Richard Bertinet’s Kouign Amman Recipe

I’ve long wanted to be able to make a kouign amman, a traditional sweet, cake-shaped bread developed in Brittany in 1860. The story is that when a boulangerie ran out of cake, they asked a baker to make something cake-like to meet demand; not familiar with making cake he combined layers of bread dough with butter and sugar to create a sweet, caramelised loaf. The recipe is still popular today. Here, we share Richard Bertinet’s recipe for Kouign Amman, from his book Crumb: Show The Dough Who’s Boss by Richard Bertinet.

Kouign Amman (from Crumb by Richard Bertinet)

image from Crumb

Read our full review of Richard Bertinet’s Crumb, including our feedback on the recipes we have made so far, and lots more about the book.

Full recipe for Kouign Amman (from Crumb by Richard Bertinet)

It is best to make this recipe when you have plenty of time, including time for an overnight rest in the fridge to fully develop the flavour.The recipe makes a cake that can be cut into 10-12 portions.

Kouign Amman (from Crumb by Richard Bertinet)
5 from 1 vote

Richard Bertinet's Kouign Amman

This is a traditional bread-cake, made with a buttery, caramelised dough from my native Brittany. It contains a lot of butter (‘amann’ is the Breton word for butter) which is layered into the dough. When I was growing up this was a real treat, one that our family often had after Sunday lunch. It is said that Kouign amann was first made in 1860 in the town of Douarnenez, on the coast of Finistère, when a boulangerie ran out of cake and the baker was told to create something quickly. As he was not a pâtissier, used to making intricate confections, he stuck to the skills he knew and rolled out some bread dough, scattered it with pieces of butter, sprinkled it with sugar, then folded it several times and shaped it as if making bread. The result is something between a cake and a caramelised loaf and it has become the speciality of the town. All over Brittany people have since developed their own recipes and methods. At the local bakery where I was an apprentice my boss made one of the best versions I ever tasted. Although he kept his recipe a close secret I watched him make it many times, so the way I make my Kouign amann is based on his technique. A generous slice of it, cut while still warm, is beautiful with a bowl of good cider. 

You can use a mixer, but I prefer to make the dough for this by hand. The longer you rest the dough in the fridge, the more its flavour develops – keep it overnight if you can then let it prove before baking the next day. 

Makes one large tart (30cm in diameter), enough for 10–12 servings

Author Richard Bertinet

Ingredients

  • 500 g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 10 g fresh yeast
  • 10 g fine sea salt
  • 260 g caster sugar
  • 350 g water
  • 200 g salted butter
  • 2 tablespoons full-fat milk, for glazing

Instructions

  • Put the flour in a large mixing bowl. Break up the fresh yeast on one side of the bowl and have the salt on the other. Lightly rub the yeast into the flour between the flats of your hands, as if you were washing your hands. Stir in 10g of the sugar.
  • Add the water and use the rounded end of your scraper to mix everything together, working round and round in one direction and turning the bowl in the opposite direction as you go.
  • Make sure that you use the scraper to pick up all the flour from the bottom of the bowl as you mix.
  • The dough will feel very sticky at first, but trust in the technique, take your time and keep mixing until there are no dry bits and the sides of the bowl become clean al the way around with no flour showing. The temptation is to rush this stage, but the more more work you do in the bowl the better.
  • Without flouring your work surface, turn the dough out of the bowl. Use a scraper to ensure the bowl is perfectly clean, because you are going to put the dough back into the bowl to rest once you have worked it, and you don’t want any dry scraps of dough to stick to it. The dough should appear like a sticky porridge, with no patches of flour and no water showing.
  • Now the task is to transform that sticky mass into a tidy shape that you can work with. To do this you need to keep your scraper almost flat against your work surface and use it to skim the dough so that it spins around. In my classes I call this technique taking the dough for a walk, because it really helps if you walk it up and down as you do this. Avoid the natural reflex to flip the dough over, because you will quickly see that the dough forms a distinct top and bottom. The bottom with stay sticky. Now you are ready to start working the dough. The first thing to perfect is the way you stand behind the work surface. Don’t lean against it, but stand a little way back and put one foot forward. Don’t have your hands rigidly in front of you, but bend your elbows out to the sides (imagine you are a gorilla!).
  • The top of the dough will have a natural smooth skin forming over it, and by ensuring the top is always on top and the bottom on the bottom you are in control. It is a small detail, but a huge step in understanding the way that dough behaves.
  • Repeat this skimming movement a few times until the top is smooth, though the bottom will still be sticky. Remember the skimming technique, because you will come back to this step several times.
  • Shift your weight onto your front foot and at the same time slide your fingers underneath the dough as if they were forks and scoop it up so that it ‘pops’ cleanly off the work surface and doesn’t drag. When you do this your whole body gets behind the movement, not just your arms. The power is coming from your legs and your core, so you can work with big quantities of dough without struggling. Don’t be tempted to grip the dough tightly; the lighter the touch the better.
  • In one movement, as you lift up the dough turn your hands towards you so that the dough swings.
  • Slap it down ‘tail first’ on the work surface. By slap, I refer to the sound of the tail of the dough as it comes into contact with the work surface. It isn’t meant to be a hard, aggressive movement. You just want the dough to cling to the surface a little, which will allow you to stretch it.
  • Stretch the dough upwards and outwards, and then forward over itself like a wave. By doing this you form a big air pocket.
  • Slide your fingers underneath again, and get into a rhythm of repeating the sequence 4 or 5 times, then skimming, repeating and skimming. Keep repeating until the dough becomes stronger and more elastic and alive. The important thing is to relax and get into a rhythm of rocking onto your front foot as you scoop up the dough and let it swing, then rocking backwards as you slap it down, and forwards again as you stretch it over itself. Once you get used to this cycle of a few slaps, then skimming, a few more slaps, then skimming, you will be surprised how quickly the dough loses its stickiness and comes away from your hands, and eventually becomes smooth and a little wobbly to the touch. With practice the skimming and slapping process should take no more than 10 minutes.
  • After the final skim the dough should feel tighter and stronger and the film on the surface of the dough should be stretching all the way around and underneath the dough, so that it no longer feels sticky to the touch.
  • To finish off, repeat the slapping movement, but this time have your hands lightly around the middle of the dough, fingers underneath and thumbs on top. Repeat the movement three of four times, giving the dough a quarter turns between each one.
  • Very lightly skim your work surface and bowl with flour.
  • Turn the dough over so that it is now bottom-side up. Now you need to form the dough into a ball. Gather each ‘corner’ of the dough and fold into the centre, pressing down lightly with your thumb. Use your other hand to rotate the dough anti-clockwise before folding in the next ‘corner’. Repeat the folding and rotating sequence a further six times to strength the dough.
  • Finally turn the dough over to your top is back on top, and smooth and shape it into a round.
  • Use a scraper to help you lift the dough into your bowl.
  • Cover with a baking cloth or large freezer bag and leave the dough to rest for at least 1 hour, then put the bowl in the fridge, covered as before, for a minimum of 4 hours, or preferably overnight.
  • When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 190°C.
  • Take the butter from the fridge and place it between two sheets of greaseproof paper, then bash it with a rolling pin into a square shape. It should be really soft but still cold.
  • Lightly flour the work surface and turn out the dough so that the top side is underneath. Dust the surface lightly with flour. Roll it into a rough rectangle about the size of a sheet of A4 paper. Bash the butter again until it is about 5mm thick and roughly the same size and shape as the dough.
  • With the longer side of the dough facing you, peel the top sheet of greaseproof paper from the butter and use the sheet underneath to lift up the butter and flip it on top of the dough. Peel off the second sheet of paper.
  • Use your fingertips to gently push the butter into the dough.
  • Sprinkle 200g of the sugar over the butter and, with your fingertips, gently push the sugar into the butter.
  • Fold one short end of the dough into the centre, then fold the other end over the top to create three layers.
  • Lightly flour the work surface again and roll the dough very gently into a rough rectangle a little longer than before.

  • Turn the dough so that the short side is facing you. Fold one end into the centre. Fold the other end into the centre so that the edges are just touching in the middle.

  • Now fold one side over the other to create four layers.
  • Lightly roll the dough until it is a rough square that will fit into your ring.
  • Place a baking ring (about 30cm in diameter and 6cm deep) on top of a baking tray, then press in a large sheet of baking parchment. Turn the dough over and onto the parchment and, using your fingertips, gently push it outwards so that it fits the shape of the ring.
  • Brush off any excess flour from the surface of the dough and then brush all over with the milk.
  • Sprinkle with the remaining sugar.
  • Use a sharp knife to score the surface of the dough in criss-cross fashion. This will prevent the dough from puffing up too much.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes until the top and the base are really dark brown and well caramelised.

  • Remove from the oven and leave for about 10 minutes. Place a large plate over the top and, firmly holding the baking tray underneath, quickly invert so that the Kouign amann ends up on the plate. Be very careful when you do this because hot caramel will burn.

 

Kouign Amman (from Crumb by Richard Bertinet)

image from Crumb

We loved this kouign amman—it’s dense and rich, with a sweet, buttery, caramelised flavour. Perfect served warm from the oven, though we also enjoyed it both cold and gently reheated over the next couple of days.

Full recipe for Kouign Amman (from Crumb by Richard Bertinet)

 

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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Crumb by Richard Bertinet from publisher Kyle Books (part of Octopus Books). Book photography is by Jean Cazals.

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3 Comments to "Richard Bertinet’s Kouign Amman Recipe"

  1. Becky P.

    Step 28 says to “roll the dough very gently into a rough rectangle a little 12.
    It looks like the size has been left out. Could you please give use the correct measurements for this step? Thank you!

    Reply
    kaveyeats

    Thanks Becky, sorry about that, it was a copy and paste failure on my part. I’ve gone back to the book to double check and now corrected that step and a couple below it to match the book instructions exactly.

    Reply

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