A few years ago, when the baking and eating world went crazy for the Cronut invented at the New York bakery Dominique Ansel, French food nuts whispered something behind their hands:
The Kouign Amman is better.
Pronounced “queen AH-mahn,” it originates in Brittany in France and it’s really the grandmere -- the grandmother -- of Ansel’s many-layered, sugar-crispy Cronut. While it’s been around Breton kitchens since the 1860s, it’s rarely spotted these days, even in France. Ansel started making them at his New York bakery around 2011, and the whispered fame has been spreading ever since. It got another boost for the food-experience crazy in 2014, on the BBC show “The Great British Bake Off.”
In Charlotte, pastry chef Sylvain Rivet of Renaissance Patisserie knows the kouign well. His grandfather is from Brittany, and he learned to make it as an apprentice in France. When people kept coming into his South Boulevard bakery and asking for it, he realized it was time to unleash “the Queen” on Charlotte.
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It’s not an empty threat: Layers of dough similar to a croissant, kouign amman is traditionally 40 percent dough to 30 percent butter and 30 percent sugar. It bakes into a tender round of layers practically oozing butter with a crisp outer shell of caramelized sugar. They don’t keep long, about 24 hours, but you can reheat them. And if you time it right and get to Renaissance when they’re coming out of the oven . . . well, let’s just leave the idea here and back away.
“When I start baking these, you will smell the butter all the way on South Boulevard,” Rivet jokes. “When you try one, it’s all over. You have to have.”
After a test run last weekend that he says sold out in no time, Rivet is debuting it Friday at his shop, 2809 South Blvd., and selling them also at his stand at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Price: $4 each.