I like a good chocolate chip cookie or brownie, but if given a choice, I am way more interested in trying new kinds of pastry. That’s why I’ve been thrilled recently to have come across kouign-amann not only once, but twice, in Chicago. More about where in a minute.
The first time I tried this pastry was in Paris, but it originates from the region of Brittany in northwestern France that produces outstanding butter. The unusual name comes from the Breton words kouign for cake and amann for butter. Butter and sugar are baked between layers of pastry, resulting in the most wonderful caramelized creation—as you can see in the ones at Georges Larnicol in Paris, where they are displayed in abundance in the front window. It is impossible to walk buy or buy just one. Thankfully they are small (called “kouignettes”), which makes it easier to justify popping a few other non-traditional flavored versions, like chocolate or caramel, into your bag.
Kouign-amann is a sort of a cross between a cake and a croissant. A lighter, flakier version is what you’ll find at Pierre Hermé in Paris, and what I came across in Chicago at Floriole Café and, much to my surprise, at Nordstrom Café on Michigan Avenue (shown at top) one Saturday afternoon. When I asked the staff if what I saw were indeed kouign-amann, they were surprised that someone knew the name and what they were. These beauties were topped with fruit flavoring, and are made by Alliance Bakery.
If you come across kouign-amann, forget your diet, and try one.
Alliance Bakery & Café
1736 West Division Street
Floriole Café & Bakery
1220 West Webster Avenue
Nordstrom Coffee Bar
55 East Grand Avenue