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June 2012
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Kouign Amann

Story and photography by the Take Out Artist

I love New York ... the sights, sounds, etc. are great, but my love for New York is rooted in food, and on my last trip I finally experienced something that has been on my list for years -- the kouign amann (pronounced kween-ah-mahn).

I first became aware of this classic French pastry in France, of all places. Ironically enough, I never made it to a bakery that had them, and I've regretted it every day since. As a foodie, for lack of a better term, that has been doing her research for some time, I knew this had to be something special, and on my most recent trip to New York I was determined to finally experience the DKA -- that is, Dominque's Kouign Amann.

French pastry chef Dominique Ansel's bakery in Soho is known for the invention of the Cronut, a croissant-doughnut hybrid that is now a registered trademark and possesses its very own website, which is essentially an instruction manual on how to get your hands on one, because somehow, that's necessary.

I followed those instructions about a year ago and tried the food culture phenomenon ... I must say it was fantastic. But this article isn't about the Cronut, it's about the Cronut's far less popular and much older sibling, the kouign amann.

The experience of walking into the famous bakery in Soho when on a mission for a DKA was quite different from my last. I arrived around 11 a.m., a far more luxurious hour than last time, and as such there was no line around the block. The bakery was empty, the Cronuts for the day were long gone, and there sat a mound of DKAs behind the glass. I could have had two, or three! Brought a box home for friends and family even!

These thoughts flashed quickly through my mind, but the thought of carrying a giant orange Dominique Ansel bag on the subway and then through the airport was unattractive. I ordered "one kouign amann please," and the gentleman behind the counter quickly replied "a DKA? Sure." I stood corrected. This was not just any kouign amann, it was Dominique's Kouign Amann, the standard to which all others in the city were held. I knew that. I should have shown some respect!

This. Pastry. Blows the Cronut out of the water, if you ask me. It's dough; it's butter; sugar; salt -- all in perfect harmony. Imagine a croissant that is sweet, even more buttery, just dense enough and caramelized on the outside, achieving a delicate, candy-like crunch. It really does not get any better. It's deliciously simple, and indulgent without making you feel the least bit bad about yourself. Why? Because it's pure. There isn't one unnecessary ingredient, and at the same time absolutely nothing is missing. It is perfection.

I can't speak for any kouign amann in the world, only this one, but I think it's safe to assume that this pastry is a must-try when given the chance. n

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