Making complex recipes surprisingly simple

Making complex recipes surprisingly simple

Vanilla Bean Kouign Amann

Vanilla Bean Kouign Amann

Kouign Amann is a buttery and flaky pastry with a light caramel flavored crunch, perfect for Saturday morning brunch. This French pastry is not as commonly known as the croissant but is just as delicious- if not even better.

I first had a Kouign Amann at Dominique Ansel in New York City. Let me say it was one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. When I got home I just had to try making it myself.

A lot of people are intimidated by the lamination of the dough that must occur to make a good Kouign Amann or almost any French pastry for that matter. In reality, French pastries are not that hard to make- they just take patience.

Kouign Amann has some unique elements that separate it from other types of pastries. Firstly- a traditional Kouign Amann uses salted butter instead of unsalted butter which is used in the majority of pastries. Secondly, there are two additional turns in which we fold in sugar making layers of flaky pastry and gooey caramel.

The Dough:

Kouign Amann starts with a simple four-ingredient dough. A rough dough such as this one is super easy to make. Measuring the doughs gluten structure can get a little tricky for this type of pastry because you want the dough to be smooth and elastic enough that it will be easy to roll but you do not want the gluten structure to become overworked because the dough will continue to be worked as you do the laminating that gives this pastry its character. As a general rule, I like to knead the dough until it is soft and elastic and no further. If you over or under work your dough it’s okay! Nobody will know. 😉

The Lamination Process:

Lamination is actually really easy to do. A lot of people over think it and stress rolling it out into perfectly shaped rectangles each fold. It really is not as necessary as many people think. Laminating dough does not need to be super precise.

The most important thing that determines a successful lamination of the dough is the temperature of the butter. If it gets too warm it will melt and absorb into the layers resulting in a greasy not so flaky pastry. If the butter gets too cold then it breaks into chunks in the dough resulting in super buttery pockets. The easy solution to fixing this problem is making sure you don’t forget about your dough in the refrigerator. If you make sure to give the dough a turn or two every thirty minutes to an hour you should avoid either senerios.

I like to use the enveloping method for laminating my dough- it’s super easy and works really well. Start by rolling out the dough into a square that is about 15×15 inches. It does not need to be perfect or super precise. Spread the butter into a 10×10 diamond in the center of the dough. Fold the dough over like an envelope and seal all of the edges together. From there we do three turns and folds and then the magic begins to happen.

The Sugar Layer:

Originally when I began making Kouign Amann, I struggled to keep the layers together and make sure that the sugar didn’t fall out when I began to laminate it into the dough. But I found that part of it was due to the fact that there was an unnecessary amount of sugar in the recipe that actually took away from the flavor of the pastry. Secondly, I found that you MUST seal all of the edges before you begin rolling the folded sugar into the dough. The three layers you have after the first sugar fold need to be sealed at the edges on all three open sides. If there is a crack or hole in the seams the sugar can leak out. Again, no need to be perfect but it will be a lot easier if you seal all of the edges. I add the sugar in two additions to make sure that the sugar layers do not get too thick.

Once you begin to add the sugar you have to work fast. The sugar can sweat and get sticky if you let the dough sit in between layers. I recommend leaving the dough only ten to fifteen minutes of rest time in the refrigerator between turns and the final roll out.

The Final Touches:

One the dough has had its turns, been chilled, and rolled out into a rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick, cut the dough into 12-15 equal squares about 4×4 inches in size. Press the corners of the squares firmly into the center of the square and transfer the pastries into muffin tins. Allow the pastries to rise for about 20 minutes while you preheat the oven. Pop them in and allow them to bake until they are a deep amber color. This gives them a delicious, crunchy, exterior and a soft gooey middle.

Vanilla Bean Kouign Amann:

1 cup (8 fl. oz) Room Temperature Water 2 1/2 cups (325g) Flour
2 1/2 Tsp Active Dry Yeast
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 cup (8oz) Salted Butter (Cool to touch)
2 tbsp (16g) Flour
1 cup (207g) Sugar
1 Tsp Vanilla Bean Paste (Vanilla Extract works too!)
Instructions: 1. Place the water and the yeast in a small bowl and allow it to bloom for 5-10 minutes.
2. In another bowl mix together the flour and the salt. Slowly add the yeast mixture into the flour and stir until well combined. Knead the dough for 3-5 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. You may need to add a small amount more water as necessary depending on the humidity.
3. Allow the dough to rest and rise on the counter for 30 minutes before placing the dough in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill the dough.
4. In a mixer place the butter and the 2 tbsp of flour. Mix until they are fully incorporated and a spreadable consistency that is cool to touch.
5. Roll out the dough into a 15×15 inch square. Spread the butter into a 10×10 diamond at the center of the square. Fold the dough like a letter, encasing the butter. Seal the seams of the dough.
6. Roll out the dough into a 10×15 inch rectangle. Fold the rectangle into thirds and allow the dough to chill for 30 minutes.
7. Roll the dough the long way into a 10×15 inch rectangle and fold it into thirds. Rotate the dough ninety degrees and repeat. Place the dough in the refrigerator to rest for 30-45 minutes. 8. Combine the sugar and the vanilla bean paste in a bowl and mix until fully combined.
9. Roll the dough into a 10×15 inch rectangle. Spread half of the sugar mixture on two-thirds of the dough. Fold the dough into thirds, sealing the edges of the dough. Rotate the dough ninety degrees and roll out again into a 10×15 inch rectangle. Spread the remaining sugar over two-thirds of the dough. Fold into thirds again and seal the edges. Rotate the dough ninety degrees and roll it out into a 10×15 inch rectangle.
10. Fold the dough into thirds and place it in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes if necessary.
11. Roll out the dough into a rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 12-15 4×4 inch squares. Fold the corners of the squares into the center. This creates a kind of pinwheel effect.
12. Place the pastries in a greased muffin tin and allow them to rise for 15-20 minutes.
13. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the kouign in the oven for ten minutes. Turn down the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the pastries reach a deep amber brown.
14. Remove the pastries from the pan while they are still warm otherwise they will stick to the pan. 15. Serve warm or reheat in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.
16. Kouign Amann keeps in an airtight container for up to 3 days but is​ best consumed the day that they are made.


This recipe was adapted from The Kitchn

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