There are trendsetters in the food world, similar to any other fashionista promoting mini-skirts on the runways of Paris or Milan. In the pastry arena, when Dominique Ansel (former pastry chef of Daniel in NYC) speaks, people pay attention. Ansel recently opened the doors to his eponymous bakery in SoHo, and surprisingly, he’s not building a fan base on cupcakes…instead they have perfected one of the pastry world’s latest rising stars, the kouign amann.
While the palm-sized pastry is a somewhat difficult to read (pronounced koo-WEEN a-Mon), it’s certainly easy on the taste buds. Luckily, you don’t need to book a flight to New York City to sample these tasty treats. While they aren’t exactly commonplace at bakeries nationwide, their sweet and sticky fingers have already infiltrated central Arkansas through the skilled hands of Stephanos Mylonas, head baker at Mylo Coffee Company. When I heard that Mylo was introducing kouign amann to their regular line-up of superb cakes, cookies, croissants, and breads, I was camped out in front of their curbside farmers market table as soon as my little legs could take me there.
Making a respectable kouign amann is no amateur effort. This pastry is closely related to the croissant and other puff pastries, and begins with the creation of a “laminated dough.” At Mylo, they start by taking a thin slab of butter, encasing it in a dough envelope, then folding it upon itself and hand-rolling it numerous times, until it creates several thin layers. Along the way, these layers are lightly dusted in sugar. After the process is finished, the unbaked kouign amann represents a stratified pastry of alternating butter, sugar, and dough. These are rolled and as they bake, the thin layers of butter puff up the pastry and the internal sugars caramelize. The kouign are complete.
And the taste is nothing short of bakery bliss. With dozens of thin, flaky sheets of butter and sugar, compacted into a small, muffin-like morsel, the kouign is rich and dense. The outer edges bake to a golden brown, creating a crispy shell that houses a soft, moist, slightly chewy interior. I know many people who don’t consider themselves “sweets people.” Aside from being raving lunatics, they are apparently turned off by an excess of sugar and sweetness. The kouign amann is an ideal dessert option for these folks. It’s just saccharine enough to push it out of the savory realm, but it won’t slap you across the face with sweetness, showing a great deal of restraint in its use of sugar while remaining generously endowed with butter. It’s refined, elegant, and entirely addicting.
You can catch Mylo Coffee Co. at the Hillcrest Farmers Market on Saturdays; they also take special orders throughout the week. They are in the process of nailing down a brick-and-mortar location in order to sell their wares throughout the week as well. They plan to continue attending the farmers market on weekends even after their store is operational. Mylo is committed to small-batch, hand-crafted baking. They locally source their organic, unbleached, freshly-milled flours from War Eagle Mill. Their produce and meats are provided by Little Rock Urban Farming, North Pulaski Farms, and Freckle Face Farms, all of which can also be found at the Hillcrest Farmers Market on Saturdays. I’ll warn you, though. If you intend to lay your hands on some kouign amann this weekend, plan on getting there early…they sell out quickly.
(Follow Mylo Coffee Co. on Facebook to keep up to snuff with their latest menu offerings. The Hillcrest Farmers Market is open on Saturdays from 8 AM to noon, located at 2200 Kavanaugh Blvd, Little Rock)