Exploring my Celtic roots with Kouign Amann (BBB February 2015)

go directly to the recipe

BBB: Let's Get Baking summary: recipe for Kouign Amann baked in muffin tins; a Bread Baking Babes project for their 7th anniversary; submission for YeastSpotting; (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

Bread Baking Babes (BBB) February 2015 (7th anniversary)

Oh boy!! More snow! And it’s c-c-c-c-old! (15C in the kitchen and as low as -25C outside….

Kouign Amann (BBB) image housed at flickr.com/photos/etherwork2/ Last month, we puffed our bread into balloons. This month, we’re puffing our bread with butter. It’s the BBBabes’ 7th anniversary and Lien chose the perfect bread for us to celebrate: Kouign Amann.

What?! What on earth is Kouign Amann??

From googling, it turns out that the modern recipe is apparently based on one created in Douarnenez, Brittany around 1860. However, it seems not unlikely that this was simply the first time someone wrote it down….

The recipe [for Kouign Amann] originates from Brittany in France, where some Keltish clans moved to in the 4th and 6th century from England. It still has it’s own cultural heritage and is officially one of the Celtic nations.
-Lien, in message to BBB
Kouign Amann is a very old pastry originating from the Breton-region of France. The name has Celtic roots, which translates into “Butter Cake”.
-foodnetwork.ca, Top 5 Dessert Trends Happening Now, 28 July 2014
Kouign-amann […] are made of laminated dough—croissant dough—that’s about 50% butter and 50% yeasted dough. […] These salty, buttery pastries hail from the coastal region of Brittany, in the northwest corner of France, where Celtic tradition has prevailed since the Breton people migrated across the English Channel during the fifth and sixth centuries. It looks just like you might imagine a Celtic colony on the seacoast of France would: towering bluffs dropping straight into the sea; tiny stone houses dotting the emerald countryside; slate-colored steeples rising into the morning mist. The region is best-known for its vast salt flats where they harvest the coveted finishing salt, fleur de sel. Here, tucked into wandering village streets, bakeries hawk the much-lauded pastry treasure, whose name literally means “butter cake” in Breton.
We’re gonna be honest: They’re hard to make. They take a full day of investment, and you might not get it right on the first try. Your kitchen will be a mess. You may get stressed out.[…]
PBS Food, ChefSteps, Kouign-Amann Recipe

Lalalalalalalalala {not listening anymore; not listening anymore}

I’ll concentrate on “But when you do get it right (and you will), oh boy.”

I’m also not going to pay attention to, “We’re sorry, but this video is not available in your region due to right restrictions” on the pbs site. (DON’T get me started!)

Making Kouign Amann is much more interesting:

chilly kitchen It will distract me from thinking about how cold it is inside and out (the hazards of living in a house that is almost 100 years old – there are lots of chinks for the wind to howl through).

BBB Kouign amann diary:

6 January 2015, 22:02 I love that it’s an ancient Celtic bread. What an excellent choice for the anniversary, Lien!

Celtic bread… I’m intrigued.

14 February 2015, 07:22 What?! How can it be the middle of February already? I guess all the recent snow and unseasonably frigid weather (sure, it’s winter here but -20C is going just a bit far) has frozen what’s left of my brain.

Happily, there’s still time to make this month’s bread. I glanced at the recipe when Lien first announced it but I just looked again and – whoohoooo! – it’s basically puff pastry.

We LOVE puff pastry!

I looked at the recipe again.
300 g strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
5 g fast-action yeast
1 tsp salt
-BBB Kouign Amann recipe

Strong plain flour, eh? I’ll add some of our atta – as far as I know, it’s made from durum wheat. That’s pretty much as strong as it gets.

Durum is a variety of wheat with the highest protein content of all wheat flour but durum flour does not form gluten that is as elastic or stretchy (extensible) as other hard wheat flours. It is, therefore, used in combination with all-purpose for bread flour. Because of its high protein content, it if it is overworked, it will produce an excessively chewy bread. […] [D]urum flour [is] ground from the endosperm of durum wheat.
-Rose Levy Beranbaum, “The Bread Bible”, p. 546

Maybe for good measure, I’ll throw in some high gluten flour too, because unbleached bread flour is no longer easily obtainable (stupid demographic studies showing that we don’t want unbleached bread flour…).

Let’s see now, for “strong flour”, I believe that Susan’s (Wild Yeast) formula says 3% high-gluten flour + 97% unbleached all purpose. I’ll just check… Yup, I’m right. Here’s what she wrote:

I found that replacing the high-gluten flour in my usual sourdough bagel recipe with a mixture of 97% flour (the regular flour I use for bread) and 3% vital wheat gluten gave me a bagel that was virtually indistinguishable from the original.
-Susan, Wild Yeast

And because this is the BBBabes’ anniversary, I’ll throw in some ground flax in honour of Tanna.

As for the salt (don’t get me started again about volume vs weight for measuring salt… read more about salt here).

You’d think that by now I would automatically know how many grams of salt recipe writers mean when they say a teaspoon. But no. I have to look it up every time. This time, I found the answer on my own site. :lalala:

The USDA Nutrient Database says

1 tsp = 6gm table salt

Now. What about the mixing? The instructions assume that I have an electric mixer. Hahahahahahahahaha As if.

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.
-BBB Kouign Amann recipe

I know I probably could ask our brilliant neighbours if I could step into their kitchen for a brief time to mix the dough in their bright shiny Kitchen Aid. But it really doesn’t seem the right thing to ask at such an early hour on a Saturday morning, does it?

But, come to think of it, this is originally a recipe from 1860. Unless I missed that day in history class, I’m pretty sure that there were no electric mixers in Brittany in the 19th century…. :)

I’m going to guess that hand-kneading in the bowl until it’s relatively smooth will do the trick. I’ll try 5 minutes or so.

I’d better get started!

09:44 Everything went swimmingly – about five minutes of kneading was exactly right.

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.
-BBB recipe

Now that I’ve learned how to read, I think I’m going to have to unlearn it. The guilt is too great: “lightly floured work surface”? Nope! “lightly oiled bowl”? Pffft! Doubt it, Ralph. “Cover with cling film”? Not likely! :stomp: “leave to rise for one hour”?? hahahahahahahahahahaha As if an hour is going to be enough. It’s 15C in the kitchen!

The dough is now happily resting under its silicone hat in the oven with only the light turned on. I was planning on transgressing and leaving the kneaded dough in the UNwashed mixing bowl (Shhhh! Don’t tell Julia Child). But that particular mixing bowl was required for making rye bread. Because if one kind of bread on a cold Saturday in February is good, then two must be better.

10:15 While the dough is rising (I hope it’s rising…), I’ve been doing a little more reading about Kouign Amann. A recipe at marmiton.org calls for “beurre demi-sel”; another recipe at recettes-bretonnes.fr calls for “beurre demi-sel ou salé”

I got quite excited to see the google result of la vraie recette du kouign-amann at france2.fr. But. :stomp: :stomp: :stomp: Non! Non! Non! I’m not allowed to look: “Pour des raisons de droits concédés à France Télévisions, cette vidéo n’est pas disponible depuis votre position géographique.”

But {nyah nyah!} they’re not the only ones displaying a “vrai recette du kouign amann”. The “vrai recette du kouign amann” at ptitchef.com calls for “beurre salé au sel de guérande (de très bonne qualité)” in their recipe.

Moving on into recipes in English, telegraph.co.uk’s “How to Make Kouign Amann” displays Richard Bertinet’s recipe, which calls for “salted Brittany butter”. The Kouign Amann recipe at davidlebovitz.com calls for “salted butter”.

Which brings me to the BBB recipe that is based on a BBC recipe by Paul Hollywood from The Great British Bake Off:

25g/1oz unsalted butter, melted
250g/9oz cold unsalted butter, in a block
-Paul Hollywood, The Great British Bake Off, Kouign amann

[rant]Unbelievable. How can Hollywood call this Kouign amann if it doesn’t use salted butter. Correct me if I’m wrong, but what self-respecting person from Brittany would ever think of using unsalted butter? Not to mention (oops, too late) that Hollywood calls for only 1 teaspoon of salt in his recipe. That’s just ridiculous. It seems destined to be bland.[/rant]

While I did use unsalted melted butter for the dough, I’m going to use salted butter for the block. Alas, it won’t be sel de guérande but just regular everyday salted butter. The combination of the unsalted butter in the dough with salted butter for rolling should turn the butter into demi-sel, don’t you think?

Oh oh. I just realized that we don’t have 250gm of salted butter in the fridge. It looks like we’re going to have to put on zillions of layers, mittens, scarves, hats and brave the elements to walk to the store to stock up.

Use the best salted butter you can find. I use Breton salted butter, which is easy to find in France. But use whichever good salted butter you can find and flick few grains of coarse crunchy salt before folding the dough in layers and across the top before baking. […] It is strictly forbidden to think about diets while your making a Kouign Amann.
-David Lebovitz, Kouign Amann Recipe
The Celtic name kouign-amann means “butter cake.” […] The secret of Celtic cooking is not just using a lot of butter but using a good amount of salt to bring out its taste.
-Mark Kurlansky, Talia Kurlansky, International Night: a Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World …, p. 169

That clinches it. Salted butter it will be. And we’ll splash out and get the good stuff.

15:29 The first rolling is done and the dough was beautiful. Or, it was before I put the butter into the center. Oh oh.

Remember I bragged that I’d learned to read? Well, I lied.

Sandwich the butter between two sheets of greaseproof paper and bash with a rolling pin, then roll out to a 14 cm square. Place in the fridge to keep chilled.
-BBB Kouign Amann recipe

When I was getting the butter out, I sort of remembered about the bashing. But only sort of. I thought that if I just cut it into the right shape and laid it like a puzzle in the center of the dough, it would work just fine. But, the butter is hard…. (Note to my family: please insert obligatory response here.)

Instead of putting everything into the fridge, as per the instructions, I put it in the oven with only the light turned on. I’m hoping the relative warmth there (a fraction warmer than 15C) will cause the butter to soften.

Wish me luck. I think I need it.

17:03 I just did the second rolling out. There’s quite a concentration of butter in some of the dough. But at least it’s rollable now. Here’s hoping that the next rolling will push the butter into more parts of the dough.

Earlier, while I was waiting for the dough to rest, I looked in our cookbooks on the shelf and was reminded that Madeleine Kamman included a recipe for Kouign Amann (she calls for salted butter too) in her book; she wrote:

Loetitia rescued me from my search for the techniques of the true Breton butter cake, the old Kouign Amann, which nowadays one finds only with difficulty in a very small number of bakeries of Cornouailles. She knew the technique and she gave me a true, learned and detailed lecture on how to make the dough from bread leaven or from scratch. […]
Execution: difficult
-Madeleine Kamman, “When French Women Cook”, Kouign Amann, p. 270 & 305

Difficult, eh? I think I still need that luck if anyone can spare it.

19:06 I think I did everything correctly… sort of. The dough started to want to tear a bit. I wonder if that means that I overworked it. But it can’t be bad. Can it?

Putting the pieces into the muffin tins proved to be relatively easy – even though some the sugar escaped.

I’ll turn the oven on soon. I suspect I need some more of that luck.

20:15 Wow! They smell fabulous! There really is nothing like the smell of buttery and sweet bread as it’s baking! I baked the buns at 375F for 30 minutes on the top shelf (to prevent burned bottoms) and they weren’t quite done. So I turned the oven down to 325F and baked them for 5 minutes more.

I let them sit on the rack for about 5 minutes and then we gently popped them out of the muffin tins. They’re cooling on a rack now. But I WANT one!!


kouign amann Many thanks for choosing this recipe, Lien. We LOVE these! They are fabulous with café au lait.

Yes, indeed, they’re really really really good. And I don’t care that the baker’s percentage of butter in them is 92%. Butter is good for us. Isn’t it?

Thank you once again, Lien!

Here is the BBB February 2015 kouign amann recipe. And here is what I did to it:

BBB Kouign Amann
adapted from Paul Hollywood’s recipe for BBC’s “The Great British Bake Off”

makes 12 rolls

  • 200g (200 ml) water ¹
       » 150g boiling water
       » 50g water at 96F
  • 25g (1.75 Tbsp) unsalted butter
  • 5g (1.75 tsp) active dry yeast ¹
  • 300g (2.3 c) bread flour ²
       » 235g unbleached all-purpose flour
       » 50g atta (finely milled 100% whole wheat flour)
       » 9g vital wheat gluten
       » 6g finely ground flax seed
  • 6g (1 tsp) salt ³
  • 250g (1 c + 2.5 Tbsp) cold salted butter, good quality 4
  • 100g (~0.5 c) sugar 5
  1. mixing the dough: Cut up the unsalted butter and put it in the bottom of a large mixing bowl. Pour boiling water overtop to melt the butter. Dump the flours, ground flax seed and salt overtop. Whisk the yeast and warm water in a small bowl until the yeast has dissolved, then add it on top of the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour is encorporated. Using your left hand to turn the bowl and your right hand to work the dough, knead the mixture in the bowl and/or in the air for about 10 minutes until it’s very smooth and elastic. (Lien’s recipe has electric mixer instructions: “mix on a slow speed for two minutes, then on a medium speed for six minutes”. )
  2. When the dough is smooth and silky, put the dough ball back into the bowl (it doesn’t have to be washed OR oiled – there is plenty of butter in the dough to make it easy to remove). Cover the bowl with a plate and leave in the oven with only the light turned on to rise until it doubles. If your kitchen is a normal temperature, this takes about an hour. If your kitchen is cold like ours (15C), it takes longer… (3 hours or so).
  3. laminating Turn the risen dough out onto a very lightly floured board. Using a wooden rolling pin, roll the dough out into a 20cm square. Get the salted butter out of the fridge and realize that it’s too cold to roll. Cut it into 4 squares and arrange the squares like a puzzle to make one square placed diagonally in the center of the dough square. Fold the corners of the dough over top of the butter and begin to roll it out into a 45×15 cm rectangle. Realize that even though you thought you had mastered reading, you haven’t quite and you missed an important step: “Sandwich the butter between two sheets of greaseproof paper and bash with a rolling pin, then roll out to a 14 cm square. Place in the fridge to keep chilled”. Know that it’s entirely unnecessary, if not to say foolish, to put anything in the fridge to keep it chilled when the kitchen is so cold. To complete one turn, fold the rectangle into thirds as best you can, cover with a tea towel followed by plastic grocery bags and put it into the oven with only the light turned on. Hope that the butter will get a little softer.
  4. After about 30 minutes, roll the dough out again and notice that the butter is a little softer but still not particularly evenly dispersed (I was too embarrassed to take photos…). After folding the parcel into thirds, fold it one more time to create a square. Cover with the tea towel and plastic bags and put it back into the oven with only the light turned on. Hope that the butter will somehow want to spread evenly the next time round.
  5. After 30 minutes more, roll the dough out again. Try not to be worried about the butter still not quite being evenly spread. Fold the dough into thirds and then, in a slight panic, fold it in half again to create a square. Cover it and put it back in the oven with only the light turned on.
  6. Kouign Amann After 30 minutes more, roll the dough out into a rectangle. Be relieved that the butter pieces have spread out to almost meet. Scatter half the sugar over the dough and fold it in thirds. Turn the dough parcel around by a quarter turn and roll it out into a large rectangle. Scatter the rest of the sugar evenly overtop and cut the dough into 12 squares. Try to make the squares the same size. :lalala:
  7. shaping Butter a 12-cup muffin tin. (You could use oil too, but butter seems like more fun.)
  8. Put each dough square into the tins with the corners meeting at the top. Lien shows the following excellent photograph to illustrate:
    making of Kouign Amann - image © Lien (notitievanlien.blogspot.com)
    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.

    Kouign Amann Try not to spill too much sugar as you move the squares from board to muffin tin. Cover with a tea towel, followed by plastic grocery bags and leave in the oven with only the light turned on to rise for about 30 minutes until they begin to puff up.
  9. baking Take the muffin tin out of the oven and put it on the counter while the oven is preheating to 375F. 6
  10. Put the muffin tin on the top shelf of the oven and bake for 30 minutes until golden. If they don’t seem to be quite done enough, turn the oven down to 325F and bake for a further 5 to 10 minutes. The BBB recipe suggests covering the tin “with foil halfway through if beginning to brown too much”.
  11. When they are done, remove from the oven and let them rest for about 5 minutes, before using a thin knife to remove each one to continue cooling on a footed wire rack. Note that they are VERY hot, especially the caramelized sugar. However, this step should take place sooner rather than later, or the kouign amann may get stuck to the muffin tin as the caramelized sugar hardens. Allow them to cool completely before serving. They’re still baking inside! (Even if you’ve ignored the instructions about using hot water from the tap, please do not ignore this step.) 7


1.) Water and yeast The BBB recipe calls for “warm water” and “fast-action yeast” (we never have fast-action or instant yeast in the house; I always use active dry, substituting it measure for measure). It also calls for melted butter. I find that it’s WAY easier to melt butter by cutting up cold butter and pouring boiling water over it. But boiling water is too hot for the yeast and will kill it. So I cooled down the water to body temperature by adding cold water. (I will repeat the following over and over: please do not use water from the hot water tap – why? Please read/reread about hot tap water). Instead, heat the water in a kettle or microwave. If you are allergic to using a thermometer, you can check the temperature by putting a few drops of water onto your wrist: if it feels warm, it’s too warm; if it feels cool, it’s too cool; if it feels like nothing, then it’s fine. Please note that before the yeast is added, the liquid temperature must be BELOW 120F (49C) because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

2.) Flour The BBB recipe calls for “strong plain flour”. As far as I know, this translates into “bread flour”. We can’t easily get unbleached bread flour so I use Susan’s (Wild Yeast) formula of 97% all purpose flour and 3% vital wheat gluten to mimic high-gluten bread flour. And because a.) I like putting flax seed into bread and b.) to honour Tanna, who always puts flax seed into her bread, I felt compelled to add some. Then, since this is supposed to be an ancient recipe, I also added a little whole wheat flour to mimic hand milled flour.

3.) Salt The BBB recipe simply calls for 1 tsp salt. But we use kosher salt – much bigger grain. If I’d been thinking straight, I’d have used the grey seasalt from Brittany that we have. Next time! But whether it’s kosher salt or sea salt, I have to weigh it…. (For more information about measuring salt, please see Salt is salt, right?.)

4.) Salted Butter The BBB recipe calls for “unsalted butter”. Because this recipe comes from Brittany, where the butter is generally salted, I made an executive decision to use salted butter for the lamination. And because the recipe calls for so much butter, we got good quality salted butter. If we could have gotten beurre au sel de Guérande, we would have… but our local supermarket doesn’t carry anything quite that fancy.

5.) Sugar As I was adding the sugar, it felt like it was maybe a little too much. While it’s delicious with the full amount of sugar, I’m quite certain we could get away with using less. Next time I’ll try it with 75g rather than 100g. Or maybe even 50g.

6.) Oven Temperature The BBB recipe says to bake the Kouign Amann at 220C (425F). That seems very high for something with so much sugar. So I made an executive decision and lowered the temperature to 375F.

7.) But I LIKE warm buns just out of the oven!! N.B. Of course you will want to serve warm buns. Reheat them after they have cooled completely. (They are still baking when first out of the oven!) To reheat any UNsliced bread, turn the oven to 450F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.

Happy Anniversary to us!

Kouign Amann

Bread Baking Babes Exploring my Celtic roots with Kouign Amann (BBB February 2015)

This month, we’re making up for the lean bread from last month’s project of making chapatis. And how!

Lien is our fearless host for February 2015’s Bread Baking Babes’ challenge. She wrote:

I first saw this recipe being made in “The great British Bake Off” […] They’re called Kouign amann, (pronounced [,kwiɲˈamɑ̃nː]… this didn’t made it any clearer to me to be honest) and they’re layered (a bit like puff pastry) with a sprinkle of sugar in the last layer, so it gets a crispy topping. The standard version is a larger round cake, but for this recipe you bake them in a muffin tin and fold them in so they look like a 4leaf clover on top. […]

We know you’ll want to make kouign amann too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make the anniversar ybread in the next couple of weeks and post about it (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 27 February 2015. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to email the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the BBB Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may get lost in the shuffle before it is seen. Please email the kitchen of the month if you want to be included in the BBBuddy roundup.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ 7th anniversary posts about Kouign Amann:

Yeastspotting - every Friday (wordle.net image)

Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


I did say “ccccoooooold”, didn’t I? (It was about -25C outside when I took this picture and decided NOT to open the door.) Welcome to Canada!


I had hoped to get commenting in place by now. But I’m still stymied. (It doesn’t help that I can’t seem to get answers from people who might be able to help. I fear that it’s one of those things that you have to know the answers before being able to ask the questions.) :stomp: :stomp:


edit 25 February: I finally have commenting allowed again! Whoohooooo! (read more here about the hoops I jumped through)

This entry was posted in anniversaries, baking, BBBabes, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, dessert, food & drink, posts with recipes on by .

* Thank you for visiting. Even though I may not get a chance to reply to you directly, I love seeing your responses and/or questions and read each and every one of them. Please note that your e-mail address will never be displayed on this site, nor will it ever be shared.

"Moderation" is in use. It may take a little time before your response appears. Responses containing unsolicited advertising will be deleted as spam (which means any subsequent attempts will be automatically relegated to the spam section and unlikely to be retrieved). For further information, please read the Discussion Policy.

1 response to “Exploring my Celtic roots with Kouign Amann (BBB February 2015)

  1. www.crumbsoflove.wordpress.com

    I really enjoy reading your posts- they always make me smile… and butter is good for the soul & body! (just not my hips)


Post a Response

You must fill in the "response", "name", and "email" fields. Please rest assured that your email address will never be posted or shared. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam; learn how your discussion data is processed. Please note that the optional fields that point to your website URL and website name may be removed without notice. For more information about what can (or cannot) be included, please read the Discussion Policy.