If you’re a fan of all things pastry-related and anything sweet then you can’t miss out on sampling the Kouign-Amann, a regional speciality from Brittany (or Bretagne as it is so-called in French). Here’s a quick history of the Kouign-Amann, where to find it, and tips to know before eating this sweet dessert.
Breton cakes are well known for their abundance of butter (and of course, sugar) and the Kouign-Amann is no different. Indeed, Kouign-Amann is translated into English from Breton (an ancient Celtic language which comes from Brittany) as ‘butter cake’.
Coming in a variety of different flavours, the traditional cake ‘flavour’ is inevitably plain butter. I also saw raspberry and apple options. The cake is about the same size, shape, and has the same appearance as a Danish Cinnamon Swirl. That’s about where the similarities end, though.
How is the Kouign-Amann made?
The Kouign-Amann is made in a few layers (like puff pastry) and comes from the Breton Kouign (cake) Amann (butter). The pastry is slowly baked in order to allow for richness of flavour. Yves-René Scoria is often credited as having invented it in the mid-late 1800s.
The recipe is about 40% dough, 30% sugar and 30% butter- no wonder it tastes and looks so rich! I bought the cake pictured above in the town of Dinan for just under €3 and they typically range from €2.50 to €3.50 depending on where you are and the type of Kouign-Amann you’re opting for.
I personally selected the raspberry cake- having already ‘sampled‘ (and enjoyed) a large bite of my friend’s traditional one. While the price may well be seen as extortionate for a cake of its’ size, due to its’ richness, I certainly couldn’t have eaten a bigger one without feeling at least a little ill!
Upon my purchase, I was asked if I’d like it heated up. Having the pastry heated up was a lovely touch- it really brought out the flavours and made the raspberry almost melt into the pastry. The cake had a caramelized texture, was incredibly sweet and I would totally purchase the Kouign-Amann again!
If you’re purchasing a Kouign-Amann to go, then I highly recommend taking the time to heat it up in an oven at home as this gives the pastry an extra buttery, flakey texture. Though the pastry originates from Brittany, Kouign-Amanns can be found in selected bakeries across France (including in the Bo & Mie Chain in Paris).
In Brittany, if you’re not sure you want to purchase a whole pastry (butter cake), then it’s often possible to purchase bite sized miniature Kouign-Amann cakes for around €1. For more information about boulangeries (i.e. the kind of bread shop where you can purchase Kouign-Amanns), be sure to check out our French bakery guide.