© Emmanuel Berthier
Kouign‑amannThe Breton “butter cake”

Kouign‑amann

Kouign-amann is made of butter and sugar and is very very nice! Under its crispy surface lies a soft centre. The star of Douarnenez has become the emblem of Breton indulgence. So forget about the calories and treat yourself to this small luxury made in Brittany!

Trois petits kouign-amann de la pâtisserie Laurent Le DanielTrois petits kouign-amann de la pâtisserie Laurent Le DanielTrois petits kouign-amann de la pâtisserie Laurent Le Daniel© Marion Le Glouet

Its origin

We are not entirely sure of the origins of the kouign-amann, but we owe this famous pastry to the baker, Yves-René, in around 1860 in Douarnenez. There are several theories regarding its invention: the baker from Penn-Sardin city added sugar and butter (highly abundant at this time) to bread dough on a particularly busy day to meet his customers’ demand for cakes. It could also be a version of a Swedish cake from the time when Douarnenez had trade links with the Scandinavian countries. Another possibility is a combination of the know-how of different bakers and farmers to celebrate the pardons and traditional Breton festivals.

How is it made?

Its name, which literally means “butter cake”, perhaps gives you a hint that it’s not particularly healthy. As much sugar as butter is added to a bread dough base – it’s so delicious! The recipe looks simple, but it actually requires a certain amount of skill to make it truly special. Sugar and butter (salted of course) are added to a yeast dough and then the dough is folded a number of times to obtain layers. When baking, the ingredients form a delicious caramelised blend that is both crispy and soft. The quality of the ingredients, their temperature and the resting time of the dough are essential for the success of this cake. It can be also be made with apples or buckwheat. There is a saying “anyone can try, few succeed”. But when it comes to eating it, everyone is equal!

Best addresses for tasting kouign-amann

To taste the genuine Breton kouign-amann, put your trust in the “Véritable kouign-amann de Douarnenez” association which groups together a dozen of de bakers-pastry makers. Every year, the competition for the best kouign-amann rewards the talent of Breton bakers and reveals the best addresses.  ns et délivre ses bonnes adresses.

Chefs’ specialities

  • Thierry Seychelles, chef of the restaurant Le Roscanvec in Vannes proposes a savoury version of the famous pastry: the kouign-patatez, a kouign-amann based on potatoes
  • The “kouign sall” is a variety of the kouign-amann where the sugar is swapped for the famous Hénaff pâté and caramelised onions. A recipe invented by Jérôme Le Bihan, the pastry chef at Biscuiterie de Pont L’Abbé.

How to recognise a good kouign-amann

A good kouign-amann is freshly baked (that same day). It has a circular shape with a lovely caramelised coating, not too brown, and patterned with diamond shapes. A crispy mouthful should be followed by a divinely soft centre.

Purists insist that it should not mistaken for other local specialities. TheBeurrée belle-iloise, the beurrée Riguidel and the “Kouign pod” from Ile aux Moines and the “Kouign plaked” from Penmarc’h are buttered and puff pastry varieties of the famous cake.

How do you eat it?

To warm it up without drying it, put it between two plates over a pan of boiling water.

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Learn to make kouign-amann

La Kouignardise in Pont-Croix proposes the “Mon kouign à moi” cooking workshop. Get your hands dirty and leave with your kouign-amann after the workshop! Find out more: Pass Mon Finistère
– At L’Ecole des Dessert in Vannes, Breton pastries, including kouign-amann, will reveal all their secrets to you thanks to their themed workshops.

Did you know?

Soap that smells of kouign-amann!

Shower gels, soaps and room fragrances have the delicious scent of kouign-amann thanks Ma Kibell, creator of Breton artisanal cosmetics.

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