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Mar 18, 2013 06:55 AM

Virtual Kouign Amann crawl

If you were going to do an in depth and scientific study on Paris' best Kouign Amann, what would be your prioritized list? (Also would appreciate suggestions for a good alterations tailor...) My pastry-hating husband has suddenly become an addict after sampling the product at San Francisco's new B Patisserie (photo of product below).

Also am puzzled by the spiraled, snail-shaped KA I have seen in Paris. I am used to the "corners turned in to make a circle" shape that I've seen i Brittany. What's the score with snail vs circled square?

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  1. I consider Arnaud Larher's most worthy of that honor.

    1 Reply
    1. re: John Talbott

      Will definitely try his, but they look quite odd to me, nothing like what I remember from Brittany, neither rounded square nor snail..

    2. My fav is at Le Grenier a Pain on Rue Abbesses, only on weekends. A block or two from Larher.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        Weekend is really hard for me. (Fleas take priority, you know.) Any chance they sell them at the Faub. St. Antoine shop?

        ETA if you click on Nos Magazins and then on any address, you will find hours per shop. They are dispersed throughout the week, so a check before a visit is not a bad idea.

        1. re: mangeur

          Yes, to the Faub. St Antoine store, on all days, but seem to slightly undercooked here so the gooey is more sugary and less caramelly most of the time.

      2. I'm increasingly confused by kouign amann. The version that I remember from summers in Brittany when I was a kid was larger and served warm by the slice. Mmmmm-mmm. There was a smaller version called kouignette but usually very similar in flavour, texture and the same fabulous caramelized crust. But more recently kouignettes seemed to have morphed into a more doughy/ less flakey, less sweet, and less mmmmm-mmm version far from the original. At the same time the labels kouign amann and kouignette seem to have become almost interchangeable despite the divergence. I often see the more modern and more doughy kouignette being sold as kouign amann in many bakeries.

        That being said, kouign amann and/or kouignette in one form or another are now very "in". I still go to Maison Larnicol on the boulevard St Germain for my reminder of the authentic tastes of Brittany. For a riff on the less traditional in order of preference: Cyril Lignac on the rue Paul Bert/ 12th, Philippe Conticini on the rue du Bac/ 7th, Gontran Cherrier on the rue Caulaincourt/ 18th, Arnaud Lahrer (but, at least at his new shop on the rue de Seine/ 6th, not always available), and Pierre Hermé at his rue Vaugirard/ 15th and rue Bonaparte/6th shops.

        14 Replies
        1. re: Parnassien

          Thanks for the these names, P. (Husband is definitely going to need the alteration referal!)

          I have noticed that in Paris, at least, the kouignette has taken over as the representative product. I continue to be confused by shape and textural differences. By the end of this survey, we should have some understanding if not consensus.

          (Come to San Francisco for what I think may be the taste memory of your Brittany summers although served in miniature and not by the slice. Husband hasn't stopped mmmmm-mmming since his introduction.)

          1. re: mangeur

            My last time in SF (where I lived for a year) was pre-"b patisserie" and all I could find was the doughy kouignette (labelled, of course, kouign amann). But did have a lovely kouignette in the true kouign amann tradition at that Keller place in Yountville. He described it as a work in progress then but, having just googled it, seems to have perfected it judging from the rave reviews of his new Beverley Hills shop.

            I think the problem in France is that kouign amann has so many variations, even in Brittany that it's hard to define a standard. The original comes from Douarnenez/ Finistère but just go 10km and it's slightly different. By the time you get to La Baule, it's almost a different species.

          2. re: Parnassien

            "The version that I remember from summers in Brittany when I was a kid was larger and served warm by the slice." Well, having been to Brittany some 8 months ago, they are still like that.

            1. re: John Talbott

              Did your full size ones in Brittany have the almost level top that the (our mutual SF friend's) photo shows in Larher's kouignettes? I don't remember seeing that top in Brittany.

              1. re: mangeur

                I'm lost Margaret, these were level topped and like Parnassien's first description - a slice of an almost big gateau/galette des rois.

                1. re: John Talbott

                  I think that Parn answered us both: "I think the problem in France is that kouign amann has so many variations, even in Brittany that it's hard to define a standard. The original comes from Douarnenez/ Finistère but just go 10km and it's slightly different. By the time you get to La Baule, it's almost a different species."

                  1. re: mangeur

                    We discovered kouignettes at the Georges Larnicol on rue St Antoine a few years ago ~ my grandson fell in love with them in May and we've been to specialized French bakeries in Ottawa and Montreal trying to find replicas. Both served up the larger version, sliced like a pie, and both were good, but not as delicious as the little kouignettes we remembered from Larnicol.
                    Hubby tried his hand at making some this weekend and the result was pure gluttony ~ crystallized sugar bottoms, meltingly tender insides and a wallopful of butter in every taste! He made them using muffin tins so they came out like the Larnicol version ~ a regular version and another with crunchy biscoff spread. Both were orgasmic and I had to give some away to avoid gobbling them all up.
                    So for us, we prefer the kouignette version. Here's a picture of Den's version to salivate over.

                    1. re: mangeur

                      Well, not exactly "so many variations".

                      There are only two types of kouign-amann.
                      The type that is a kouign-amann
                      And the type that is not.
                      These days the second type is more frequently seen than the first.

                      Whether it is the traditional pie-sized version that is warmed up and portioned, or the more recent kouignette (a creation by Georges Larnicol in Concarneau), it should have the right balance of melting and crispy, with too much butter added. For instance what Conticini makes at la Pâtisserie des Rêves is anything you wish but not a kouign-amann. And Arnaud Larher is such a dreadful pâtissier that the mere thought of his kouign-amann just makes me shiver. Pierre Hermé, Cyril Lignac, etc., are also using the name improperly.

                      I have never seen the circled square shape. The one on the photo looks too puffy to me. KA usually is a heavy, gooey, sticky stuff that the weight of butter and sugar keeps close to the ground. The surface is flat, maybe a bit wavy (because of the mess created by the caramel and pastry), but never as dramatically hilly as that.

                      The only genuine kouign-amann version that you can find in Paris is made by Larnicol (and is delivered to the Paris stores from Brittany on a daily basis). His kouignettes are just as good as the full-sized versions but they tend to be a little dry, and they should, of course, be eaten warm, NEVER on the sidewalk straight from the store, as I've seen some tourists do.

                      1. re: Ptipois

                        :) Pithy and to the point, as always, Pti!

                        What looks like puffiness in the photo is actually dense, crunchy/gooey compressed buttery/sugary flaky layers.
                        The height comes from the corners of the square that are turned into the center in order to make the circle. Process described here: "Roll out dough on a sugar-sprinkled surface into a square slightly larger than the pie pan. Dust with remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and ease doughinto pan, loosely folding edges towards the center."

                  2. re: mangeur

                    There's a youtube video of the Concours du Meilleur Kouign Amann de Bretagne which gives a good idea of the most classic and traditional version. But the competition doesn't seem to allow the variations that you find in real life all throughout Brittany.

                    1. re: Parnassien

                      Well, thank God it doesn't! Some things have to be done seriously somewhere. Thanks for that video.

                      At the very end of it, you can clearly see what a kouign-amann should look like. A flattish, leveled surface with a buttery caramel mirror that is hard and sticky when the cake is cold, but melts into utter deliciousness when warm. Inside, the flakes should be hardly apparent because they're stuck in buttery goo.

                      Thanks to your linking to the video, I found another one that shows the process of making a kouign-amann.

                      1. re: Ptipois

                        I just gained 7 pounds watching those two videos! Thanks much, P and P!

                        1. re: Ptipois

                          "melts into utter deliciousness when warm... stuck in buttery goo". Oh god, I want a kouign amann! But where at this time of night. It's 11pm. Tell me where, Pti!

                2. I'm not getting into any "the best of" contests but I had a pretty good one today at the new Breton offshoot of L'Auberge du 15, called L'Auberge du Roi Gradlon in the 13th. It was circle shaped.

                  6 Replies
                    1. re: Ptipois

                      I figured you might want to check out its Breton-ness, but it's pricey.

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        Good kouign-amann isn't supposed to be cheap. It is very labor-intensive and butter-intensive.

                        1. re: Ptipois

                          Sorry I was referring to the entire carte.

                    2. re: John Talbott

                      Thanks for this address, John. Sounds worth investigating.

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        Thanks John, on my list as well.
                        Hope to be there in a few weeks.