Douce France: Sweets in a Very Sweet Country
This beauty, perhaps the best we had during the week, came from La Huche a Pain in Vannes. Kouign-amann is a yeast pastry – think croissant dough – that envelopes a butter packet,. The dough is rolled and folded several times – think puff pastry. The difference is that it’s rolled on sugar (like palmiers), so that once it’s slid into the oven, all the sugar – and all that butter — turns into caramel.
It is not all that hard to make a kouign-amann, but it is very hard to bake it properly. Everyone seems to get the edges right — they’re well-baked and fully caramel-flavored. But as you move closer to the center, the odds of getting an under- or even un-baked dough go up significantly. It’s a very common problem, but La Huche a Pain didn’t have it. (In Paris, Pierre Hermé makes unfailingly great kouign-amann … just in case you’re in the neighborhood.)
Kouign-amann come in two shapes: one is a puckish galette (it’s the way it’s made at Hermé’s – it’s more difficult to bake, but I like the thickness); and the other is flatter, more like a pancake/galette. No matter the shape, kouign-amann and its sister pastry, galette Bretonne, depend, as I mentioned, on one ingredient more than any other: butter!
This is butter from Normandy. Not what the Bretons would use, but so beautiful that I wanted you to see it.