April 6, 2016

The kouign-amann, the breton it pastry

Who would have thought that this Armorican specialty (Britanny, France), which literally means Butter Cake, would inspire the greatest pastry Chefs in the world? Who could have imagined that this caramelized galette would one day arouse enthusiasm in Japan and across the Atlantic where June 20, 2015 marked the celebration of National Kouign-amann Day? Surely not its creator Yves René Scordia, a baker from Douarnenez who imagined this very rich galette in 1865 by mixing 400 grams of flour, 300 grams of butter and 300 grams of sugar. Such proportions could be explained by a flour shortage that the baker tried to compensate with… butter – which he had plenty of! Other sources talk about ruined bread dough.

This deliciousness and sweetness concentrate leaves room for many different interpretations. Philippe Conticini makes it in the form of a baguette and even Pierre Herme has his own take both revisiting the Kouign-amann in a lighter and crispier version of itself. US 2012 best pastry Chef Neil Robertson developed it in another version by filling it with a delightful chocolate ganache in his Seattle pastry shop Crumble and Flake. There is a Kouign-amann for each taste: apple, salted butter caramel, pistachio, coffee, vanilla, peanut butter… There even are savory options! Famous for his cronut, Chef Dominique Ansel of the Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York imagined an exuberant burger kouign-amann during the 2014 South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin. At the CiÇou Brasserie, Cyrille Soenen features on his menu the "KA by CiÇou" with bacon and cheese, chorizo, sundried tomato and basil…

But what do the Bretons think of all this? In Douarnenez, an organization was created to protect the "real kouign-amann". The French do not mess around with tradition!

 

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