Layer upon layer of buttery pastry, wrapped up with sugar and burnished with a golden caramelised crust
It’s the colour that strikes you first: a deep, burnished gold reminiscent of lions in a coat of arms. Then there’s the shape of it. Maybe it’s the crystalline glaze, maybe it’s the delicacy of its multiple layers, but it’s hard to believe the originator of the kouign-amann wasn’t thinking of a crown.
In fact, the pastry (for, on closer inspection, this is what it proves to be) is the product of a republic: the French Republic. It’s been a traditional cake of Britany since the late 19th century. Its only connection to a crown comes from The New York Times, who in the 21st century crowned it “the fattiest pastry in all of Europe”.
Unspeakable amounts of butter
“Quite a few customers say to me it is like a croissant on the inside, but on the outside it is like a baklava,” says Hanuman of The Flour Station. “The glaze is reminiscent of that of the Middle Eastern sweet pastries.” Indeed, the kouign-amann is made with a yeasted dough, laminated to incorporate unspeakable amounts of butter, just like a croissant is; the only difference is the generous layer of sugar incorporated into the luscious final folds—hence the glazed, caramelised finish which, along with the distinctive pointed folds, lends the kouign-amann its regal appearance, and its depth of flavour.
If you’re the sort of person that sees the humble croissant as a challenge as to how much butter you can consume in one mouthful, who smothers it in extra butter AND jam for good measure, this is your guy.
“I like mine with a cappuccino. It balances the buttery sweetness,” says Hanuman. We had ours with a cuppa—but we wouldn’t judge you if you bit into the bold, bronze crust and tore into the soft folds of its centre right there at the stall.