Like a trite Christmas tale, it began with a second glance through a shop window. I had just walked out of Pirates of the Caribbean with some friends and we were looking for a kebab or a bar. Whatever would keep us out for a while longer, because that’s what youths do. And there was this shop, one of those “delicacies of France” establishments – all sleek and black and kind of intimidating, and in the window were pastries I had never seen before.
I call this series Patisseries Discoveries, but let’s face it – few of these pastries are completely new to me. We’ve all seen éclairs and macarons and tarts and mille-feuilles and opéras and religieuses and mont blancs, at least in pictures. It’s mainly been about putting taste to names.
But these were new, and I was so excited to finally actually discover something. Believe it or not, this experiment was not created to present a series of increasingly unfortunate pastries. (I just can’t tear myself away from a good train wreck and you’ve all been dragged along for the ride.) At last, here was something where there used to be nothing. Just when the world starts feeling small…
I couldn’t figure them out at first. Turns out there was nothing to figure out. Butter and sugar make for pastry magic. Simple. Fool-proof. A double whammy of sweet and umami that hammers out dopamine in truckloads.
So for those like me who were not aware, I had just come across kouign-amann. Created in the 1860s in the town of Douarnenez, they’re a Breton dessert made by folding butter and sugar into layers of dough, similar to puff pastry. The butter makes it nice and puffy, and the sugar caramelizes into a rich, chewy crust.
The name comes from Breton words for cake (kouign) and butter (amann).
Traditionally it comes as a large cake rather than individual cupcake-sized pastries. My new chosen cause of death: foolhardy ingestion of a large kouign-amann.
And they come in different flavors too. I got an original and another in salted caramel. Truckloads and truckloads of dopamine. A five-lane collision of dopamine. I don’t know what else to say. You just can’t go wrong with butter and sugar. See also: the Canadian butter tart.
But you don’t have to take my word for it.