Kouign Amann

One of the best things about the fall season is mushroom picking. Someone had whispered in my ear they had found three large gorgeous cèpes in their garden last week-end. After hearing this, I never leave home without rubber boots and a basket in the hope to bring back a bounty of my own. Since I moved to Médoc, I have discovered reliable mushroom trails close to my house. Where to go, how to pick them, and more importantly what not to pick. It is so revitalizing to go on daily walks in the woods and meadows, filled with untouched wildlife in every corner. I love the different shades of light you see as you walk along, especially when the sunlight sparkles through the trees and fern, bringing its warmth and wonder to everything it touches. As the kids don’t have school on Wednesdays, it seemed like the ideal time to go on a family mushroom picking excursion. So there we were, along with a our dogs (not all of them, but most), on a champignons quest.

We entered the woods, looking all over for shiny brown buttons. The dogs, as usual, managed to find what their hearts desire. A dead bird, a fox skeleton, a deer’s paw. Non merci! After an hour of searching in vain, we were all a bit disappointed, but it wasn’t a total loss. You know it’s still a good day when your daughter says: ‘Maman, this was a real adventure’! Walking back home, we talked about how the moon and the rain affect the mushroom’s growth. Because the secret of nature is patience.

Back home, the kids were longing for the goûter. It’s the tea-time break that is the most important hour in the life of les enfants. On Wednesdays (in France, most kids until the age of 11 don’t have school on that day), they enjoy a little grown-up style tea and cake moment in the playroom. They sit together and, as they are drinking a vervain tisane, they feel very grown-up and discuss important school issues. ‘Did you like the food at the canteen this week, do you like your new teacher, who is your new best friend?’ Mia had requested the butter, sugar and caramel cake, just like the one Amélie Poulain makes in ‘Amélie’.

This old-fashioned Breton cake is called kouign amann. Brittany is all about warmth, coziness, comfort and butter. It’s a caramelized cake made of the most basic ingredients: butter, flour, sugar and yeast. You will need patience (for the dough rising), and a good hand to fold in the butter and sugar in a few layers. The kids adore this caramelized treat, and I think they also find the unusual name mystical. Old Breton words like kouign (cake) and amann (butter) sound like a language from an enchanted forest. It’s a very rich cake, especially in butter. Vive la France!

Later that night, as I slipped into bed, I heard terrifying sounds in the forest. Our mornings are graced by visiting deers, but at night we hear the wild boars at play. I can hear them from afar, their deep grunting echoing in the forest. They are probably on the same trail as we were earlier, eating all the fresh acorns I saw. Will they come to my house? It’s funny, but two years ago, I would have been horrified and up all night. The new ‘country me‘ thought, ‘I hope they won’t eat my precious cèpes’! (the ones that aren’t there yet… perhaps next week?)

250 g/ 2 cups plain flour
200 g/ 3/4 cup salted butter ‘demi-sel’ (room temperature)
200 g/ 1 cup granulated white sugar + extra for dusting
10 g/ 1 tbsp fresh baker’s yeast
1 good pinch of salt/ fleur de sel
120 ml/ 1/2 cup lukewarm water

In a large bowl, prepare the dough. Dissolve yeast in 3 tbsp lukewarm water and wait till it becomes frothy. Mix flour, salt and add dissolve yeast in center. Gradually add water and start kneading. I do everything by hand, and it usually takes me about 15 minutes of good kneading until I get a soft and supple dough. Shape into a ball, and leave to rise in the bowl covered in a cotton cloth for 3 hours at room temperature.

Preheat oven to 210°C/450F

Step 1: On a floured surface, start rolling the dough to a square shape, about 1 cm thick. Spread 50 g butter, 60 g sugar and fold the dough over the butter/sugar on each side (as if you were wrapping a present in paper – the present being the butter/sugar, the paper being both sides of dough). Fold to form another square.
Step 2: On a floured surface, use a rolling-pin and roll the folded dough into a square shape. Repeat as step one with butter/sugar and folding.
Step 3: Place folded dough in a floured cling film and leave to rest for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
Step 4: On a floured surface, roll out refrigerated dough one last time. Shape in the form of a square. Place 70 g butter and remaining sugar and fold like in step 1.
Step 5: Place in a buttered round cake tin. Gently press the dough with the palm of your hand to fill in the cake tin. Spread remaining butter on top of dough and sprinkle with a 1 tbsp of sugar. Place in oven and bake for 22-25 minutes, depending on oven strength.
Tip: As this cake is all about caramelization, I would advise to start checking every 2-3 minutes towards the end as it is so easy to over-caramelize or even burn. Starting 17 minutes or so, as soon as it looks slightly golden brown, it’s ready. As I have been making this cake for years, I have learnt from my mistakes.
Step 6: Leave to rest on a rack for 15 minutes before transferring to a plate. Use a round-tipped knife to lift/ unmould the cake. Serve warm.
Tip: Should you want to prepare this cake in advance, I would recommend reheating it by bain-marie (steaming).

25 thoughts on “Kouign Amann

  1. This post deserves about 10 oscar nominations.
    my heart swelled at: “‘Walking back home, we talked about how the moon and the rain affect the mushroom’s growth. Because the secret of nature is patience.
    and the recipe? mouthwatering of course.

  2. This cake looks fabulous and I cannot wait to make a batch and eat it with tea while watching Amelie. 🙂 One question…
    At what temperature do you cook the cake? I don’t see it in the instructions. Thanks so much!

  3. Hello Gina! It is totally fine to use granules yeast – just use the same amount. I often use granules when I don’t have baker’s yeast. I tbsp granules and dissolve in lukewarm water. Enjoy Amélie, I watched it again the other night with the kids it’s so heartwarming and funny. I am glad to share my favourite recipes with you. Happy Canadian thanksgiving! Mimi

  4. I’m new to your blog. Thanks for inviting me into your lovely world. The recipe sounds wonderful. Will gather up everything and give it a try. I can almost smell it cooking now.


  5. I absolutely LOVE that first picture of your daughter with her face in shadow. So enchanting! My kids, too, could not live without their goûter. The best time of day. I don’t remember that scene in Amélie, and it’s one of my favourite movies! Now I’ll have to watch it again, because your cake looks wonderful! Bon week-end!

  6. Beautiful! I have just subscribed to your blog and love it. I will try several of your recipes soon when I am in France, Autumn is such a great time for food. Keep it coming.

  7. I’m so glad I came across this blog! Such beautiful pictures and delicious-looking food. I hope you continue posting!

  8. What a happy new blog discovery! I love how your writing (and the gorgeous photos) so capture a wild fall adventure…and then a quiet sweet moment at home. The cake sounds marvelous (and I love your dress!).

  9. i feel like you are living my dream right now. all those pups, hunting for mushrooms, beautiful home and forest.. once again, lovely lovely images and words

    1. Did the yeast froth when you diluted it in lukewarm water? (I store my yeast in the fridge once it is opened) If it does not froth it is a clear sign that the yeast is off. Perhaps the temperature is too hot or too cold for the rising? If your kitchen is slighly chilly I would recommend leaving the dough to rise longer, even overnight if you can. I hope this helps. Mimi

      1. Thanks so much for responding so quickly. I guess I needed to be patient. It started rising. It’s currently resting in the fridge. I’ll try to post a picture of my end result. I discovered your blog a few weeks ago and I absolutely love it!

  10. There is a bakery in NYC that offers this treat. I’ve tried making it…got rave reviews but I knew it wasn’t quite right. Now I will try your recipe Mimi, in the hopes that I can perfect this time. I have a feeling that I will be making this for years to come. Thank you!

  11. 5 stars for Mia and that request of requests, glad I have simple, direct taste and chose this while searching for those fancy buckwheat galettes. Wow, what can I say, my day was so – so, (this is over the Earl Grey that went with my slice) apprehensively approached making this because was out of supplies for a different project. Yep, even on down days, I like to stay busy to avoid the lack of din like deafening silence over a game of fidgety fingers. Then it’s back to the maths and readers. Zested a little lemon and mandarin around and atop the monster, set it on it’s backside post bake for a few hours to repose, and then . . . that indescribable taste of something delicious. Sincerely, have never had anything like it. Very good. I hope I don’t break any stools over what’s next in the lineup. Thanks for the introduction.

  12. Mimi,
    I’m writing you from snowy Canada. Having the day free and being snowed in, I thought would make for the perfect opportunity to try making Kouign Amann – the second attempt.
    It seems the same thing keeps happening in the first few steps. During the kneading process of the flour, yeast, salt, lukewarm water, the dough seems to stay too dry and the texture becomes almost rubbery. I’ve tried saving it by adding slightly more water but to no avail. Any thoughts?

    That being said, I’ve made dozens of recipes from your blog (and now cookbook) over the last few years. All have turned out amazing and followed with rave reviews from all people I’ve shared with. Beautiful work. Endless thanks for sharing.

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