Kouign-amann—from the Breton words for cake (kouign) and butter (amann)—is a big round buttery multi-layered pastry invented in Douarnenez by baker Yves-René Scordia in 1860, back when butter was very abundant and cheap and no one worried about their cholesterol.
In fact, the New York Times called it the ‘fattiest pastry in Europe’—which is why everyone loves it (especially the Japanese and Americans who have adopted it in their own countries).
The classic recipe involves 40% flour, 30% butter (demi-sel) and 30% sugar. The butter is layered in thin slices of viennoiserie dough, then baked at a low temperature until the sugar caramelizes, so the Kouign-amann is golden and crisp on the outside, but tender and buttery on the inside.
It’s best served warm out of the oven in slices, but because there aren’t always enough people around to eat it, bakers also make small individual ones (kouignettes).
Image by Haltopub