To get us all on the same emotional level, here are my words from a few years ago when I first discovered the kouign-amann at the Village Baking Company:
“This is a kouign-amann (pronounced "queen ah-man") and it tastes like the sunrise. No, seriously, it tastes like sunrise on a farm surrounded by lush green fields where fresh butter is churned daily. No, it’s not about taste. It’s about experiencing euphoria through food. These succulent muffin-shaped croissants with layers of butter-laced angel wings tucked inside are quite possibly the most amazing thing I've ever eaten.”
See what I mean? A whole other level.
I spoke with Bisous Bisous owner and pastry chef Andrea Meyer to find out what took so long to get these in store, and to just generally nerd-out about the kouign-amann.
“Yeah, my staff wants to eat them all,” Meyer says. “Usually after we bake things, we get tired of them, but with these, that’s not the case.”
For customers, however, the new pastry is hit or miss.
“They have sort of a cult following,” she says. “People who know them, really know them.”
Meyer became a member of the fan club seven years ago while visiting France and has worked since then to spread the good word in these parts. She’s a missionary of sorts. A caramelized sugar, buttery missionary.
These delicate pastries are a regional specialty of Brittany, France, which is mostly known for its butter and “home of these awesome happy cows,” Meyer says.
“I went up there in 2012 for a few weeks, and I bought some from a vendor at a local street market. It was all he sold; he had a cart full of them. Afterward, I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I wanted to find him and say, ‘Will you marry me? I want to weigh 500 pounds and live with you forever.’”
“We went back to France in 2016 to find that guy, and I wanted to stag (cook in his kitchen and learn his secrets) with him and learn everything about baking these. We looked for him everywhere," Meyer says.
She even enlisted friends and their relatives from the area to track him down.
“We eventually found him,” she says, “but he wasn’t doing it anymore. Instead we found a local bakery and they agreed to teach me, but all of the instructions were in French. The pastry chef showed me once, and then told me to finish the production for the next day and walked out. He didn’t warn me or anything. He just left.”
After some quick notes and a moment of panic, Meyer got to work and, indeed, made the next day’s allotment.
With the recipe in her pocket, Meyer came back to Dallas, but with the new storefront, didn’t have time to concentrate on the kouign-amann.
“We make 50 to 60 different products a day, so it was on the back burner for a long time,” Meyer says.
Then, she had to have a major spinal surgery, which forced her to slow down and think about things. She came back focused and invigorated.
“After surgery, I was like, ‘Let’s make this happen now,’” Meyer says.
(Cue Etta James’ “At Last.” Turn it all the way up.)
Meyer’s kouign-amanns are shaped differently than others found here in Dallas.
Outside of Brittany, Meyer said she’s found a lot of inconsistency in the butter and sugar with other kouign-amanns as well. She talks fast naturally, but slows down a beat and says with purpose, “I wanted to stay true to the original bite.
“In Brittany, they make them from the baguette scraps, and in Paris they use puff pastry. Well, we don’t make baguettes here, so we had to go through a lot of testing,” Meyer says. “We went through 10 or 11 tests to get it just right. We’d have to tweak the sugar, just tiny little tweaks. And we have to watch the oven meticulously. Timing is crucial.”
The kouign-amann also requires a special prep for the pan, and it has to be turned out immediately, which involves flipping over a big hot pan full of delicate pastries.
“We call it ‘The Queen’ because it's so high-maintenance,” Meyer says. “We’ll say, ‘Who’s working on ‘The Queen’ today?”
Here’s the thing, they only make a dozen a day, which sort of makes me not want to post this story — gives me anxiety that they’ll be out next time I go. Alas, I’ll help spread the good word in the hope they increase production.
Bisous Bisous Patisserie, 3700 McKinney Ave. #150 (Uptown). Open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.