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Rose's Alpha Bakers

TBB - Kouigns Amann (kween ah-mahn)

Patricia Reitz

Kouigns Amann (kween ah-mahn), The Baking Bible - ButterYum

Today Rose's Alpha Bakers share our first selection as we bake our way through The Baking Bible.  As a reminder, the recipes for this particular project are not being shared, but I'll post my personal commentary about each recipe followed by a full photo tutorial.   Okay, let's get started.

This week's selection - Kouigns Amann, a French pastry.  Layers of laminated yeast dough and granulated sugar baked  until the pastry puffs and the sugar caramelizes.  Often baked as a large pastry to feed many, this version makes generous individual servings.

Special equipment needed - Eight 4-inch pastry rings and a half sheet pan.  Directions are given for diy pastry rings (*see my note on using a Texas size muffin pan below).

How does it taste - Utterly amazing!  Light and buttery with layers of caramelized sugar.  *I experimented by baking half of these in a Texas size muffin pan and I really liked the way they turned out - they were taller than the ones baked in the ring molds, and they ended up with a more lacquered appearance because the excess sugar and butter couldn't drain away, instead it was was trapped in the pan, allowing it to caramelize beautifully.  Variation:  it was very hard, but I managed to save a couple of the kouigns amann to make Rose's Souffléed French Toast.  We thought it was okay, but it tasted a little "eggy".  Definitely liked the fresh pastries better.  If I ever find myself with leftovers again, I'd use them to make bread pudding.  

How does it look - Big and impressive.  

Skill level required - This probably wouldn't be the best recipe for a new baker to try first.  It's not necessarily difficult, but there are a lot of steps and it takes a lot of time.  The book stated 6 hours, but it took me longer than that, and I'm a very experienced baker. 

Were the directions clear - Yes, for the most part, although there are more than 3 pages of directions for this particular recipe, not including the variation for using up leftovers.   I'm used to Rose's instructions being very precise so I was surprised when she didn't specify how far to roll the dough flaps when making the dough package.  Additionally, during the final shaping of the individual kouign amann, the "bring up the corners" part was s little unclear.  The photos in the book show the shaped pastries to have loose layers, but when I followed the instructions precisely, I had no loose layers visible.  Perhaps the step to roll the 4-inch squares out to a 5 1/2 to 6-inch square was omitted from the ph0tos?  Lastly, somewhere in the recipe, Rose refers readers to page 539 in the book concerning the use the Brod & Taylor Bread Proofing Box, but no temperature was specified on page 539 and only a temperature range was given in the recipe so I chose to forego the proofing box and let my dough rise at room temperature.

What would I do differently next time - I would make a smaller version and bake them in a  standard muffin pan.   Also, I would cut leftovers into cubes and use them to make bread pudding instead of the suggested souffléed french toast.

Next up - English Dried Fruit Cake, Dec 8, 2014.  Hope you'll come back to see that one.

 

Some of the ingredients needed.  A note on butter - some of the Alpha Bakers used European style butter, but I didn't feel the need.  I used unsalted butter from Costco and had no trouble at all.  Avoid bargain brands which have a higher water content. 

Do yourself a favor and get a digital scale if you don't already have one. The's no better way to ensure accurate measurements which give you the most reliable results. 

Whisk dry ingredients together - King Arthur bread flour, salt, and instant yeast

In a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, mix the dry ingredients, water, and melted butter together.

Be patient.  It'll come together, I promise. 

Almost done.

That was easy.  It's hard to believe this lump of dough will be transformed into something so amazing, but it will. 

Cover the dough to rest- I used a towel here, but next time I'll use plastic wrap because my dough dried out a bit.

Rest or 30 minutes.

Time to make the butter square.  I drew a 5-inch square on a piece of paper and topped it with a slab of softened butter sandwiched between two pieces of plastic wrap.  

Then I pressed the butter into a square shape.  I used a bench scraper to keep the edges straight.

And I used a second bench scraper to help keep the corners nice and neat.

Then I wrapped the butter with plastic wrap and set it aside in a cool place until it was needed. 

Time to get out my pastry cloth - I love using my pastry cloth.  

Sprinkle the cloth with a little flour.

Sprinkle the dough and rolling pin with flour too. 

Roll the dough into an 8-inch square.  Rulers are good to have in the kitchen.  I keep several in my baking drawer. 

Place the wrapped butter on the dough like this and gently mark the edges of the butter on the dough.

Remove the butter and set aside in a cool place until needed. 

Roll the corners of the dough into flaps large enough to wrap around the butter square in the next step. 

Remove the plastic wrap from the butter block and place the butter back onto the dough. 

Pull the first flap up and over the butter. 

Repeat with the second flap. 

Use a pastry brush to remove any excess flour. 

Continue until all 4 flaps are folded up around the butter. 

Pinch the seams closed.  Sprinkle lightly with flour.

Roll the dough into a 13 x 7-inch rectangle.

Fold the bottom third up like this.

And the top third down like that. 

And the top third down like that. 

Wrap with plastic and chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

Unwrap the chilled dough and sprinkle lightly with flour.  Place the dough in front of you with the seam on the right.

Repeat the rolling and folding step just a s before, flipping the dough every now and then to keep the seams aligned. 

Keep a ruler handy to check your measurements. 

Wrap the dough with plastic again and return to the fridge for another hour. 

A good timer is an indispensable kitchen tool.

Okay, it's time for the last roll and fold procedure, only this time we'll be rolling the dough on a bed of superfine sugar

Press that dough into the sugar and press the sugar into the dough.  Roll the dough into a 14 x 8-inch rectangle.

Repeat the familiar trifold, then wrap and chill; 30 minutes in the freezer followed by 30 minutes in the fridge. 

Side view!

Prepare a sheet pan with foil.  Rose suggests spraying regular foil with nonstick cooking spray, but I found nonstick foil works perfectly well and eliminates the messy step of spraying.

Prepare a sheet pan with foil.  Rose suggests spraying regular foil with nonstick cooking spray, but I found nonstick foil works perfectly well and eliminates the messy step of spraying.

Don't be tempted to skip spraying the ring mold though - you want to be able to remove your pastries.

Time for the final roll.  Again, on a bed of sugar, roll the dough into a 16x8-inch rectangle. 

Use a very sharp knife to cut the rectangle into eight 4-inch squares. 

Each 4-inch square is then rolled into a 5 1/2 to 6-inch square.

Fold each of the corners into the center like this. 

Repeat the process, folding the new corners into the center of the pastry.  

Kind of cute, no?

Place the pastries into the prepared ring molds

Cover the pastries and let them sit in a warm place until the dough has risen  1 1/2 times.  The book says this should take about 30 minutes, I let mine rise for about an hour and they never really reached the 1.5 goal.  I don't think they suffered though - the finished pastries were wonderful.

Preheat oven to 400F.  For best results, use an accurate oven thermometer.

Bake for the suggested time until puffed and caramelized. 

The interior temperature should reach 212 t0 215F on an instant read thermometer.  

Carefully transfer to a cooling rack and remove ring molds.

Mmm - caramelized sugar.  A tasty treat for the chef!

I experimented and baked some of the pastries in a Texas size muffin pan.  I really liked the way they turned out.  They developed a lacquer like coating of caramelized sugar all over - they were absolutely divine!

On the left, Kouigns Amann baked in a pastry ring.  On the right, Kouigns Amann baked in a Texas muffin pan.  

Again, ring mold on the left; Texas muffin pan on the right - just look at that coating of shiny shellacked sugar. 

ESPECIALLY on the bottom.  Oh my! 

I managed to save a couple kouigns amann to make the Souffleed French Toast variation with 2-day old pastries.   Be sure to use a good serrated knife to cut the stale pastry - it gets really hard after just a day or two. 

Place the pastry in a baking dish and whisk together a quick custard of eggs, milk, cream, and really good quality vanilla

Pour the custard all over the pastry. 

Flip the pastries over so they can absorb all that custardy goodness. 

Wrap well with plastic and chill for 8 hours or overnight. 

Bake in a 350F oven until the interior temperature reaches 160F.  Rest for 10 minutes, then serve.

links to more alpha baker photo tutorials