Move over croissants, there’s another flaky, buttery pastry in town. This one is dense and sweet, with a thick, caramelized crust, dark and rich as a Sunday roast.
It’s the kouign amann. (Say it, “queen uhmahn,” but the smiling server behind the counter will understand “coon uhmahn” or probably any combination of a “k” and an “a,” because there you are staring lustfully into the bakery case and they’ve seen that look before.)
As indefatigable bakery trekkers we can triumphantly pronounce Rustica’s kouign amann the best in the area because we’re pretty sure it’s the only one in the area. (Feel free to correct us in the comments, because that’s what you do best, and we’ll be there to check it out pretty much as soon as you hit “post.”)
“Kouign amann” means “butter cake” in Breton, that Celtic language still holding on in the northwest corner of France. And Bretons love their butter. Breton butter is cultured (like yogurt) and salted, usually with sea salt. And that salty-sweet combination is part of what makes the kouign amann so irresistible.
Then there’s the soft layers inside — dense, not airy like a croissant — that capture bits of butter, sugar, and salt that you can pick at greedily with your fingers. Rustica rolls its dough so thin there are hundreds of layers in each pastry, but a Breton home or market cook might produce a less refined dough, with thicker, gooier layers.
But the caramelized crust — a good quarter-inch thick — is what you’re really here for. Caramelization is the best kind of culinary magic, taking ordinary, flat sweetness and adding hundreds of flavors, even a tinge of bitterness and acidity. Rustica bakes its kouign amann dangerously dark, taking it to the edge of burnt in an admirable feat of culinary brinksmanship. Those of us who pick at and savor the crispy brown edges of just about everything will appreciate this. (The French aren’t afraid of browning their pastries and I sometimes wonder if American pastry cases just look raw to French eyes.)
A kouign amann can be baked in big, sliceable dessert sizes, like it usually is in France, but Rustica makes hefty three-ounce rounds (more crust!) that you can share — if you can talk your companion out of yet another croissant. Or you can keep it all to yourself.
Bakery and coffee shop in South Minneapolis
3220 W Lake St
Minneapolis, MN 55416