We're not sure if kouign amann has become an insider's obsession because the name is impossible to pronounce without coaching (it's pronounced koo-ween a-mahn), impossible to make without holding a degree in advanced pastry, or because it's all but impossible to find. The traditional French morning sweet from Brittany is essentially a puff pastry cake made with the kind of salted butter the region is famous for, dusted with sugar that turns to a light, sticky caramel as it bakes. The result is chewy, salty, sweet, and luscious. Emeryville wholesale patisserie Starter Bakery makes a fine version, thanks to co-owner Brian Wood's years of training at the San Francisco Baking Institute, where he was an instructor specializing in flaky yeast doughs. Until the day Starter opens its own retail bakery, you can score Wood's kouign at Pizzaiolo's morning cafe, at Modern Coffee in downtown Oakland, Peaberry's Coffee and Tea in Rockridge Market Hall, or from the Starter stall at the Sunday Temescal or Wednesday Albany farmers' markets. And remember: If your pronunciation lesson fails you, you can always just point and hold up fingers to indicate how many kouign you want.
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