This little dream of a pastry comes from Northern France, in an area called Brittany. It is from the Breton language, and means crunchy bread. It’s a difficult pastry to make because it takes so much time and attention, but it is absolutely delicious. The sea salt flavored dough is rolled in sugar and then baked, which creates a caramel crust that gives it the name “crunchy bread”. My roommate fell in love with this pastry a few months ago, and I’d been meaning to make some as a surprise for her. The long and complicated recipe is below:
1 ¾ cups room temperature mineral water
1 ½ tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 pound (4 sticks) high fat unsalted butter, cold, plus more for pans
2 tbsp butter
5 cups flour
1 tbsp yeast (I use dry)
3 cups sugar
In a small bowl combine mineral water and salt, and heat to between 110 and 115 F. Melt the 2 tbsp butter. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, yeast, and melted butter, then add water and salt mixture until well combined. Lightly oil a separate bowl, transfer the dough to this bowl, cover, and let it rise in a warm space until doubled in size. Punch the dough down, wrap in plastic, place on a baking sheet, and chill for 2 hours in the refrigerator.
Meanwhile, roll out the butter into a ½-inch thick rectangle, then wrap in parchment paper and return to the refrigerator until chilled, about 30 minutes. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out into an 18-inch square on a floured surface. Place the chilled butter on the dough square so that each side of the rectangle faces a corner of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter and seal the seams so the butter is completely enclosed in the dough. Roll the dough into a 24×8-inch rectangle, brush off excess flour, and fold the dough in thirds, then return to the fridge wrapped in plastic for 20 minutes. This is one “turn”.
Repeat the rolling “turn” process once with a floured surface, then repeat the process twice, dusting the surface with 1 ½ cups sugar for each “turn”.
With a pastry brush, brush 15 ring molds with melted butter and place on baking sheets, or use a large muffin pan.
Roll the dough into a ½-inch thick rectangle, and cut into 15 squares. Fold the corners of one square toward the center, and repeat for all squares. Turn the squares over, coat with sugar, invert, and place in the ring mold or muffin pan, then sprinkle with some sea salt.
Preheat oven to 400 F, and let the squares rise in a warm place until puffed up. Bake until golden brown, approximately 35 minutes. Immediately remove the ring molds and place on a wire rack until cooled.