The Story of France’s Most Extraordinary Pastry

It’s been called “gold in butter.” Yann Queffélec, French author and winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt, described it as “heavy, glazed, sublime, and melting.” As told to Slate France, “There is as much butter as sugar in it.”

It’s the kouign-amann (that’s kween a-mahn)—or “butter cake” in Breton, the Celtic language that’s native to Brittany and includes fairytale names like Gwenaëlle (girl) and Gwendal (boy). Think of the pastry as a sugary, caramelized croissant, crispy on the outside and densely moist inside; the bread-y version of canelés; a sophisticated muffin.

There’s some controversy about the kouign-amann’s exact origins, but most agree that it comes from Finistère—literally, the “end of the land”—the westernmost tip of Brittany and an appropriately whimsical birthplace for the most extraordinary of French baked goods.


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