliable and stretched easily without too much coaxing. I let it chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before rolling out to 12x16 inch. That yielded 12 4-inch squares of dough.
I eased the dough into the buttered and sugared muffin tin into an attractive 4-leaf clover manner. I briefly considered hiding a small piece of dark chocolate inside some of the kouign amann but stopped myself in time for this over the top act. The smell of butterscotch during baking was incredible. I was working on another project in the kitchen and the fragrance was driving me nuts.
I must have done a less than stellar job of laminating the dough. The top of the pastry looked and tasted right but the bottom was so saturated with caramel. As soon as they came out of the oven, I gingerly lifted it out of the pan with an offset spatula and set it in foil muffin liners. The bottom of the pastry was dripping with caramel and super fragile. Once cooled, it reminded me of sticky bun. I’m sure kouign amann is not supposed to be that way. But the top was delightfully crispy and caramelized! So I made two treats in one…
I think this can only mean one thing. I have not yet conquered kouign amann and I am more motivated than ever to try again until I get it right. Lucky for me, I have a lot of friends who don’t mind taste testing along the way. Feedback is important for improvement, you know?