My Attempt At Kouign Amann [split from San Francisco]
I followed Leibovitz's directions but on another web site there were several commenters who said that they could tell early on that the dough would not be flaky enough. I think some of my problems were: using American butter, not butter from Bretagne so not yellow enough (tried to find Plugra at Trader Joes and couldn't find any), large cubes of butter did not roll out well so not flaky enough. It just wasn't chewy/gooey. Madeleine Kamman's recipe calls for less flour, some corn starch, more butter, some orange water (will use orange zest instead), and a second rising of the dough. I also was using a new counter top convection toaster oven (Cuisinart, bought at Costco) which cooked much faster (despite lowering the temperature 25 degrees and checking the kouign 25 minutes before the supposed finish time) and it was fairly dark and caramelized although it was still good. Just not kouign amann like we had in Bretagne. (By the way I love this new toaster oven despite having a kitchenaid double oven in the wall. Bakes many items faster and I think more energy efficiently).
I don't have a real reference point, as the only ones I've had are the ones I've made from Gabrielle Hamilton's recipe, and the one from Starter Bakery this morning (bought it at Pizzaiolo), but I will say that my results using this recipe were very similar to the one I had this morning. It starts off with a block of butter instead of chunks and results in very nice, distinct layers that crisp and flake at the edges, but are tender in the middle.
I used Kerrygold, which is pretty pliable even when cold, so I needed to refrigerate the dough after the first fold. It rolls really easily, though. I rolled the dough out on granulated sugar instead of flour, but then didn't sugar the glass pie plate quite enough - it could have used a little more caramelization. Otherwise, the flavor and texture were very close. I did a long slow second rise in the refrigerator instead of a shorter one at room temperature, thinking that it might help retain layers better, but I think it just ended up increasing the cooking time.
I am in Brittany right now, awaiting tea time for my daily slice. I have sampled five different patisseries, and observe that kouign amanns vary widely. Vastly, even. Some are bready and yeasty, others flaky. One chain bakery is quite famous for its preparation, which relies on sitting in a foil pan -- I am convinced that after baking they drown the pan in a sugar/butter syrup than soaks in like a sponge. I did try David Leibovitz's recipe a year ago, but was in Maui, and the heat and humidity turned out a weird glop -- tasty, but shapeless and not presentable to guests (guess I will have to eat it all myself!). Anyhow, I just wanted to note that there are very different interpretations, so you may be following them correctly, just getting a different result from the one you like best.