CAMBRIDGE — There are fads, like cronuts, and then there’s the French pastry kouign amann (pronounced kween ah-mahn). The Breton specialty isn’t new or singularly contrived; it’s lodged firmly in the patisserie tradition of northwestern France. It’s a classic, made in the region for 150 years.
The pastry isn’t as precious as wildly popular tiny French macarons, and doesn’t have the cutesy appeal of a frosted cupcake, but kouign amann has the most important characteristic of all: unequaled flavor. “They’re my favorite thing ever,” says Flour Bakery co-owner Joanne Chang.
At first glance, you might mistake kouign amann for a crusty golden muffin. Look a little closer and you’ll see that the little bronzed cake wears a crown with four points, or a four-leaf clover design. When you tear into one, there are layers upon layers of buttery dough. “It’s a croissant that has extra butter and extra sugar, which ends up caramelizing for a crisp outside,” says Chang, who also co-owns the Asian restaurant Myers & Chang.
Kouign amann, from the words cake (kouign) and butter (amann), look innocent enough, but one bite is all it takes to fall unabashedly in love with the pastry’s crispy, caramelized sugar coating and soft, buttery dough. The confection is now being made by some top pastry chefs and popping up in bakery cases and restaurants around town, including Chang’s Flour bakeries in Fort Point, Back Bay, and Cambridge, Ames Street Deli and Loyal Nine in Cambridge, Towne Stove and Spirits in Back Bay, and Market Square Bakehouse in Amesbury.
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