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Recipe: huckleberry kouign amann

The colorful tapestry of autumn has begun to spread over parts of Colorado’s mountain forests. It’s still early in some parts, peak in other parts, and past prime where the extra enthusiastic leaves turned too soon and were stripped away by winds. I’ve been shooting the fall colors each year since we moved to Colorado in 2005, and figured this fall I’d take a break. Instead of a dedicated fall shoot, I’d merely take some snaps if I happened upon a nice stand. And of course, there are always good aspen stands to be had.

neva waits patiently among the aspen leaves and kinnikinnick

jeremy and neva hiking through a hall of aspens

greens, yellows, and blue

sun and shadow race across a hillslope of aspens

Every autumn it feels right that the leaves should change and I should turn a year older. That’s what happens when your birthday falls on the autumnal equinox (more or less). I don’t fret about getting older, I simply like that I’m still here – something I very much appreciate. We drove to Crested Butte for the weekend to winterize our house and yard as well as spend some down time with Neva. And I’m fairly certain that we may have been the only people in the state enjoying huckleberry kouign amann for breakfast!

a little pastry, a little nip of tea

You know I would have to go there eventually, and so I did with the last bunch of fresh huckleberries from the summer. My favorite berry married to my favorite pastry yields The One Pastry to Rule Them All! You can use blueberries in place of the huckleberries, or a jammy fruity concoction – just make sure it isn’t wet or it could turn your pastry bottoms quite soggy. To start, you make regular kouign amann.

the pastry: sugar, butter, flour, water, salt, yeast

add the yeast and let sit for a few minutes

stir in the flour and salt

mix until shaggy

knead until smooth and cover with plastic to rise

the dough should double in size

After the dough had risen, I popped it into the refrigerator overnight. Kouign amann requires a good bit of time (much of it chilling the dough or letting it rise), so if you can’t dedicate the better part of a day to making it, the option to refrigerate the dough overnight helps to break up the work and develop better flavors in your pastry.

For the filling, I originally had grand plans to incorporate vanilla and lemon juice and melted butter, but that was apparently too much liquid for the filling and gave me some soggy-bottomed pastries. So it’s best to omit the liquids. The lemon zest and cinnamon do a fine job of flavoring the berries anyway. Fresh berries should hold up well to the baking, but frozen berries might leak more liquid and earlier during baking. I may have to try it this winter since I only get fresh huckleberries for a few weeks each year.

lemon, sugar, salt, ground cinnamon, huckleberries (omit: melted butter, vanilla, and lemon juice)

mix it all together

When you are ready to resume making the kouign amann pastry, flatten an 8-ounce block of salted butter (or two 4-ounce sticks) with a rolling pin. Rolling it isn’t going to work, you’re going to have to whack it – a lot. Start with a floured work surface and set the cold butter on it. Sprinkle some flour on top of the block so your rolling pin won’t stick to it. Each whack you impart on the butter translates into: 1) deformation of the butter 2) heat dissipation 3) sound (the whack) 4) energy transferred to the work surface through the butter and 5) recoil into your hand/arm. The butter will get sticky, so keep sprinkling flour on the butter as needed until you have beaten it into a 1/4-inch thick sheet.

flatten the butter block with your rolling pin

keep at it until it is 1/4-inch thick

fold it in half

sprinkle more flour and whack it some more

Continue to flatten and fold the butter and repeat until it is pliable and folds easily without breaking. If the butter gets too warm, you might have to chill it before working it some more. At this point, try to pound it into a 6-inch by 10-inch rectangle and chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. When the butter is ready, roll the dough out to a 12-inch by 20-inch rectangle.

place the butter in the center of the dough

fold the dough in thirds over the butter (like a book)

roll the dough out to 12×20 inches and fold in thirds again

cover with plastic and refrigerate after the fourth turn

Rolling the dough out and folding it in thirds is called a turn. The dough gets four turns and is then chilled. If your work area is warm, you may need to refrigerate the dough after two turns if you find the butter is mixing into the dough, and then do two more turns and refrigerate. The next step is two turns, but with sugar layered into the dough.

sprinkle sugar on the chilled dough

press the sugar into the dough as best you can

roll the dough out to 12×20 inches and fold in thirds

repeat another turn and then cover with plastic and refrigerate

Before working the dough this last time, sprinkle sugar on your work surface. It makes a complete mess, but it’s better than having the dough stick to the counter or board. Set the dough on the sugar and sprinkle more sugar over the top of the dough. Roll the dough out, but this time the dimensions are 8×24 inches because you’re going to cut 4×4 inch squares (or 8×8 inch if you want to make bigger kouign amanns). A pizza cutter works nicely for this job.

sprinkle sugar on top of the dough

roll it out to 8×24 inches

cut into squares

Once the squares have been cut, gather the four corners toward the center of the square and place them in buttered 3-inch baking molds or large muffin tins (or a 6-inch baking mold for 8×8 inch squares). The butter is important or else your kouign amann might become a permanent fixture in your baking mold or tin. Carefully peel the corners back once they are in their mold or tin, and scoop a tablespoon of berry filling into the center. Cover the filling with the four corners and let the dough rise once more before baking.

gather the corners together and place in buttered molds or tins

spoon a little filling into the center of each pastry

cover the filling with the four corners, and let rise

they should look a little puffy

When the kouign amann go into the oven, take a few minutes to get ready for when they come out of the oven. You will want a cooling rack set over a baking sheet available. Some oven mitts and trusted utensils for loosening the sides of the pastries and popping them out will be handy, too. Part of what makes the kouign amann so delightful is also what makes it so maddening – that caramelized bottom is hot and liquid when the pastries come out of the oven, but not for very long. You need to move quickly without burning yourself or disemboweling the pastry to remove it from the mold or tin and set it on the cooling rack before the caramel cools and becomes rock hard, anchoring the pastry to the bottom of the tin. For unfilled kouign amann, it’s an easier task. With filled kouign amann, try not to poke through the bottom such that the berries spill out.

baked golden brown


fruity, sugary, flaky pastry

These pastries can last two to three days in a sealed container, but I doubt anyone can resist gobbling them down. Think caramelized flaky croissant with wonderfully sweet and tart huckleberries baked in the center. You can really taste the butter, so use the best butter you have because you are already using the best berries in the world.

lovely with tea or coffee (or milk)

all the hard work paid off

Huckleberry Kouign Amann
[print recipe]
based on this recipe

1 cup water, room temperature
2 tsps active dry yeast
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
8 oz. SALTED butter, cold
1 cup granulated sugar
extra butter for greasing the molds or tins
extra sugar

huckleberry filling
1 cup huckleberries, fresh is better than frozen
2 tbsps granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
pinch ground cinnamon
pinch salt

Make the dough: Combine the water and yeast in a mixing bowl of a stand mixer (or a regular mixing bowl if you plan to knead by hand). Let the yeast stand for a few minutes to dissolve. Add 2 1/2 cups of flour and the salt. Stir together until the dough looks shaggy. Knead the dough on low speed with a dough hook for 3-4 minutes or knead by hand for 5-8 minutes until smooth and slightly tacky to the touch. Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size (about an hour). Chill the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes up to overnight.

Pound the butter: Sprinkle your work surface with a tablespoon or more of flour. Set the cold butter block on top. Sprinkle more flour over the butter. Begin gently tapping the top of the butter with your rolling pin (flour will fly around, you’ve been warned) until the flour begins to adhere to the butter. Using more force, pound the butter down into a flat sheet about 1/4-inch thick. Fold the butter in half (use a pastry scraper if it sticks to the work surface). Pound the butter flat again, sprinkling additional flour as necessary to prevent the butter from sticking. Fold the butter in half. Repeat pounding flat and folding 2-3 more times until the butter is supple and folds easily rather than breaking. After the last fold, pound the butter into a 6×10 inch rectangle (as best as you can get it). Set the butter on a baking sheet, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Make the pastry: Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out to a rectangle 12×20 inches. Set the chilled butter sheet in the center third of the dough. Fold one third of the dough over the butter and then fold the remaining third over the butter. Roll the dough out a little and fold in thirds again. Rolling the dough and folding it in thirds is called a turn. Rotate the dough so the shorter length of the rectangle is closest to you. Roll the dough to 12×20 inches and fold in thirds. Repeat the turn once more. Place the dough on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Place the dough on your work surface with the shorter length closest to you. Roll the dough to 12×20 inches and sprinkle the dough with 1/2 cup sugar. Press the sugar into the dough with the rolling pin to help it stick. Fold the dough in thirds. Turn the shorter length closest to you again. Roll the dough to 12×20 inches and sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar. Press the sugar into the dough again with the rolling pin. Fold the dough into thirds. Place the dough on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Butter the insides of the pastry rings or muffin tins (I recommend using large muffin tins, not standard muffin tins). Arrange the rings on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Place the muffin tins on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any spills).

In a medium bowl, toss the huckleberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, lemon zest, ground cinnamon, and salt together until mixed. Set aside.

Sprinkle the work surface with sugar and set the dough on top. Sprinkle more sugar on the dough and roll it out to 8×24 inches at about 1/4 inch thickness. Slice the dough into twelve 4×4 inch squares (or three 8×8 inch squares or however you want to do the math). Fold the corners of each square in toward the center and set pastry in a ring mold or muffin tin. It’s okay to squash it in a little. [At this point, you can cover the pastries and refrigerate them overnight. If you do this, let them come back to room temperature, fill with berries, fold the corners in, and let rise for an hours before baking.] Open the corners up and place a tablespoon of filling in the center of the pastry 4×4 pastries (or four tablespoons in an 8×8 pastry). Fold the corners back over the fruit. Cover the pastries loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until slightly puffy, about 30-40 minutes.

Bake the pastry: Preheat oven to 400°F with the rack in the center. Place the muffin tin on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips. Place the pastries in the oven and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Bake 40-45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. The pastries are done when the tops are deep golden and look as if they’re just beginning to burn. If making a larger kouign amann, give it a few more minutes to bake. Remove from oven and let the pastries cool slightly. Taking care not to burn your hands (I used oven mitts and a knife), loosen the pastries from the molds while the sugar is still hot and cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. These are best eaten fresh. Makes 12 3-inch pastries or 8 3-inch pastries and a 6-inch pastry. Store in airtight container for up to 2 days.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

kouign amann pastry huckleberry brioche huckleberry brioche huckleberry lemon sweet rolls

13 nibbles at “turning”

  1. monsoonmiss says:

    Kouign Amann is my absolute favorite pastry in the world! I’ve only seen it at maybe 2 bakeries because it’s so labor-intensive, but it’s soooo worth it (…to me, to pay for someone else to make it! I’d even pay extra!) This looks amazing, Jen.

  2. Ben Myhre says:

    > I don’t fret about getting older, I simply like that I’m still here.

    Truth. Getting older, imo, is better than the alternative. Sure, things get creaky and pains start to come, but still.

    This pastry! mmmm. looks so good. I have not worked with huckleberries, but think I will next year. I learned about some public land that has loads of huckleberries AND it happens to be a few miles away from my beehives, so I will be trying to find it next year. My inlaws were out there and said everything was gone/done.

  3. Kristin says:

    So beautiful. I’ve only tried a butter folding pastry once, and the butter kept on breaking through the pastry. It was NOT fun. I trust you, so I should probably find a couple of days when I can try it again.

  4. farmerpam says:

    Someday I’ll conquer this recipe. Happy Birthday. ;)

  5. Rhonda says:

    This looks very delicious and I look forward to trying to create it! Love your pup photos. Love fall in Colorado. What a lovely time of year to have a birthday- happy day!

  6. Melissa says:

    “I don’t fret about getting older, I simply like that I’m still here – something I very much appreciate.” <3333

    You know, I actually always remember your birthday and I meant to send a quick message to you on Saturday. My day was so insanely busy and the thought got away from me; I wish I had done it first thing! Happy belated. I hope you had a truly wonderful weekend. :)

  7. Ellie's friend from Canada says:

    Happy Birthday!

    This looks like a fabulous recipe. I may have to try it with blueberries. Do you think it would work?
    Sadly, we are huckleberry deprived.

  8. Jen says:

    These look so delightful! I wonder–I have a jar of huckleberry jam. Do you think it would work to fill the pastries with jam, or would that be too liquid for the filling?

  9. Kelley says:

    Like others, I adore kouign amann but have never attempted to make it myself! Thank you for showing us the steps – and happy belated birthday!

  10. jenyu says:

    monsoonmiss – I only discovered how much I love it about 4 or 5 years ago when our local Whole Foods began to carry it. Since then I’ve been obsessed with it!

    Ben – So true about aging instead of being dead ;) You are VERY fortunate to live near huckleberries! And if you have beehives, then I think huckleberry honey is a no brainer!! xo

    Kristin – I believe that making laminated dough is a necessary skill for baking happiness :)

    farmerpam – xxoo

    Rhonda – Thank you!

    Melissa – Aw, you are such a dear. While I don’t think birthdays are a big deal, I appreciate hearing from friends like you any day <3

    Ellie's friend from Canada - Yes, I think it would work for blueberries! I actually saw a photo of a blueberry kouign amann (but no recipe, which is why I had to hack my own) that was the inspiration for huckleberry kouign amann!

    Jen - I think jam could work, no problem. Now that I think of it, maybe a smear of frangipane first then a small dollop of jam on top and whoa...

    Kelley - Thank you and good luck! I hope it works out. It isn't that hard to make, just a lot of steps (and messy)! xo

  11. Julie says:

    Those look amazing! I’ve been curious about making kouign amann for ages, and you’ve convinced me to try. Now if I could just get ahold of some huckleberries…

  12. jenyu says:

    Julie – Fresh ones are hard to come by unless you live near places where they grow. But you can always order frozen online, year-round. Good luck!

  13. Judy says:

    Love Kouign amann, both making and eating. It’s one of the ‘benchmark’ pastries I try at new bakeries. If you’re ever on the California Central Coast, stop by Bob’s Well Bread bakery in Los Alamos (CA). His are pretty tasty.

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