French Kouign Amann
It’s a buttery, flaky, croissant-like pastry with its origins in Brittany France. Kouign Amann means “butter cake” in Breton, and you can see why. It’s a croissant-like pastry with lots of layers and sugar that caramelizes into a sweet crust as it bakes. The result is a crispy-crunchy exterior with a rich and flaky interior.
The recipe for Kouign Amann has been around for about 150 years and has become very popular in the last decade or so. Though I could not find the exact origin of the name, one theory is that it comes from the Breton words for cake (kouign) and butter (amann).
French Kouign Amann Recipe
This kouign amann recipe uses the same basic technique as for making laminated doughs like Croissants or Danish Pastry Dough. We start by making rich dough using flour, yeast, water, and sugar. Then we wrap it around generous amounts of butter to make laminated dough. Then we roll it out and fold it up several times to build up layers in the dough.
Kouign amann was first baked nearly 150 years ago in Douarnenez, France. It was sold at local bakeries and quickly became a favorite among the locals.
Taste: The kouign-amman is made with sweet and slightly sticky dough that is rolled and folded many times to create hundreds of layers of butter and sugar. It's baked in small round pans about the size of a cupcake pan.
Texture: Kouign amann has an incredibly crispy exterior that breaks off into shards when bitten into, revealing an incredibly soft and fluffy interior and a cross between puff pastry and brioche.
Appearance: The top of the kouign amann is golden brown with large crystals of sugar on top which caramelizes when it bakes.
Describing Kouign Amann
I would describe Kouign Amann as a sweet and flaky dessert made with rich, buttery dough. It is a Breton cake that has become popular in the UK. It is also known as a French pastry and can be found in bakeries across the country.
Kouign Amann is pronounced “queen amahn” or “kween ah-mahn” and it means butter cake in Breton. The name comes from its main ingredients: butter and sugar.
The traditional recipe calls for two types of dough: one for the bottom layer, which is left plain, and one for the top layer, which has been folded into layers like puff pastry (or pâte feuilletée). The sweet pastry has been compared to a croissant because both are made with dough that’s been folded into layers like puff pastry but without yeast.
The pastry is typically baked until golden brown and served warm with ice cream or whipped cream on top. It can also be eaten cold, but I prefer to eat mine hot because it melts in your mouth when you bite into it!
How is kouign-amann eaten?
Kouign-amann is usually eaten at breakfast or as a snack, in small wedges. It is sometimes served with coffee or tea. In the UK, kouign-amann is often sold in bakeries and pastry shops, especially those selling French pastries. It has become a popular item in bakeries in the San Francisco Bay Area, where it has been featured on the menus of restaurants such as Tartine Bakery and Bouchon Bakery.
Kouign-amann is a Breton pastry, named after the Breton words for “butter cake”. It is made of bread dough containing layers of butter and sugar folded in, similar in fashion to puff pastry albeit with fewer layers. The resulting pastry is slowly baked until the butter puffs up the dough (resulting in the layered aspect of the pastry), and the sugar caramelizes. Kouign-amann is a specialty of the town of Douarnenez in Brittany, France. It has become popular around France and North America.
Composition of Kouign Amann
Kouign Amann is a traditional cake from Brittany, France. It is made with yeast dough, similar to croissants or brioche, but with more sugar and butter (which I am sure you didn't think was possible). The butter and sugar are layered into the dough, which is folded and rolled out multiple times. This process creates flaky layers that caramelize when baked in a very hot oven.
Kouign Amann means "cake butter", which gives you an indication of how much butter is used in this recipe. The dough is usually made with 50% butter by weight, which means a pound of dough will contain half a pound of butter. If you don't know how to make laminated doughs like puff pastry or croissants, check out my post on Croissants to learn all about them.
Difference between croissant and kouign-amann
Despite the similar names and outward appearances, croissants and kouign-amann are very different in both flavor and texture.
The Differences between Croissants and Kouign-Amann
- Croissants are made from laminated dough that is rolled up with butter layered between each turn. This creates a pastry that is flaky on the outside with a tender interior. The buttery flavor of a croissant can vary based on how rich the dough is and how thick the butter layer is.
- Kouign-amann, on the other hand, is made from enriched dough that has sugar folded into it as well as layers of butter before being rolled into very thin pieces of dough, stacked together with additional butter between each layer, then baked in a round mold to create a flaky cake with a caramelized crisp exterior and light interior. It's sometimes referred to as "butter cake" or "butter bread."
- Both the croissant and kouign-amann are made with French pastry dough called pâte feuilletée, or puff pastry, which is composed of alternating layers of dough and butter. The croissant is made by rolling out a rectangle of pâte feuilletée and folding it into thirds, like a business letter. It's then rolled out to expand the layers of fat.
- The kouign-amann is made by rolling out a square of pâte feuilletée and folding it into quarters. It's then rolled out to expand the layers of fat. Both are baked until golden brown, with the fat melting inside and caramelizing around the outside.
Is kouign-amann dough the same as croissant?
A croissant is laminated dough, which means it's formed by alternating layers of butter and dough. To make croissants, you roll out the dough, put a layer of butter on top, fold the dough over and roll it out again, then repeat this several times. Finally, you cut the dough into triangles and roll them into crescent shapes.
Kouign-amann is laminated dough as well. It's not the same as croissant dough because of the sugar that's added to the recipe. The word kouign-amann comes from Brittany in France and means "butter cake." The pastry is made by layering bread dough with butter and sugar, then folding and rolling out multiple times to form many layers of sugary buttery goodness. You can also add raisins or chocolate chips to your kouign-amann for extra flavor and texture.
Some people call kouign-amann a Breton cake or Breton pastry because it originated in Brittany (Breizh in Breton). But technically, it's not a cake or bread — it's something in between! Some say that kouign-amann is similar to croissant because both are made from laminated dough.
Kouign-amann is good for eating
The kouign-amann is a Breton cake that has become famous in recent years. It is made of butter, flour, and sugar. It tastes like you are eating pure fat but in a good way. You eat it after dinner with a cup of coffee, as you would a pastry or other sweet treat. It is very rich and decadent.
Origin of kouign-amann
The story of kouign-amann is not unlike that of many modern desserts, from the cronut to the cruffin: It was born in a bakery and went viral through word-of-mouth. Since its debut in Brittany, France, in 1860, kouign-amann has become a global phenomenon.
Kouign-amann is often described as "a croissant's older, richer cousin." It's made from layers of butter and sugar folded into bread dough (just like a croissant) before baking. Like the croissant, it's based on an old European bread recipe, but its good looks and decadent taste are strictly modern
Where did kouign-amann come from?
In 1860, while working in his bakery in Douarnenez, Brittany, a man named Yves Rene Scordia invented one of the world's most beloved pastries: the kouign-amann. The French name for this pastry means "cake butter" or "butter cake," and it's something like a cross between a croissant and pain d'epices honey spice bread).
Storing Kouign Amann
If your Kouign Amann is going to be stored for more than a day, the best thing is to wrap them individually in plastic wrap and place them in a single layer on a sheet tray in the freezer. Once they're frozen solid, they can be transferred to a zip-top bag and kept in the freezer indefinitely.
When you're ready to enjoy one, remove it from the freezer and let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes or so. That will take the chill off but not allow it to become too warm. If you prefer, you can also reheat it by wrapping it loosely in aluminum foil and placing it in a 300°F oven until warmed through (about 10 minutes).
Can Kouign Amann dough be frozen?
The key to Kouign Amann (pronounced kween-uh-mahn) is the brioche dough. It has to be high hydration dough - at least 50% - and it has to have a lot of sugar in it. I make mine with 75% hydration and 20% sugar (by flour weight). So about 12 ounces water, 8 ounces egg, 8 ounces butter, 4 ounces sugar, 4 ounces honey for a total of 36 ounces flour it is extremely sticky dough.
The problem with freezing it is that you're trying to freeze something that's already frozen. All that butter will solidify and turn into hard lumps in your dough once it's frozen. When you thaw it out, those lumps will soften but they'll still be there. Once you start working the dough, the gluten structure will be compromised because some parts will be underworked and others overworked (due to the pockets of butter).
- If you want to freeze your dough, I'd suggest dividing it up into balls before freezing so that when you thaw it out you can let the dough warm up just enough so that the butter softens slightly (but not so much as to melt) and then work each ball individually until all the butter.
Pastries which use laminated dough
Laminated dough is used in pastries such as croissants and Danish. The basic principle is to alternate layers of dough with layers of butter to create a flaky interior. The butter dries out during baking, creating air pockets that lead to a flaky texture. The process can be done by hand or with a machine called a laminating machine. Laminating dough is a long process and is usually done in stages over several days.
- The first stage of the process involves making two types of dough: the lean dough and fat dough. The lean dough contains flour, water, salt, yeast, and sometimes milk. The fat dough also contains flour, but it has significantly more butter than lean dough. Both types of dough are then rolled into rectangular sheets before they are stacked on top of each other and put in the refrigerator to rest for a day.
- The second stage involves rolling out the stacked sheets again and folding them into thirds like a business letter, after which they go back into the refrigerator for another day. This is repeated about five times at 24-hour intervals so that the alternating layers form an intricate web of butter and dough that has been folded into it many times over.
Kouign amann puff pastry
This is a very special pastry, one that you can find in bakeries throughout France. It has gained popularity and is now found in many bakeries in the US as well. The kouign-amann is caramelized and crusty on the outside, soft on the inside. It is a bit like a croissant except that it tastes more like brown sugar than butter.
I have to confess that I had never heard of this pastry until I went to San Francisco during Thanksgiving. One day, we went to Tartine Bakery and I tried it for the first time, I loved it so much that we went back the next day for more! As soon as I got back home, I ordered my own set of kouign amann molds which are not too expensive at all. You can also use mini muffin molds but you won't get the same spiral effect with them.
So this recipe might look intimidating because of the amount of butter involved, but don't worry: its way easier than you think! You will just need patience because you will have to wait for your dough to rise and rest several times before baking your pastries.