Week 144: Dominique’s Kouign Amann (DKA)

Kouign-Amann is one of the most decadent viennoiserie I have ever tasted. Couple that with Dominique Ansel’s pastry magic, you have something short of pastry miracle. Ever since tasting this at his bakery last year, I have been working up my courage to give these a go. Unfortunately, I have never had much lucky with laminating dough – hence the long wait.

But after the recent exchange with a fellow baker, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. This recipe is from Dominique Ansel’s The Secret Recipe. The original recipe said to do the 3 folds in immediate succession, but, after the first fold, I realise that is just not going to work. So I had to freeze the dough in between every fold, which stretched the 3 hours timing into a whooping 5 hours! Also, maybe due to the humidity, once the sugar was sprinkled on the dough, it becomes very moist and difficult to work with – so, speed is of the essence here. You’ve been warned.

Makes 12 individual Kouign-Amann

472g bread flour

12g salt

313g water, very cold

364g unsalted butter, softened

4g instant yeast

360g granulated sugar

Cooking oil spray

Plain flour for dusting

1) To make the dough, combine the strong flour, salt, water, 14 grams of the butter and the yeast in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes to combine.

2) Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 10 minutes. When finished, the dough will be smooth and slightly tacky and will have full gluten development. Test by stretching it—the dough will have some elasticity.

3) Lightly grease a medium bowl with cooking oil spray. Transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

4) Punch down and press it to form a 10-inch (25 cm) square. Wrap it tightly in the plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Flip the dough and return it to the freezer for another 15 minutes so that it chills evenly.

5) Spread the remaining 350g buttercream into a 7-inch square on a parchment paper and refrigerate until firm but still pliable.

6) Remove the dough from the freezer; make sure it is very cold throughout. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Arrange the butter block in the centre of the dough so it looks like a diamond in the centre of the square (rotated 45 degrees, with the corners of the butter facing the centre of the dough sides). Pull the corners of the dough up and over to the centre of the butter block. Pinch the seams of the dough together to seal the butter inside. You should have a square slightly larger than the butter block.

7) With a rolling pin, using steady, even pressure, roll the dough out from the centre so that it triples in length. This will take several passes. Use extra flour to dust the work surface to ensure that nothing sticks. When finished, you should have a rectangle about 24 by 10 inches (60 by 25 cm) and ¼ inch (6 mm) thick. Make a letter fold and then wrap the dough in cling wrap and freeze for 20 minutes.

8) Make 2 more letter folds, freezing the dough for 20 minutes between each fold.

9) For the fourth fold, sprinkle a thin layer of sugar on the work surface before rolling out the dough. And sprinkle another thin layer of sugar on the rolled out dough, before making the letter fold.

10) Sprinkle another thin layer of sugar on the work surface and roll out the dough for a final time into a 24 by 10 inches rectangle. Then, sprinkle another layer of sugar on top.

11) Using a chef’s knife, cut the dough into 12 4-inch squares. Sprinkle a little bit more sugar on the work surface. Fold in the corners of each square to meet at the centre, pushing the centre down firmly. Repeat with the new corners that were formed, again pushing down firmly in the centre.

12) Line a half baking tray with a silicone baking mat. Spray lightly with cooking oil spray and sprinkle with enough granulated sugar to just lightly coat it. Place the ring moulds 4 inches (10 cm) apart on the tray.

13) Place a square of dough in the centre of each ring. The dough will hang over the edges of the mould. Fold the excess dough into the centre of the DKA and press down firmly. Proof at room temperature, 15 to 20 minutes.

14) While the DKAs are proofing, place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat convection oven to 170°C.

15) Bake the DKAs on the centre rack for 15 minutes. Rotate the tray 180 degrees and bake for 15 minutes more. The DKAs are finished when they turn golden brown and have about doubled in size.

16) Remove from the oven. Using a pair of stainless-steel tongs, unmould the DKAs onto a baking tray while still hot: Grab the metal rings with the tongs and flip the DKAs over so the flat side is up. Remove the rings. Let the DKAs cool completely, still inverted.

It is not entirely successful, as I ended up with a fair amount of butter leakage in the oven, and as the instructions were not very clear, I ended up using only half the sugar specified in the recipe. But the result was no less spectacular. Buttery, with a crispy crust covered with caramelised sugar. It is indeed a little piece of viennoiserie heaven.

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