Sugar Crusted Breton Butter Cake (traditional name Kouign Amann or "bread and butter"). Every time I pick up the book Butter Sugar Flour Eggs by Gale Gand, Rick Tramonto and Julia Moskin, I am drawn to the same photograph and recipe. My book actually falls open to the page this recipe is on, and I had never made this cake up until this point. I find the idea of a sugar crusted yeasted cake with layer upon layer of buttery dough to be a wonderful one, and I'm wondering why I haven't tried it sooner. At first it may seem a bit daunting (even though the ingredients are few) with all of the folding and resting of the dough to work the butter into several layers. Fear not, it really isn't that difficult. All this recipe requires is some spare time and a little patience. Basically this cake is a laminated dough much like a croissant or danish minus the time spent chilling the dough between each turn.
Sugar Crusted Breton Butter Cake (from the aforementioned Butter Sugar Flour Eggs):
1/2 ounce fresh yeast or 1/4 ounce active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
10 Tbsp lukewarm water
8 Tbsp (4 ounces, one stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and slightly softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp confectioner's sugar for dusting
- Dissolve the yeast and 1/4 cup warm water in a medium bowl. Once the yeast is dissolved, work in 1/2 cup of the flour until the mixture is well blended and forms a little ball. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and allow to rise in a warm spot for about half hour.
-Combine the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture and blend together with your fingers, sprinkling the lukewarm water in gradually to make a pliable dough. If the dough seems dry, you may need to add another Tablespoon or so of water. Knead until smooth, about 4 minutes, and return to the large bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled for about one hour.
folding in the butter:
-Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and dust the top with flour. Roll into a rectangle about 8 1/2 by 11" . Turn the dough so that the 8 1/2 wide section is towards you. Dot the lower 2/3rds with the butter pieces and sprinkle on the granulated sugar. Fold the dough as if you are folding a letter in thirds. Folding the top section (the unbuttered section) down first then bringing the lower section up over the top to form a rectangle. Roll the folded dough into another rectangle 8 1/2 x 11 inches again. Turn the dough so the narrow end faces you, and fold the dough again into thirds the same way you did the first time. Cover the rectangle with a damp towel and let rest about 15 minutes. Roll the dough again into a rectangle and fold as you did before, rest under a damp towel for 15 minutes. And one last time, roll the dough out to 8 1/2 x11" and fold into thirds as before. Cover with a damp towel and let rest 15 minutes.
-Heat the oven to 400 f. Butter and flour a 9" round cake pan.
-Roll the dough into a circle (as best as you can) about 10 inches in diameter (it's ok if it isn't a perfect circle, mine was more of a square). Transfer the dough to the pan and fold up the corners to fit into the round pan. Using a sharp knife or a razor blade, score a crosshatch pattern on the top of the cake (like tic-tac-toe)
-Bake for 20 minutes, brushing the top of the cake every 5 minutes with the butter that oozes out of the cake. After 20 minutes, sprinkle the top of the cake with the confectioner's sugar and continue baking, without brushing, until golden brown on the top, about 10 minutes more.
-Let cool on a rack until the crust is just slightly hardened. Serve warm cut into wedges.
The sugar hardened crunchy crust contrasts beautifully with the moist chewy buttery insides. This is not a very sweet cake and I actually think next time I make it I may sprinkle sugar on the dough which each fold I make.
Thank me later for the way your home smells while this is baking.