The Kouign of Baking Therapy

I’ve been neglecting my house and the grounds surrounding it. Not that I live in a palatial estate. Just haven’t mowed in a while. Or weeded. Or done any sort of maintenance, for that matter.

I figured it could wait until Spring Break. So I let it. When I mowed, though, I realized that something was amiss. The yard seemed swampier than usual, even after a heavy rain. (let’s hear it for Houston’s thick clay soil, everyone!)

Yeah. The main sewer line was backed up. So I crossed my fingers and hoped that it was just from the rains. But this morning, alas! It was still there. Soggy. Stinky. Gross. A plumber must be called to repair a collapsed concrete line built about 60 years ago. As luck would have it, I apparently get a teacher discount, and while I paid a very reasonable rate, I won’t be taking any trips anywhere for quite a while.

I’m talking nowhere. Not even for a lovely spring breaky brunch. *sigh*

What to do but bake something tasty? And buttery. And caramelly. Enter the beautiful Kouign Amann, that Breton pastry of legend. Say it like this: Queen Aman. I first saw it on an episode of The Best Thing I Ever Ate and knew that this pastry and I were destined to meet. It looked wonderful and the host gushed over its attributes. Flaky. Gorgeous. Fabulous.

Plus, it’s a yeast dough with many steps, so, yeah. Plenty to keep my mind off the fellows digging up my yard.

I began with David Lebovitz’s recipe, making sure that the “warm” water was between 100 and 110 degrees — this has been my downfall many a time with yeasty breads, so I was very careful. Used black sea salt. It gives it a weird, pocked appearance that I’m going to call charm.

The charming pock marks.

The charming pock marks.

Now, I follow his directions to a T, making the dough and letting it rest and hour and rolling it out and covering it with the good butter (Kerrygold is superb. Or Plusgras. Don’t skimp) and some sugar (vanilla-infused here, y’all!).

Kerrygold butter lives up to its name.

Kerrygold butter lives up to its name.

Yep. I follow that recipe right up to the folding part. Because you’re going to want to add a step. One that I saw on that show. One that will make you want to make this RIGHT NOW.

So you’ve folded your dough over neatly in a little tri-fold. Now. Take your rolling pin and beat that butter like a drum. Whack it into the dough. Like a red-headed step-child. (I’m from the south. It’s okay to use that particular idiom.) Beat it like you’re the University of Texas and it’s A&M. (HAH!) Seriously, though. Smack it.



Post-beating. Look at the yellow Kerrygold butter peeping through.

Post-beating. Look at the yellow Kerrygold butter peeping through.

Then roll it out and add another layer of sugar and do the tri-foldy thing again and now continue with Mr. Lebovitz’s recipe.

You should have a lovely stack of dough and sugar and butter sitting pretty on your plate. To rest for an hour.


Seriously. Black sea salt on top and golden butter peeping through cracks. This is an awesome pastry.

Then into the pie plate with MORE butter and sugar…

Sprinkled with liquid gold...

Sprinkled with liquid gold…

Let's take a closer look at that wonderfulness...

Let’s take a closer look at that fabulous butter oozing through the field of sugar and salt…sort of awesome.

…to caramelize after 45 minutes into this:



A buttery, crispy, oozy pan of amazing that (almost) makes up for the gigantuous home repair price tag.

I can’t write about the lovely aromas coming from the oven. I just can’t. There are no words. It’s heaven.

Hell will be waiting for it to cool. And I’m off to do that.




Contemplating My Blue(berry) Period

In addition to making things, I like me some sleep. Spring Break boils down to nine whole days of gently waking to howling dogs galloping across the bed and hitting the dog door at breakneck speed in order to holler at the neighbors, who are revving engines of some sort. Much preferable to the screech of the alarm clock.

Last night, I had the presence of mind to move a wee Mason jar full of frozen blueberries from the freezer to the fridge, where they peacefully thawed out overnight and made their way this morning into a lovely batch of blueberry pancakes.

Now, you may think that I visited my foodie guru, Alton, for a recipe, but that’s not true. In this case, I went for my copy of Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. The one I pilfered from my mom’s house. The one with little gold stars and splotches of food on the really good recipes.

It falls open (and sometimes apart) naturally to certain pages, and the pancake recipe is one of them.

Pancakes a la Betty!

Pancakes a la Betty! Notice the batter splotch.

This makes a hefty, thick batter. I thinned it. With some half and half. (don’t judge me)

And I added cardamom. Because I love cardamom, and it goes superbly with berries. Just awesome.

Just pour the batter out into a heated pan and drop the berries in as it cooks.

Photogenically dropped berries, no?

Photogenically dropped berries, no?

Here’s a shot of my whole breakfast cooking: pancakes and coffee and all. Taken because I got bored while waiting for the pancake to bubble…

Yes. Two types of coffee. The regular stuff needs...fortification.

Yes. Two types of coffee. The regular stuff needs…fortification.

The clock reads 9:43, but it feels earlier. Curse you, Daylight Saving Time!

A dot of butter, and my day can begin!



So, to sum up:

  • Sleeping until you wake up: GOOD
  • Remembering to thaw fruit the night before: GOOD
  • Super-duper, old-timey recipe from childhood cookbook: AWESOME
  • Sitting on the couch on a Monday morning with cuddly doggy girls and leisurely enjoying pancakes and coffee: PRICELESS

But it may be time for a nap now…