Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kouign amann

We went on a three-day jaunt to the north coast of France. One of the highlights was a day trip to St Malo. I have to admit that I knew absolutely nothin about St Malo before turning up at its train station. Possibly less than intelligent. We had our suitcases with us, and we wheeled and dragged them around the sandy cobblestoned streets for a full day. NEVER AGAIN. Next time I will PHONE AHEAD to check for lockers at the train station!
Meanwhile though, St Malo was great. There's an old walled city that was exactly the way I pictured it in my childhood pirate fantasies. There are battlements. There are four-storied, teetering narrow houses piled up behind stone fortresses, with gulls screaming and a frozen wind zinging through the grey streets.
Remember those old MS-DOS-based roleplayer games? The ones with the cutting-edge super graphics (like Larry the Lounge Lizard) and the old pirate bays and deserted islands and weird people you had to meet and manipulate? St Malo is like that. It's a crazy place filled with tourists fresh off the cruise ship (especially Spanish and British tourists), terrible piratey souvenirs and some bizarre Brittany specialities like the above, kouign amann.
We arrived at about 11am and were starving. Dragging and hunting for lunch, we passed a stall selling these solid-looking pastry things, some with Nutella and some without. The scent of baked honey-scented syrupy goodness on a frosty day meant that it took perhaps 0.04 of a second to decide that we were having one, and we were having one NOW.

Let's hear from Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge:

Kouign amann (/kwiɲ amɑ̃n/ pl. Kouignoù amann) is a Breton cake. It is
a round crusty cake, made with a dough akin to
bread dough with sugar sprinkled between layers. The resulting cake is slowly baked until the butter puffs up the dough (resulting in the layered aspect of it) and the sugar caramelizes.
The name derives from the
Breton words for cake ("kouign") and butter ("amann"). Kouign amann is a speciality of the town Douarnenez in Finistère,
where it originated in 1865.

Yes. And it was calorifically deadly, delicious, heavy, sticky and fabulous. Ten hours walking up and down pirate ramparts dragging 20 kilos of souvenir-filled suitcase soon burnt it off. I highly recommend the kouign amann, when in pirate country.

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