The Kouign Amann: Get to Know the Buttery Sugary Goodness of the Next It DessertFebruary 3, 2019
- Katrina IriberriWords
I have mixed feelings about writing this article. One part of me wants to keep the news about Kouign Amanns to a minimum, I want them all to myself and they are hard enough to get in Manila as it is. On the other hand, spreading the word about this special pastry might just hype it up enough to raise demand, and consequently, the supply for it as well. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. What is a Kouign Amann (pronounced “kween am-ahn”) anyway? And why does Dominique Ansel, creator of the Cronut™, consider it even better than his trademarked creation?
The name Kouign Amann translates into “butter cake” in Breton, which should give you a clue as to why this pastry has a special place in my heart (and thighs). It is made out of a yeasted dough folded over a considerable amount of cold butter (Ansel uses what looks like a 1cm thick sheet of butter in this video!), rolled out, and sprinkled with more butter and sugar. The result is what David Lebovitz calls “one of his favorite caramelized things in the world.”
A traditional, well-made Kouign Amann is a study in wonderful contrasts. The top should be flaky and light, almost like a croissant, while the bottom is slightly denser and more doughy. The butter and sugar form a crunchy coating in some places, and in others combine into a sweet and light syrup. As to the flavor, what you see is pretty much what you get. With only six ingredients (flour, yeast, water, butter, salt, and sugar), everything comes down to the butter and the sugar. If really good butter is used, then a Kouign Amann will kick the vanilla custard-filled butt of any Cronut™ anytime.
Kouign Amann recipes are notoriously tricky to execute well. Even Lebovitz, a very experienced pastry chef, had some of his attempts end in a squidgy, buttery mess. The extreme heat in our country doesn’t help either, causing the dough to not develop correctly. It’ll be a while, then, until I pluck up the courage to make my own. Until such a time, I have to buy my Kouign Amanns from other commercial establishments.
I know of three places in Manila that make Kouign Amanns. There’s Bon Ton Bakery at Salcedo Market, Bizu (which serves their version topped with ice cream), and Wildflour (come early because they do run out on some days). I’m crossing my fingers that this means Kouign Amanns are slowly but surely (and deservedly) gaining popularity, but I’m also wary of it getting caught in any Cronut™-scale hysteria. I don’t really want the market to be flooded by subpar copycats. However, while I never bought into the croissant/doughnut hybrid hype myself, I do think the Kouign Amann might just be worth the risk.