A speciality of Brittany in the North West of France, Kouign amann is a traditional Breton cake. It is made from dough similar to bread dough but laced with butter and sugar. The authentic Breton recipe consists in multiple layers of alternating dough, butter, and sugar. The layers are arranged in a big circular cake mould called roue de charrette (Â‘carriage wheelÂ’).
A speciality of Brittany in the North West of France, Kouign Amann is a traditional Breton cake. It is made from dough similar to bread dough but laced with butter and sugar. The authentic Breton recipe consists in multiple layers of alternating dough, butter, and sugar. The layers are arranged in a big circular cake mould called roue de charrette (‘carriage wheel’). The resulting cake is slowly baked until the butter puffs up the dough and the sugar caramelizes. The name derives from the Breton words for cake (‘kouign’) and butter (‘amann’). Kouign Amann is a particular speciality of the Finistère region of Brittany, where it originated.
It is believed that the original Kouign Amann resulted from a failed bread paste made by a Breton baker from Douarnenez in 1865. The baker reputably turned the dough into a fine cake by adding sugar and butter. The famous Breton ‘Butter Cake’ was born, and soon became a speciality of Finistère. The traditional Kouign Amann became a greater success after 1945 when Brittany became a tourist destination.
The French butter cake requires great skill to make. Breton cooks specify that the best way to enjoy the Kouign Amann is to eat it warm the day it has been cooked with a glass of traditional Breton cider.
1 tablespoon (12 g) dried yeast
¾ cup (175 ml) tepid water
2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup ( 200 g) sugar (which will be divided later)
(Plus additional sugar for rolling out the pastry)
1 stick salted butter (110 g), cut into ½-inch (2 cm) pieces and chilled
Serves 8 to 10, or one if you prefer . . .
1. In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water with a pinch of sugar. Stir briefly, then let stand for 10 minutes until foamy.
2. Gradually stir the flour and salt. The dough should be soft, but not too sticky. Lightly dust your countertop with flour and transfer the dough onto it. Knead the dough with your hands until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes.
3. Brush a medium bowl with melted butter, put the dough ball into the bowl. Cover, and let rest in a warm place for 1 hour.
4. On a floured countertop, roll the dough into a rectangle. Distribute the butter in the centre of the dough and sprinkle with 50g of sugar. Grab the left side of the dough, lift and fold it over the centre, than do the same with the right side.
5. Sprinkle the dough with 50g of sugar and fold again into thirds.
6. Place on the plastic wrap-covered dinner plate and chill for 1 hour. Once chilled, remove dough from refrigerator.
7. Top the dough with 50g of sugar and roll into a rectangle. Again, fold into thirds and let rest in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes.
8. Preheat oven to 220° C.
9. Remove dough from refrigerator. Roll dough into a circle about the size of the baking pan. Once rolled, lift the dough and coax it into the pan.
10. Bake for 45 minutes, until the top is caramelized.