It's been a busy time, and I've been doing a great many librarian things, and may in fact be starting a separate librarian blog if I can ever tame my parentheses usage. At least I now have a large and hungry staff of colleagues to eat my baking (horrible flashbacks to working in an office of two...dancers). This will come in handy because I've gone and joined up with another bake-through. The book in question is The Baking Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Not only did I already make it through her Rose's Heavenly Cakes, I tested several of the recipes for this current title in a private group, the Beta Bakers. Now we have transmogrified into the Alpha Bakers, a select group indeed, and will be baking weekly, with roundups by Marie Wolf to be found here.
My hero John Thorne has said that his cookbooks function best when he lets them get into a conversation with one another. Baking with a group of opinionated bloggers allows this pleasure on the smaller scale. Some are precise and rule oriented, some mess around, some are just messy (I'm #2 and #3, respectively).
At the risk of sinking back into the smug domestic goddess that I was in mild danger of becoming, here it comes. Our first recipe was the book's cover recipe, and one we had tested together, Kouigns Amann.
Kouigns Amann are hard to pronounce (queen amANN) but easy enough to make. In fact, they're so hard to pronounce that I had been hearing them discussed on podcasts for months without connecting the pastry under discussion to the written name. I used to do that with 'sub-tle' the written word and 'suttle' the spoken word. Was convinced they were different concepts.
Whatever you call them, these pastries are essentially a cross between a croissant and a danish, glazed in caramelized sugar. The dough is a rich but not decadent brioche-style yeast dough, which rises and then is folded and rolled with a room temperature butter package (heh, butter package). Rose calls for bread flour to strengthen the dough and minimize butter breakouts. I used Hecker's brand AP flour, which is fairly high protein, with excellent results--I'll try bread flour next time I have it on hand but Gold Medal brand bread flour is only one or two percentage points off in protein content anyway so I don't know if the difference will be monumental.
After a few turns, the dough is rolled again, covered in granulated sugar, which quickly begins weeping moisture, and folded into little packages, which are set to rise in rings, or foil rings, or, in my case, some muffin pans.
I cut mine smaller than recommended because my muffin tins and rings were smaller than the recommended 4". More pastry is not a bad thing.
Finally, they're baked until very brown and crisp. Mine leaked a fair bit of butter--next time I might take a tip from one of the other Alpha Bakers and freeze them for a moment before putting them in the oven.
"You may feel that you have eaten too much...But this pastry is like feathers - it is like snow. It is in fact good for you, a digestive!" ~M.F.K. Fisher