Thursday, April 16, 2015

Kouign Amann

I haven't posted in a while.  It's not as though I haven't been baking.  I have.  Like tons.  The truth of the matter is that I've been obsessed with making two particular things that I just can't seem to get right.  The infamously finicky Parisian macaron and laminated dough.

I don't even want to discuss the former of the two because I'm still irritated about it.  And plus, how many more posts about macarons do we need in the food blogging world?  Macarons are easy, they're not easy, blah blah blah.  Instead, this post is dedicated to laminated dough--and moreover one of the wonders that can arise from it, the kouign amann.

Kouign amann is almost like a candied croissant. It's quite buttery but also sweet because the dough has been sprinkled with sugar so it caramelizes when baked. Because of my extreme sweet tooth, I think I enjoy them more than actual croissants.  In the past month I've made them twice using two different recipes.

The first batch had some successful aspects but I was convinced that its flaws could be traced back to a problem I consistently have with laminated doughs which is that the dough tends to tear at certain points when I'm rolling it out.  It's a really annoying.  I've read all about why this may happen--the dough gets too warm maybe because the room is too warm so you have to let it chill.

Or, maybe everything is too cold.  I've tried to make sure my butter block and my dough are the same temperature and all that but I still get some tearing.  However, this last batch of laminated dough that I used to make the kouign amann started tearing at first but fortunately--maybe because I learned how to better roll out the dough--seemed to cease tearing.

And so most of those oh so delicate layers seemed to have remained in tact.  Which is what I like to see.  At least I think.  I know that the purpose of laminated dough is to create those layers and for pastries, like croissants and mille feuille, it's usually clearly visible if you're successful at it.

But I'm not sure I'm convinced that it's equally as important with kougin amann.  And I only question this because for one thing, you usually don't turn the dough as much as you would for something like croissants.  And, I've been doing some...uhm..."research" from some trusted bakeries that make kouign amann and I've noticed that perhaps their laminated doughs that they use to make them aren't quite as layered.

They're delicious no doubt but comparatively not layered like a croissant.  So I don't know what the deal is with all that but as long as my kouign amann come out light, buttery and caramelized--I'm ok with it.

Recipe slightly adapted from The Kitchn

1c water at room temp.
2 tsp instant yeast
2 3/4c all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
8 oz (2 sticks) cold salted butter
1 1/2c granulated sugar--divided

The first thing that needs to be done is making the dough.  Mix the water, yeast, flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the dough hook, mix everything together on medium speed until a tacky, not sticky, smooth dough forms.  If the dough is too sticky after mixing it, add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time until it's tacky feeling.  Alternatively, if it's too dry then you can add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until the reverse occurs.  After you've got a nice smooth tacky feeling dough, let the dough rest and rise until it has doubled in size at room temp.  Once it has doubled in size, place the dough in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to chill.

Meanwhile, you can make the butter block.  Lay a piece of plastic wrap on a cool/cold work surface. Take your 2 sticks of butter and place them atop the plastic wrap.  Now, you want to form a pliable butter block that when folded it won't crack--it should act like modeling clay does when it is folded over on itself.  So, you will go through a series of pounding butter and folding it in an effort to make a more cohesive and pliable butter block.  So, sprinkle some flour on the butter and--using a rolling pin--start pounding the butter so that you have one cohesive piece of butter and then pound it into a rectangular shape that's about a 1/4 inch thick.  Then--preferably using a bench scraper or something other than your warm hands--fold the butter in half and pound it again until you have a rectangle that's about 1/4 inch thick.  Sprinkle some more flour on the butter and fold it in half with the bench scraper, pound it back into a rectangle that's a 1/4 inch thick AND is approximately 6 inches wide by 10 inches long.  Wrap the block in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready for use BUT, ideally you want your dough and butter block to be at the same temperature.  So, if your dough has already been chilling in the refrigerator for a while and you are getting ready to roll it out, you probably only need to chill your butter block for just a little bit--maybe 15 minutes.  You still want your butter block pliable and if it sits in the fridge for too long it will become rigid again and will likely crack when you start making your turns.

To roll out the dough, remove it from the refrigerator.  Sprinkle your work surface with flour.  Roll out the dough over the flour into a 12 inch wide by 20 inch long rectangle.  Place your butter block in the middle of the rolled out dough so that the long side of the butter block is parallel with the short side of the dough.  Fold the top half of the dough over the butter block and then fold the bottom half over it as well--like folding a letter.  Press and seal the edges of the dough together and then fold it into thirds again.  Rotate it so that narrower side is facing you--like a book.  Roll the dough out--using more flour as needed to prevent any sticking--into a 12 inch wide by 20 inch long rectangle. Fold it into thirds again--like a letter.  Rotate the dough 90 degrees so that the narrow end is facing you and roll it out again into a 12 inch wide by 20 inch long rectangle.  Fold it into thirds again, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  After the 30 minutes is up, remove the dough from the fridge, sprinkle more flour on your work surface and roll it out to a 12 inch by 20 inch rectangle. Then, sprinkle half of the sugar over the surface of the dough and lightly press it into the dough.  Fold the dough into thirds, rotate it 90 degrees and then roll it out into another 12 inch by 20 inch rectangle.  Sprinkle the remaining sugar on the dough and lightly press it into the dough. Fold the dough into thirds, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare 12 - 4 inch pastry rings or a muffin baking sheet.  Grease the rings or muffin cups with butter and sprinkle granulated sugar on the insides of them.  Set aside.

Once the dough has chilled, roll it out again onto a well floured work surface into an 8 inch wide by 24 inch long rectangle.  Then, cut the dough in half along the long side so that you now have two 4 inch wide by 24 inch long rectangles.  Then divide each rectangle into 4 inch by 4 inch squares--you'll have 12 total. Next, push each square into its own pastry ring or muffin cup and fold the corners of each square over to the center of the square so that they all meet in the middle and then press lightly to seal.  Then, cover the kouign amann and let rise for 30-40 minutes until they have risen and are puffy.  Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 350 F.  Once you are ready to bake the kouign amann, sprinkle the tops of each one with some more granulated sugar and then place them in the oven to bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through the baking time.  Once done, remove them from the oven and let them cool slightly before removing from the rings.  Consume.

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