These gorgeous French pastries come from famed pastry chef Dominique Ansel. The DKAs, as they are known for short, are soft, buttery, and flaky. The layers of sugar add a sweet and crunchy twist!
I hope that everyone is continuing to stay safe and healthy. While we’ve been practicing social distancing, I’ve had more time on my hands – to spend with family, to read, and to bake. I’ve experimented with more bread baking and attempting more complex recipes.
One thing I wanted to do was a bakealong with a friend. My skating friend S has become an amazing baker, and I’ve often drooled at her fantastic creations. I asked if she would be interested in baking a recipe with me, and she happily agreed. We jointly decided to tackle Dominique Ansel’s kouign amann. While I have made kouign amann before, I wanted to try the DKA.
My friend S brought me some fresh DKAs when she visited me about 2 years ago. She visited Dominique Ansel’s pastry shop in New York City and hand-carried them on the plane with her. I’m fairly certain that my eyes rolled to the back of my head when I took my first bite. Actually, I think S took a photo of me when this happened!
My DKAs turned out a lot fluffier than I anticipated. That’s not a bad thing – it’s just different from the previous recipe I tried. The DKAs were airier and softer, like the insides of a freshly baked croissant. I also didn’t use as much sugar as I did previously so they weren’t as sweet. As a result, my husband said that these would taste better with a (large) smear of Nutella.
And my yeast must have gone nuts because the DKAs puffed up much larger than I anticipated.As a result, they didn’t retain their shape. Despite these minuscule differences, I still enjoyed my DKAs. In fact, we scarfed a few of them down after they were baked. Knowing that they would get soggy after a few hours definitely aided in our decision to eat a lot of them!
And how did my friend S do in her attempt? Well, I am super proud of her for attempting this recipe. She said that it was the hardest thing she’s ever baked. I think hers turned out better than mine did! The shape of her DKAs were wonderful. She subbed demerara sugar for the granulated sugar, so her dough didn’t get as soggy as mine – and the DKAs had a nice solid crunch to the textures. She also noticed that the butter started squishing out after rolling since there was no refrigeration in between. I actually refrigerated mine before each roll/fold, which helped keep the butter intact.
All in all, we had great fun baking together, and I hope we can do it again soon!
Husband’s rating: 3.5 out of 5
Addie’s rating: 4 out of 5
My rating: 4 out of 5
Dominique Ansel's kouign amann (DKA)
- 3 cups plus 2 Tablespoons (472 grams) bread flour
- 2 Tablespoons (12 grams) kosher salt
- 1 and ¼ cups plus 2 and ½ Tablespoons (313 grams) very cold water
- 26 Tablespoons (364 grams) unsalted butter softened; divided
- 1 and ½ teaspoons (4 grams) instant yeast
- 1 and ¾ cups (360 grams) granulated sugar
Make the dough
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the bread flour, salt, 1 Tablespoon (14 grams) of the butter and the yeast on low until well combined. Then turn the mixer up to medium-high for about 10 minutes. The dough should be soft, smooth and stretchy. Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a large sheet of plastic wrap. Punch down the dough and press it to form a 10-inch square. Wrap in the plastic and place it in the freezer for 15 minutes. Then flip the dough and freeze for another 15 minutes.
Make the butter block
- As the dough is chilling in the freezer, make the butter block. On a large sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap, pound the butter down with a rolling pin. Roll it out into a 7 inch square. What I've found to be helpful is to either sprinkle the top of the butter with a thin layer of flour while rolling, or covering the top of the butter with plastic wrap and then rolling. Since the butter is soft, it will stick to the rolling pin. Choosing one of these options will make the butter easier to roll (and not stick to your rolling pin). Once you have a 7 inch square, wrap in the plastic and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
Combine the dough with the butter
- Remove your chilled dough from the freezer and place it on a large and lightly floured surface. Place the butter in the middle of the dough, but position it so it looks like a diamond (so that the corners are pointing at 12:00, 3:00, 6:00 and 9:00). Pull the corners of the dough up and directly to the center and press down. Seal the butter very well so none of it is sticking through. You should have a diamond shape.
- Use your rolling pin to roll the dough out into a 24 inch by 10 inch rectangle. This will require some arm strength. You may need to dust the top of the dough with some extra flour so that the dough doesn't stick to your rolling pin.
- Turn the rectangle so that the short end is at your belly button (it should look like a skyscraper). Take the short end that's farthest away from you and fold it towards the center. Then take the short end that is closest to you and fold it towards the center. You've essentially folded your dough into thirds so it resembles a letter.
- Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat: roll it out to a 24 inch by 10 inch rectangle and do the letter fold again.
- Repeat once more: turn the dough 90 degrees, roll into a rectangle and do the letter fold.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it into the refrigerator to chill for 30-40 minutes.
Add the sugar layer
- On a large and clean work surface, sprinkle a thin layer of granulated sugar. Place the chilled dough on your work surface and roll it out to a 24 inch by 10 inch rectangle like you have before. Sprinkle on a thin layer of sugar on top of the rolled out dough and then repeat the letter fold.
- Sprinkle more sugar to your work surface and roll out the dough to a 24 inch by 10 inch rectangle once more. Sprinkle more sugar on top of the rolled out dough. Your arms should be super strong by now!
- Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into 4 inch squares. Fold each of the corners into the center of the square to form a diamond and push down firmly. Then take the corners of the diamond and fold it into the center once more to form a square. Push down in the center firmly.
- Place the folded dough square into a standard muffin pan and repeat with the other dough. If you have ring molds (they should be about 2 and ¾ inches in diameter), you can use that instead. Make sure you place the molds on top of a large baking sheet that is covered with a silicone mat or parchment paper. If you are using a muffin pan, I highly recommend placing the pan on top of a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat as well.
- Let the dough rise at room temperature for about 15-20 minutes.
Bake the DKAs
- Preheat your oven to 365°F (185°C) or 340°F (170°C) if using a convection oven. Place your DKAs in the middle rack of your preheated oven for 15 minutes. Then rotate the pan and bake for an additional 15 minutes,
- Remove the pan from the oven and unmold the DKAs from the ring molds or your muffin pan. Place them UPSIDE DOWN on a baking rack set over a baking sheet and allow to cool while inverted.