Of all the things that have shot to fame with the rise of the Great British Bake-Off (Paul Hollywood included), Kouign Amman are by far my favourite. I have a lot of time for these Breton pastries, and although they use relatively few ingredients I really think whoever first came up with these little gems is a sheer genius. These little parcels have a light, buttery texture, much like the inside of a croissant, encased in a crisp caramel shell. When ‘The Intrepid Fox’ bakery becomes a reality, these will be my daily bread, and I cannot encourage anyone enough to try making them, as all they really require is some patience. Perfect for a lazy Sunday. The recipe used here is Paul Hollywood’s, jazzed up a little with a tinge of spice. However, if you want to try the plain versions they are equally delicious.
300g strong white flour
1 tablespoon fast-action yeast
1 tablespoon of salt
25g unsalted butter + 250g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 cinnamon sticks
~125g golden caster sugar
1. The first step to making these Kouign amman should be done a few days in advance. Quite simply, place a couple of cinnamon sticks in a jar with your golden caster sugar and leave to infuse for as long as you can, occasionally giving the sugar a quick shake. Open it from time to time and the smell is lovely. This gives you cinnamon sugar. I obviously made a bit more than was needed in the picture above, but it can be used in a wide range of recipes so is a nice thing to keep in the kitchen.
2. When you are ready to make the Kouign amman, measure out the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt to one side of the bowl and the fast-action yeast to the other. Give the 25 g unsalted butter a blast in the microwave and add it to the flour mix, along with 200m gently warmed butter.
3. Next, I used a dough hook and my kitchenaid to knead the dough for 8 minutes, the first 2 of a lower speed before increasing it slightly. However, before I got Artemis, my beloved kitchenaid I made kouign amman by giving the dough a really long, vigourous knead for about 10 minutes until it was smooth and elastic. I actually feel often kneading by hand is better because you can really tell how your dough is doing. Leave your dough to prove for one hour or until it has doubled in size.
4. When the dough is proved, take your block of butter (250g) and place it between two sheets of baking parchment. Give it a good bash with a rolling pin until it begins to flatten, and you are able to roll it into a rectangle about 18cmx 18m.
5. Tip your dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knock some of the air out by gently pushing the dough down with your knuckles, then roll out until it is about 20cm x 20cm. Place the butter diagonally across the dough, so you can fold over the corners of the dough to encase it like an envelope.
6. Roll out the dough to a large rectangle about 45cm x 15cm. Fold the top third down and the bottom third up over the top, flatten and wrap this in cling film and leave it in the fridge for half an hour. This is known as a book turn and gives the layers you need in the pastry. By chilling it between folds, it keeps the butter from melting in the pastry.
7. You need to repeat this turning technique twice more, chilling each time between. Each time roll out the dough to 15cm x 45cm, fold the top 1/3 over and the bottom 1/3 over the top and refrigerate.
8. At some point between turns, lightly brush a 12-hole muffin tray with butter and sprinkle a little flour to stop the kouign amman sticking.
9. On the 4th turn, roll out to 15 x 40cm and dust 100g of cinnamon sugar and 1 tablespoon of cinnamon over the top. Fold once more and then roll out to a 30 x 40cm rectangle. The dough will keep shrinking back smaller, so roll it out to it’s full size a couple of times until it stays.
10. Using a pastry/pizza cutter chop your dough into 10 x 10 cm squares. You should already be able to see some layers.
11. Tuck each square into a muffin tray so the corners hang over the edge. Tuck these corners into the centre so you have something that looks a bit like a pastry four leaf clover. Cover with a clean tea towel or a plastic bag and leave to prove for a further 30 minutes.
12. Preheat the oven to 220•C. When these are done proving, sprinkle with a bit more cinnamon sugar. Place them in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Be careful because the sugar on the top catches easily so keep an eye on them, they will probably need a tin-foil hat placing over them after about 10. If you don’t watch them, you may get a few burnt caramel tops which is not ideal (I know).