I was going to write about éclairs — about the forgotten pleasures of bronzed choux pastry filled with pastry cream and iced with chocolate. And then I saw it, at Macarons et Madeleines, minding its own business in a basket next to the ubiquitous pain au chocolat, two away from the tray of éclairs.
When you haven’t tasted (nor even seen or thought about) in thirty-some years, a once favourite pastry, discovering it in a new-to-the ‘hood patisserie… well, you gasp. And you order it stat. And you wait for it to be warmed up and you sit in your parka in the sunshine and feel twenty again.
And because it doesn’t look quite like you remember it looking, you ask if it’s the genuine article.
Is this really Kouign Amann, you ask the young woman behind the counter at (the newly relocated) Macarons et Madeleines?
Yes, she says, indulgently. We just roll it a bit differently.
It’s sort of pronounced ‘queen-a-mon’. In the Breton language, kouign means cake and amann means butter. Not sure what the Breton word for sugar is, but there’s no doubt that it’s part of the package too. This is a pastry-bread-cake thing that’s been around since the mid 1800s, apparently, and in some parts of North America, I’m told it’s seeing a revival.
A yeast-risen dough layered, puff pastry style, with salted butter and sugar and baked such that the butter puffs the dough, and the sugar in the folds oozes out, caramelizing the top and sides and bottom. At Macarons et Madeleines, it’s baked in spiral rings, a bit like a sticky bun.
It arrives gooey and bronzed, crisp and oozing butter, served with a knife and fork. A big cake, eminently shareable. So bring a friend. And leave with an éclair for later.
$8 for a single Kouign Amann, which will feed a few, if you’re prepared to share.
Macarons et Madeleines, 1323 Wellington St. W., 613-680-7887