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Monday, April 16, 2012

Number 21: Starter Bakery's Hazelnut Kouign Amann

Posted By on Mon, Apr 16, 2012 at 4:30 PM

Starter Bakery's hazelnut kouign amman. - IANN IVY
  • Iann Ivy
  • Starter Bakery's hazelnut kouign amman.

SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition


Although Ti Kouz has stopped serving krampouz, Bay Area eaters are still struggling to pronounce Breton words thanks to Starter Bakery. Its signature pastry, the kouign amman (queen ah-mahn), is a butter cake from Brittany that, in the hands of American patissiers like Starter's Brian Wood, has become  single-serving pastry with flavorful centers. Wood, a former baking instructor who wrote the book on pastry (hyperbole alert: he actually wrote portions of a textbook on pastry) sells his croissants and kouignoù amman (that'd be the plural of kouign) at farmers markets, Bi-Rite, and cafes around the Bay.

The genius of the kouign amman is how much butter Wood secrets in the dough, sprinkling sugar as he folds so that the pastry puffs and separates into dozens of layers as it bakes. But it's no airy, fragile croissant. In the oven, butter and sugar meld and melt together to form grainy, transparent spikes and twists of caramel that cling to the rim, crackling when you bite into them. There's just enough salt in the mix to push the pastry to that liminal state where savory and sweet coexist. 

And the genius of Starter's hazelnut-filled kouign amman, the best of his flavored kouignou, is that there's no contrast between the interior and the exterior of the pastry; the flavor of the toasted nuts echo the butter and caramelized sugar as if they were made of the same substance. 

Starter Bakery
, 1552 Beach St., Oakland, Sells at the Temescal, Albany, and Grand Lake farmers' markets and in cafes and markets around the Bay Area.

Other favorites in this series:

22: Pupusas at Cafe and Restaurant Montecristo

23: 2 a.m. apple fritter at Bob's

24: Le Sanctuaire's vadouvan

25: Crab louis salad at Nettie's Crab Shack

26: Soy sauce chicken from Happy Bakery & Deli

27: Locanda's Jewish-style artichoke

28: Local: Mission Eatery's asparagus-egg sandwich

29: Memphis Minnie's 18-hour brisket

30: Custard buns from City View

31: Mission Chinese Food's kung pao pastrami

32: Panisse frites from Frances

33: Izakaya Yuzuki's chawanmushi

34: Fatted Calf's chorizo

35: Silvanas from House of Silvanas

36: Linden Street Brewery's black lager

37: Aged oolongs from Red Blossom Tea Company

38: Broken Record's crawfish grits

39: Cebiche mixto from La Mar 

40: Nutella-hazelnut hand pie from Black Jet Baking Co.
41: Fifth Floor's burger
42: Perbacco's agnolotti dal plin
43: Iced coffee from Sightglass
44: Cypress Grove's Purple Haze Chevre
45: Lechon from Tastebuds Cuisine
46: Duck with beets from AQ
47: Tai nigiri at ICHI Sushi
48: Fish with explosive chiles from Spices! 
49: Baker & Banker Bakery's blueberry cream cheese muffin
50: Kufta tajine from Cafe Zitouna

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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