But here’s the rub about kouign amann…

It isn’t possible to make it in America. At least not as it’s made in Brittany. The reason: ingredients. Traditionally, kouign amann is a layered (laminated) pastry with a special difference: it’s got sugar layered into it along with butter. This is a major no-no where laminated doughs are concerned, at least in America. Why? Mostly because our butter is too “wet”, which is to say it has too high a water content. Put that together with a large amount of sugar and you get problems.

What sort of problems? Well, those of you who read the blog regularly know that sugar is hygroscopic, meaning that it attracts and absorbs water. When you’re working with butter that has a relatively high moisture content (17% or so in the case of most American butter), the effect is pooled water. That water softens and collapses the dough layers, ruining the lamination and thus the rise.

It’s a problem kouign amann makers in Brittany get around by using drier butters, usually winter butter of some sort. Dry butter isn’t so easy to come by in the States, so a reformulation of the recipe is required, one that leaves the sugar out of the dough itself. It obviously isn’t traditional, but it’s necessary if the pastry isn’t going to emerge from the oven like a sweet and rich cracker (and trust me, I made more than my share of those over the weekend trying to figure a way around this limitation). No wonder so many of you guys have asked me to take on this project over the last year or so. Kouign amann looks simple, but in reality it’s one tough nut to crack. I’ll do my best!

7 thoughts on “But here’s the rub about kouign amann…”

  1. I was wondering, if you were to use a European butter, such as Icelandic (Smor), Irish (Kerrygold), or Plugra – would that make a difference? Will it be possible to laminate the dough with the combo of butter & sugar?

    1. European butter is always a great idea for laminated dough, Y. Great butter always makes a difference in a preparation like this, where butter is the star. But no, you can’t laminate the two together, for reasons that I explained in the posts that week. Have a look if you’re curious. Just use the calendar on the bottom left.


      – Joe

  2. Joe, You are absolutely right about the water and the sugar. I try to make Kouign Amann at least once a year (a real pita) and the only time I was truly successful was when I waited until the very last turn to add all the sugar at once. I’ve never heard of a ‘dry’ butter but I use Plusgra or some such French or Breton butter and still have that weeping problem. I made a batch today and it’ll still taste good but tomorrow the batch will save the sugar until last. How does one find or ‘make’ dry butter? I don’t have a clue…….
    ps – I was told that the best Kouign Amann is in the South of Brittany, near Quimper…..all I can say is that I loved it there, fresh on Tuesday at the local outdoor market.

  3. What type of butter does “Les Madeleines” in Salt Lake City use.
    Her Kouign Amann look and taste great!

    1. Almost certainly a cultured European or Euro-style butter is my guess. Since butter really is the centerpieces of laminated pastry, they need to use something good!

      – Joe

  4. I love you Joe Pastry! I have been struggling with the problems, you’ve described above, for over a year. It is most definitely a butter issue. To get around it, I had to make my own butter. My research online showed the fat content in the homemade butter is closer to 86%. The difference was immediately evident during the rolling process and results were so rewarding. Sweet success, thank you!

    1. Tink! This is so sudden!

      What to say except that I’m glad to be of help. Thanks for getting in touch and telling me about your success. I love happy endings!


      – Joe

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