Kouign-Amann Cake (Breton Butter Cake)

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In 2018, Food & Wine named this recipe one of our 40 best: We got our first taste of kouign-amann — the irresistibly sweet and flaky pastry from Brittany in northwestern France — in 2004 from authors Naomi Duguid and Jeffrey Alford, who traveled the world in pursuit of recipes. Making kouign-amann is not too different from making croissants, wherein butter is folded into a rich, yeasty dough. But here, it melts and browns as it bakes, producing a dreamy aroma. Kouign-amann also includes sugar, which creates crisp, golden caramelized bits that are truly impossible to resist. The classic cake is made with bread dough — Duguid and Alford's brilliant version is prepared with store-bought bread or pizza dough. We've adapted the recipe from their 2003 cookbook, Home Baking.

Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
2 hrs 25 mins
Yield:
6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound frozen bread or pizza dough, thawed

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) chilled salted butter, cut into 16 slices, plus 1 tablespoon melted salted butter

  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

Directions

  1. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a rough 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 25 minutes. Lightly flour the rolling pin and roll out the dough to a 14-by-18-inch rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest again for 25 minutes.

  2. Butter a 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Flour the work surface. Roll out the dough as thinly as possible, keeping a rectangular shape. Scatter 5 slices of the butter over two-thirds of the dough and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the sugar. Fold the bare dough into the center and fold in the opposite side, like folding a letter. Dust with flour and roll out again as thinly as possible, retaining the rectangular shape. Top with another 5 slices of butter and 1/4 cup of sugar, folding, dusting with flour and rolling out the dough again as before. Repeat the process one last time, using the remaining 6 slices of butter and 1/4 cup of the sugar, folding and rolling it out as thinly as possible.

  3. Fold in the corners of the dough to make a slightly round shape and transfer it to the prepared skillet. With a sharp knife, make six 2-inch-long cuts all the way through the dough in a starburst pattern. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise for 45 minutes. Place a baking stone or baking sheet in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 450°.

  4. Brush the dough with the melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Put the skillet on the stone in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until richly browned on top. With a spatula, transfer the cake to a large, round plate and let rest for 30 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve.

    Breton Butter Cake
    © Greg DuPree

Make Ahead

The cake can be kept at room temperature overnight, but it's best eaten the day it's made.

Suggested Pairing

This buttery cake and its caramel-like topping are a great showcase for a tangy-sweet tawny port or Madeira.

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