Monday, December 29, 2014

Kouigns Amann

Indeed, the whole thing was not far from the ‘madding crowd’ – a shrieking siren, a huge man stomping in boots and funny clothes, a police-looking person, a lot of black smoke, and myself.

What do you suppose could have caused such weird behavior, and why do you suppose these people looked at me in a suspicious manner; as if I were inebriated, or a little ‘round the bend’ ? After all, it was only four o’clock in the morning –

What these outsiders just didn’t seem to comprehend was that idiosyncrasies of a certain nature can take place when one creates a calamity centered-around-baking, such as the one at hand.

Actually, it all started quite innocently for me on that particular day in our bake-along group of Rose’s Alpha Bakers. The recipe would be the divine croissant-looking sticky pastries, ‘Kouigns Amann’, from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s latest book, “The Baking Bible” (p. 481). 

That afternoon I had composed a beautiful still life of all the goodies in my mis en place, with the little yellow yeast package tilted just-so near the ruler to please Woody, and the glistening little metal rings casually posing for their picture with the best of the best Organic butter with 85% fat for baking. And so the picture was taken and happy baking began.

In Highlights for Success for this recipe, Rose explains “high fat butter and high protein bread flour are ideal to keep the butter layers from breaking through the dough. The consistency of the dough and butter must be the same to distribute the butter evenly throughout the dough, so maintaining the correct temperature of the butter is ‘critical’   (p. 486).

As I progressed first from letting the dough rise, to rolling it out, I began not following directions properly, thus flailing about. The first were the dough package flaps. Of course, I didn’t see what was happening - yet.

I also had not taken heed that my butter was harder than the dough because I had not checked it’s temperature at the last minute as it lay re-cooling from too warm to now firm but not workable in the fridge. So now it had actually become too hard, enough so that the consistency differed from the dough. I had cooled it too long at the end before using it. Have you figured out what happened?

Once again, a familiar, loving voice emanates:
“The butter should be the same consistency as the dough when they are rolled together or it will break through the dough and not distribute evenly”.

Now, after rolling a faulty dough package into a 7x13” rectangle, I was meant to have done Turn One and refrigerate the dough for an hour. 

On Turn Two things began to feel strange, although they really had since the beginning. However, now while rolling, I caught sight of several long bright-yellow bananas, like submarines swimming just below the surface of the dough – they were not at all a soft 68-70 degrees as they would have been if they had become a component of the dough in its turns. And so what now -

I frantically begin to poke the dense butter, attempting to cover the boats with pieces of dough and sugar when I could. Sugar, freezer, refrigerator minutes. I am aware this is more than totally futile, and not even time for sugar, and that I am like a child sailing a paper boat. However, a last-ditch effort couldn’t hurt – or could it? So, finally, ruined-rounded-pinched-bunched-bundles of birds residing in tin nests were dispatched into the 400-degree oven.

Of course, I realize that this whole endeavor has been sabotaged by my own errors. But hope does spring eternal, even as the butter now begins to seep out with intention. The shapes of dough are interesting, and I am watching still with hope to see lovely toasty colored pastries with touches of caramel. 
Therefore, it is not that I didn’t see the black ‘caramel’ becoming more than black caramel, or that I didn’t smell something suspicious, but it wasn’t until black smoke billowed in huge black puffs from the back of the stove that I yanked the door open, grabbed the pan with gloves at least, and became aware of the tell-tale piercing alert of the alarm, heard my husband raising his voice, and caught sight of the entry of two men from Gulliver’s Travels who were not impressed by an hysterically laughing woman saying something like oh my goodness, or worse.
In the aftermath, and thanks to our rescuers, I was curious as to what qualities these ‘non-pastries’ would actually have in survival, if any.

It seems that I had gone wrong from the very beginning of this kouigns endeavor, my first with any dough ever, I may add to save face a bit. Part of my reconstruction must be to carefully recognize where I went wrong the first time with my right-brained tendencies and redo it by implementing the steps as written. Soon I would really like to bake the Kouigns Amann successfully.

Maybe I could even take some to the nice Fireman and Policeman who were so gracious that they didn’t guffaw at the crazy lady, laughing a lot, who bakes ‘cookies’ at four in the morning and then burns them up in a two alarm fire. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


  1. Hello, Joan: Wow, what a tale!! Perhaps start them a bit earlier in the day next time, but do make them again, they are wonderful. I had more luck than you did with my kouigns amman. I'm so glad you are baking along! I am loving the Alpha Bakers project. I hope you will have a chance to stop by and see my results at Wishing you the best in 2015--Michele

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  3. Hi Joan , what a wonderful blog love your pictures ,I love this pastry ,you finally got your blog working , I'm one of the new Alpha Baker girl. Have a happy new year 2015.

  4. Hi Michele and Rosa Maggie - Thank you for stopping by. It was quite an experience and hopefully I will not have to repeat such a calamity.
    I will be stopping by to visit your wonderful blogs soon. Happy New Year! joan

  5. ב''ה

    Sorry you had trouble. Now you have a tale to tell. :)

  6. Right. My husband didn't think it was so funny when the neighbors wanted to know what the police and fireman were doing here - lol

  7. This is what happened to my first dough i made it..when the butter was too long in the fridge. Later i changed to just putting the butter in for 30mins instead of 1 hr. And it worked for me. At least your pastries didn't burn..only the caramel just turned a bit darker than usual..;)..

    1. Faithy - I am having awful time trying to post to you. There is something that the little gismo wont let me post....Agh - it is frustrating when I want to talk to you and can't! ; )

    2. Faithy - I am having awful time trying to post to you. There is something that the little gismo wont let me post....Agh - it is frustrating when I want to talk to you and can't! ; )