I'd like to think I'm pretty well versed in most French pastries, but Kouign Amann really baffled me when I first heard about them. You probably have the same questions I did: what is it and how the hell do you pronounce it? It's a pastry originating in the Brittany region of France and is kind of a cross between a croissant and palmier. And it's pronounced like queen ah-mann.
The kouign amann and I crossed paths when my brother's friend brought some back from a bakery in Salt Lake City called Les Madeleines. Apparently they are renowned for this pastry. My brother and sister-in-law emailed me straight away after tasting their version, raving about about how delicious they were. The perfect blend of sweet, salt, butter and caramel. Of course I was intrigued and immediately set about doing some research online. I'm always up for a baking challenge, especially when it's uncharted territory. I had a feeling I was going to become obsessed with these like I was with macarons. Fellow baking nerds can relate.
Surprisingly there weren't many recipes out there. But the ones I was able to find all started with a laminated dough. I've made laminated doughs before; it's basically a yeast dough with many layers of butter in between. Think croissant or puff pastry. The difference with the kouign amann is that the dough is rolled in sugar before it's baked. The sugar and the butter melt together in the oven producing a salty sweet caramel that the kouign amann is known for. Sounded simple enough, right? Not really.
It's so-called simplicity cleverly disguised its difficulty. Five pounds of flour, three pounds of European-style butter and several hours of elbow grease later and I think I'm about 80% there. Just need a few more practice runs before I get it right. Will post the recipe when I achieve success.