True confession — I have a sweet tooth as wide as a sugar cane field, especially for made-from-scratch baked goods. Over the years, I’ve visited most bakeries here in town, perusing and assessing the delectable goodies with the keen eye of a confectionary doyenne.
Even before a morsel has reached the inner sanctums of my eager palate, I can often tell, by looks alone, whether a cookie is too cakey, a cake is too dry or a muffin was denied its proper allotment of blueberries.
I’m a big fan of the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate,” and am exceedingly attentive whenever the episode focuses on sweet things or desserts. Ever watch it? After scouring the country, three well-known chefs describe in intoxicating detail their top pick of the featured category — from best barbecue to best dessert to more.
About five years ago, the show focused on sweets, and one of the chefs gushed about her delicious encounter with the legendary kouign amann at Les Madeleines in Salt Lake City. Pronounced “queen a-mahn,” it hails from Brittany, France, and is a cross between a croissant and a palmier, with layer after layer of buttery, flaky pastry on the inside and a delightful crust of caramelized sugar on the outside.
My heart raced just thinking about it; my mouth watered just wondering what the consumption would be like. I had to have one! But aware that I’d never seen the likes of this gooey, crunchy, flaky pastry here, I knew I’d be hunting it down during my travels. And hunt I did, for years. Until, finally, in a small town just outside of Napa Valley, California, I came face to face with the renowned kouign amann.
At last! Ever so slowly, I peeled it apart, savoring each buttery layer of flaky deliciousness brought home by the caramelized ever-so-slightly burnt-sugar crust.
It was the best thing I ever ate, there, in California, four years ago.
Energized by my find, I began looking for kouign amanns whenever I traveled, thinking they were the next “cronut,” soon to be duplicated by bakers from coast to coast. It was wishful thinking, as I never spotted my coveted kouign amanns again, and, quite sadly, forgot all about them.
But life has a way of coming ‘round again, because a few months ago a friend told me about this incredible “salty bread” baked by Amazing Grains Bread Co. in Fairport. “You must try it,” she raved, “it’s unlike any bread I have ever tasted! Ever, ever, ever!” And so, one Saturday morning, I went to Amazing Grains with high hopes for the salty bread. Well, my hopes were more than exceeded, because, there, miraculously tucked among the other baked goodies, were my beloved kouign amanns. I nearly fainted from joy. And, oh my, were they yummy, more than yummy, better than California’s.
Every Saturday now, I make a beeline for Amazing Grains, knowing that, soon, I’ll be devouring the best thing I have ever eaten, here, in Rochester.
Anne Palumbo writes this column for Messenger Post newspapers. Her email is avpalumbo@aol.com.