Koiugn amann (pronounced queen a-mahn) originally hail from Brittany, a region of France known for it's incredibly delicious butter so it is no surprise that they are chock-full of the stuff. Kouign amann are similar to croissants in that they are made from yeast dough laminated with butter, but a higher butter to flour ratio and a healthy sprinkle of sugar makes them rich, crunchy, and totally irresistible. I was first introduced to the buttery treat on a sunny day in Seattle a few summers ago by Ashley who kindly informed me that it was the best thing in the pastry case at Honore in Ballard. She was not wrong. Their koiugn amann are the kind of thing you dream about; a compact treat, deeply caramelized, impossibly buttery and sprinkled with the perfect amount of crunchy sea salt. I admit, like making croissants, making kouign amann at home is a bit of a process, but totally worth it especially if your local bakeries don't make them. This recipe is quite lengthy so make sure to read through it at least once before starting. If you'd like to make these treats over the course of a couple of days there are instructions as to where you can pause the process in the instructions below.
Kouign Amman are traditionally baked in pastry rings, but if you don't have them, a muffin tin will do the job just fine. Use the very best butter you can afford in this recipe. Butter from Brittany (the home of kouign amann) would be most appropriate, but any good European-style butter will do. Just make sure it is salted.
1 cup water at 110º
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces salted butter, cool but pliable
1 1/2 cups sugar
1. Combine the water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir to dissolve. Let the yeast proof for about 5 minutes or until bubbly. Add the flour and salt and stir to combine with a wooden spoon. Using the dough hook attachment, knead the dough for 4-5 minutes or until it is smooth, but still tacky. If the dough sticks to the bowl add flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough is smooth. If the dough seems stiff and dry, add water one tablespoon at a time until the dough is smooth.
2. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let it rise for one hour or until doubled in size. Alternately, let the dough rise in the refrigerator over night.
3. After the dough has risen, put in in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes. This will help keep the butter cool in the following steps.
4. Roll the dough into a roughly 12-inch by 20-inch rectangle on a well-floured surface. Gently and carefully spread the cool, but pliable butter on to the left 2/3rds of the dough. Leaving the right side bare.
5. Fold the right, unbuttered side of the dough over the buttered dough, then fold the remaining 1/3 of buttered dough over to the right, like a letter. Gently press the seams of the dough to hold the butter in place. Flour the board again if necessary, rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll it into a roughly 12-inch by 20-inch rectangle. Again, fold it into thirds like a letter. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured quarter sheet pan and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes. Be careful to not let the dough get too cold or the butter will harden and tear the dough when you try to roll it out again.
6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and transfer it to a well-floured surface and again roll it into a 12-inch by 20-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with 3/4 cups of sugar and press gently (this will seem like a lot of sugar. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter and repeat the process with the remaining 3/4 cups sugar. Transfer the dough back to the floured quarter sheet pan and chill for 30 minutes.
7. While the dough is chilling prepare the muffin tins or pastry rings by very generously buttering them and arranging them on parchment lined baking sheets. (I didn't do a good enough job and some of my pastries stuck :( Don't be like me!)
8. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and transfer it to a surface that has been generously sprinkled with sugar. Roll the dough into a rectangle roughly 8-inches by 24-inches. Use a pastry wheel or pizza cutter to cut the dough into 12 even squares.
9. Fold the corners of each square towards the center and tuck each square into the muffin tin or pastry ring. Let them rise until slightly puffy, 30-40 minutes. Alternately, the kouign amann can be refrigerated overnight (before rising). If you'd like to take advantage of that option make sure to bring the pastries back to room temperature and rise before baking.
10. While the kouign amann are rising, preheat the oven to 400º. Place the baking sheets into the oven and lower the temperature to 350º. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until the pastries are deep golden brown (just shy of burnt). Let cool briefly and remove the kouign amann from the muffin tins or pastry rings to a rack. Do not let them cool in the pans or they will stick and you will have a real mess on your hands. These treats are best enjoyed warm, the day that they are baked.