Toronto·Suresh Doss

A kouign-amann is 'all about crunch and sugar' at this Kitchener bakery

Ambrosia Corner Bakery is a small community-driven bakery and café in the Central Frederick neighbourhood, near downtown Kitchener.

Ambrosia Corner Bakery is located at 324 Frederick St. in Kitchener

Ambrosia Corner Bakery bakes and sells the kouign-amann, a traditional French pastry. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

In the world of French baking, the kouign-amann is often lauded as the most luxurious pastry. If you love a good croissant, with all its buttery, flaky and honeycomb show, think of the kouign-amann as a distant cousin, one that you don't frequently visit, but where each encounter leaves an indelible mark.

"It's all about crunch and sugar," Aura Hertzog, owner of Ambrosia Corner Bakery, said as I took my first bite of one.

Hertzog runs the small community-driven bakery and café in the Central Frederick neighbourhood, near downtown Kitchener.

Ambrosia has a menu of savoury and sweet pastry items. There is also a coffee program and a bean-to-bar chocolate program there. The café acts as a food incubator of sorts, with Hertzog bringing in other items from a variety of independent producers in Kitchener. She makes her own line of chocolates too.

Ambrosia Corner Bakery is a small community-driven bakery near downtown Kitchener that bakes traditional kouign-amann. 1:08

"Whether it's barbecue or pies, we want to try and support our local community whenever possible," Hertzog said.

The café has quickly become a community hub for long-time pastry fans and those who want to support local businesses. 

I first met Hertzog a few years ago when she was operating in a different space in a residential neighbourhood, slinging some of the best French pastries I've had. In a tiny kitchen she was able to pull off an impressive menu of buttery croissants, custard cannelés and even Liège waffles. The most impressive of all the puff pastry items for me was the kouign-amann.

Aura Hertzog is the owner of Ambrosia Corner Bakery in Kitchener. (Suresh Doss/CBC )

It's somewhat similar to a croissant. The Breton cake is a detailed layering of dough, butter and sugar.

"If you want to compare it to a croissant, the kouign-amann is slightly denser and it's a lot sweeter — and also has more butter," Hertzog said.

In its classic form, Hertzog encountered the kouign-amann as a large cake encrusted in a thin sugar caramelized dome, served in thick slices.

A kouign-amann is buttery, flaky and sugary. (Suresh Doss/CBC )

"The modern variations are the ones we normally see in bakeries in New York and Paris. They're single serving sizes, which is what we do," she said.

Today we're spoiled with a selection of great croissants in the GTA, but as hard as kouign-amanns are to come by, they are notoriously difficult to make. There are maybe a handful of places in Toronto that regularly have kouign-amanns on the menu. I find that the ones you get at Ambrosia are superlative.

The pastry is denser and has more weight than your average croissant, and you'll immediately notice the caramelized dome that surrounds the flower-shaped pastry. 

The pastry is dense and has more weight than your average croissant, and you'll immediately notice the caramelized dome that surrounds the flower-shaped pastry, according to Metro Morning Food Guide Suresh Doss. (Suresh Doss/CBC)

A thick crunchy shell immediately pops with sweetness. And as you tear into the kouign-amann, you're greeted with waves of delicate and richly buttery pastry.

"The process really takes multiple days, which is why we can't have it on the menu every day," Hertzog explained.

Like the croissant, the dough can be very temperamental — it needs to be formed properly, rested, proofed and then laminated with cold sheets of butter.

Which is why Hertzog only features the kouign-amanns on the menu from Thursday to Saturday at Ambrosia Corner Bakery.

About the Author

Suresh Doss is a Toronto-based food writer. He joins CBC Radio's Metro Morning as a weekly food columnist. Currently, Doss is the print editor for Foodism Toronto magazine and regularly contributes to Toronto Life, the Globe and Mail and Eater National. Doss regularly runs food tours throughout the GTA, aimed at highlighting its multicultural pockets.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.