Kouign Amann is a speciality from Britanny in the North West of France. The legend has it that a baker once had too much bread dough, didn’t really want to make any more breads than he had already made, so he decided to turn it into a cake instead. He layered the bread dough with butter and sugar and baked it like that.
For our bakery recipe, we use our house sourdough recipe to make this cake and it is in fact the special flavour of the sourdough that gives the cake an extra note. However cultivating a sourdough at home is somewhat of a challenge, so to make it a little more easy for the home baker, I am giving a brioche recipe here instead. But if you are a keen bread baker, do try it with your favourite bread dough recipe. This should however not be a wholemeal bread dough. The flavour depth in the brioche recipe can be increased by slowly fermenting the brioche overnight in the fridge. We also add fresh apples, to give some extra zing and fruitiness.
Ingredients brioche dough:
- 420g white strong flour
- 40g sugar (we use unrefined golden sugar)
- 20g fresh yeast (or 10g active dry yeast)
- 10g salt
- 50g butter
- 1 egg
- 200ml full cream milk
Ingredients for filling:
- 300g salted butter
- 300g sugar
- 600g sour baking apples, cored, peeled and sliced into 2cm thick slices (best to use Granny Smith or Ballarat)
To make the brioche dough let all ingredients come to room temperature.
Weigh the flour into a large bowl. Warm the milk a little and dissolve the sugar and yeast in the milk by whisking the milk. Do not heat over 35C! Pour the milk into the flour, add the egg and the salt and begin mixing the dough together with a wooden spoon. Mix until you have a shaggy mess with no distinguishable lumps of flour or egg. Then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cover it with the bowl. Let it rest for 5min. The flour will start absorbing the moisture and become less sticky and easier to handle. You can now knead the dough, but brioche dough is nicer, if it is not worked too much, so a stretch and fold method works well and saves you the hard work of kneading. For this to work, simply knead the dough into a round ball, then flatten out the ball into a rectangle. Pull the side closest to you towards you and then fold it into the middle. Then repeat that with the side facing away from you by pulling it away from you and folding it into the middle afterwards. Then the right and left sides. Basically you are stretching the dough as far as it will go, without ripping it and then folding it in on itself. Once you have done all four sides and made a little parcel, turn the dough over so it will sit on the folds and the smooth side will face up and cover it again with the bowl and wait 5 min.
After the wait start again with flattening the dough (no need to be too gentle, just give it a good pounding) and do the stretch and fold again.
A total of four rounds of stretch and fold is what we need. During this time the gluten in the dough will develop and gain the necessary strength to hold in the air produced by the fermentation of the yeast and allow the dough to rise.
After the fourth time, grease the bowl with a little bit of butter or oil and place the dough inside. Then cover the bowl with a plate, a teatowel, or some glad wrap. Wait until the dough has doubled in size. Depending on the temperature of your kitchen this could be anything from 40 – 90min. This is called the bulk fermentation period. Bulk because in a typical bakery environment this is when all the dough of one recipe is still in one mass and only after this period will it get divided into the individual portions of bread or cake. During this time the yeast becomes activated and starts consuming the sugar. It produces CO2, which will bubble up through the dough and cause it to inflate.
Once the dough has risen and doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface again and knock all the air out of it, by giving it a good knead. Try and keep the dough together in a nice round ball.
(Now, if you are going for the longer overnight fermentation, this is when you would put the dough back into the greased bowl. You would need to grease the surface of the dough too now and cover the bowl with a plastic bag or glad wrap to stop it from drying out. Place in the coldest part of your fridge.)
Now heat your oven to 220C (200C fan)
The assembly of the cake:
To make the cake rest the dough for 5 - 10 min after you have knocked the air out, then roll it out on a lightly floured surface with a lightly dusted rolling pin. (If you have done the overnight fermentation, the dough will have risen again. You will need to deflate it, but you can do that by rolling it out with the rolling pin).
You want to make a rectangle approximately 60cm long and 20cm wide. Have the short side facing you.
Next take your butter (room temperature!) and cut it into pieces. The pieces are then placed into the middle of your long rectangle, covering the middle third from one side to the other. Fold the bottom up to completely cover the butter, then fold the top over the bottom.
Turn the dough 90 degrees and take your rolling pin and carefully roll the square into a rectangle again facing in the same direction as before, taking care not to squish the butter out the sides. Once you have reached the 60cm x 20cm size again, sprinkle 100g of your sugar into the middle section, where you before spread the butter. Then fold the top down over the sugar and the bottom up, the same way you did before.
Now you have enclosed the free edges of the butter and it can’t run out anymore.
Turn your dough again 90 degrees in the same direction as before and repeat the same fold and then roll again to 60cm x 20cm.
Repeat the step with the sugar twice more, on the last fold, add all the apple by spreading the apple, but leaving about a cm around the sides. Fold the edges over the apple, then fold the bottom and top thirds of the dough over the top of the apples.
Turn the whole thing upside down, so the apple side is on top, and place it into a 11” flat cake tin, lined with baking paper. If the tin is a loose bottom tin, place it onto a solid tray, as the butter, sugar and apple juice will form a caramel that will drip out of your tin.
Brush the top of the cake with egg wash (1 egg whisked together with a couple of tablespoons of water and a pinch of sugar and salt) and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for 70min. After 30 – 40min turn the temperature down to 190C. If the top is getting too dark, over it with some tin foil. Continue baking to 70min.
The top should be golden brown and a little crisp.
Dust the edge with icing sugar. Best eaten slightly warm with whipped cream or thick greek yoghurt.
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