Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Kouign Amann

Who doesn't enjoy watching The Great British Baking Show? All those super nice, happy contestants just baking away under a little tent in the English countryside. No backstabbing. No drama. Just a group of people who legitimately enjoy baking trying to do the very best they can with the challenges thrown at them. It's a nice relaxing change of pace from most American cooking competitions, like Hell's Kitchen (which is ironically run by a Brit who couldn't be more different than Mary Berry).

For those of you who love the GBBS as much as I do, I wanted to tell you about the exciting new project that my recently married sister has undertaken. She has started a blog where she will be tackling each of the technical baking challenges on the Great British Baking Show and providing honest feedback about the difficulty of each recipe. So far, she has made Mini Pear Pies, Princess Cake, Ciabatta, Tiramisu Cake, Florentines, Cherry Cake, and an interesting pastry called Kouign Amann (pronounced "queen- a-mawn").

Sophie texted me while she was making these weird little pastries that are made from a laminated dough and then baked in a muffin tin. I had never once heard of them and neither had she, but after having a rough week making the detested Princess Cake recipe, she was thrilled to report that this recipe actually was turning out perfectly as it was supposed to. Basically, they have a soft, croissant-like texture on the inside and a crunchy, caramelized crunch on the outside. I did a quick little internet search on them and found that the New York Times dubbed it "the fattiest pastry in all of Europe." Wow, that's saying something.

When Paul heard that review, he wanted me to make it. Butter is his first love. Cheese is his second. I'm his third. It's ok, I've come to terms with that.

After Sophie raved about how breezy and relaxing the recipe was to follow, I tackled it one gloomy Sunday afternoon while I was not exactly feeling very well but thought some therapeutic baking might lift me out of my doldrums. The recipe was a breeze to put together. There is lot of waiting between steps and none of the steps are overly complicated. While I was waiting between turning my dough, I actually went back and watched the episode of the GBBS where these were featured as I couldn't imagine they were all that troublesome to the contestants. On the show, a few individuals had some minor issues, but overall I think they were all pretty successful attempts. This is a simple pastry as long as you have the patience to wait between steps.

Well, the Kouign Amann baked up beautifully. Brown, puffy, and piping hot when I grabbed them from the oven, I nearly burnt my fingers trying to pry them out of the muffin tin. Paul and I bit into one while it was still warm and swooned at the rich, buttery flavor. However, I tried one the next morning alongside my cup of coffee and thought they tasted even better at room temperature. My kids were all over these as well. The recipe only made 12 and they all vanished by the time my kids discovered them. My only complaint about these pastries is the mess they created when eaten by my angelic children - the pastries were so flaky that little bits of buttery crumb littered the floor where my children sat stuffing their faces full of buttery dough.

I shall be making these weird little things again! They were a different, interesting, and delicious new pastry that I had never before heard of and am now happy to welcome into my recipe archive. Thank you, Sophie for introducing me to this treat!

You should head over to Sophie's blog to read about her experiences attacking all the technical challenges from The Great British Baking Show. Her blog name is Piece of Cake and can be found here.

Also, try your hand at Kouign Amann! It's a great recipe to start with if you have never before worked with a laminated dough before (like croissant dough). Guarantee you'll be able to produce a treat even Paul Hollywood would be happy to eat!

Kouign Amann
from Paul Hollywood of The Great British Baking Show

Note: I am presenting this recipe exactly as written on the BBC Food website. You will need a food scale to complete this recipe.

300g/10½oz strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
5g fast-action yeast
1 tsp salt
200ml/7fl oz warm water
25g/1oz unsalted butter, melted
250g/9oz cold unsalted butter, in a block
100g/3½oz caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

Put the flour into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Add the water and melted butter and mix on a slow speed for two minutes, then on a medium speed for six minutes.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Put into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for one hour.

Sandwich the butter between two sheets of parchment paper and bash with a rolling pin, then roll out to a 14cm/5½in square. Place in the fridge to keep chilled.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 20cm/8in square. Place the butter in the centre of the dough diagonally, so that each side of butter faces a corner of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter to enclose like an envelope.

Roll the dough into a 45x15cm/18x6in rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough up over the middle, then fold the top third of the dough over. You will now have a sandwich of three layers of butter and three layers of dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. This completes one turn.

Repeat this process twice more, so you have completed a total of three turns, chilling the dough for 30 minutes between turns.

Roll the dough into a rectangle as before. Sprinkle the dough with the caster sugar and fold into thirds again. Working quickly, roll the dough into a large 40x30cm/16x12in rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with caster sugar and cut the dough into 12 squares.

Grease a 12-cup muffin tin well with oil. Gather the dough squares up by their four corners and place in the muffin tins, pulling the four corners towards the centre of the muffin tin, so that it gathers up like a four-leaf clover. Sprinkle with caster sugar and leave to rise, covered with a clean tea towel, for 30 minutes until slightly puffed up.

Preheat oven to 220C/200C(fan)/425F/Gas 7. Bake the pastries for 30-40 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cover with foil halfway through if beginning to brown too much. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Be careful not to burn yourself on the caramelized sugar, but don’t leave them to cool for too long, or the caramelized sugar will harden and they will be stuck in the tin.

Serve warm or cold.

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