The premise is simple - it's a pastry made of basic bread dough laminated (layered) with oodles and oodles of butter. The technique, however, requires practice and very very cold butter (frozen if possible), so that the layers come out nice and even. Mais, ne vous découragez pas! Practice makes perfect.
Here's A's version:
For the Dough (also makes a nice basic bread or pizza dough all by itself)
800g all-purpose flour
25g sea salt
30g butter, softened
15g fresh yeast
- Prep the yeast. You can take a little bit of tepid-warm (NOT hot) water and a teaspoon of sugar, and mash the fresh yeast gently with a fork in a bowl. Set aside. In a few minutes, this should look frothy and smell a bit like beer.
- Combine the salt, flour and butter. Incorporate the water, little by little, and add the yeast (do not add yeast and salt at the same time - the yeast will die), kneading into a firm dough.
- Knead into a ball in the bowl; cut a little "X" on top, cover with saran wrap and leave to double in volume in a warm (but not overly hot) place, about 30-60 minutes.
For the Filling
550g butter, unsalted
400g brown sugar
STOP! BEFORE YOU START, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A VERY VERY COLD, AND I MEAN COLD, WORK SURFACE (I USED A FROZEN GRANITE CHEESE SERVING STONE). IT ALSO HELPS TO FREEZE THE BUTTER.
- Roll out the dough about 0.5" (1cm) thick.
- Cut the butter into slices, and assemble to make a butter "sheet" to fit about half the surface area of the dough from the previous step. Dust with sugar, then fold the dough over. Roll out the dough again.
- Repeat the process until you have used up all the butter and the sugar. At this point, your dough should look layered, with butter and sugar in between the layers.
- You can cut a square about 6"x6" (15cm x 15cm) and put in a cake pan (fold in the edges to form a circle), or cut strips, roll them up and put them in a muffin pan as I did.
- Let the dough rest for about half an hour before baking at 180 degrees Celsius (~350 Fahrenheit), until golden brown. Flip over so the other side can caramelize as well; continue baking until a golden brown color is reached (baking times will vary - a toothpick inserted in the center will come out clean).
Et voilà, Kouign Amann. It's seriously so so good. Mine turned out a bit funny looking as the butter got too hot and didn't layer perfectly, but it was delicious nonetheless. Try it with a cup of coffee... You'll be convinced.
As I mentioned before, you can use the basic dough to make bread too, see Exhibit A in all its glory:
Super easy, and quick enough to include as a side to a weekday dinner! Just remember to add a small container of water in the oven for moisture when baking, so you don't get overly crispy bread.