Caramel Beurre Salé Kouignette, Maison George Larnicol, Paris
The day I discovered Maison George Larnicol was kind of like the food equivalent to the dramatic Lloyd Dobler-In Your Eyes-boombox moment in Say Anything. I was walking along the rue de Rivoli, rain pouring, getting drenched. Suddenly, I looked up and (INSERT BRIGHT LIGHT AND PETER GABRIEL SINGING HERE) there it was: Maison George Larnicol, its chocolates and kouignettes displayed seductively in the window before me. I dropped my umbrella, spread my arms out wide, and angled my face toward the sky, eyes closed, letting the rain soak my face as I screamed “MY LIFE HAS BEEN SAVED!”
Okay, so maybe that’s not really how it happened, but it certainly felt that way. Kouignettes? Mini kouign amanns? A smaller portion of heaven? Dreams. Realized.
Now, you might be asking yourself: what is a kouignette? A kouign amann? And how do I pronounce them? (FYI, it’s roughly: “kween ah-mahn”) And why did this girl go all Lloyd Dobler over them?
A kouign amann (which means “butter cake” in some sort of outdated Celtic-like Breton) is sort of like a croissant in its layered goodness, only with fewer layers. It’s basically dough with a LOT of butter and sugar, caramelized so that they create a nice crusty layer over and in between the baked dough. It is NOT good for you, not in the least, but the years of your life that you lose due to butter-related heart problems you’ll gain back from the sheer pleasure of just tasting one. I promise. They’re that good. They’re best in the Breton region, where they’re originally from, but you can find some good ones in Paris, too, like at Blé Sucré (home of the best croissant in Paris, IMHO).
A kouignette, on the other hand, is just a little mini baby-version of a kouign amann, and considering all the butter and sugar, they’re basically the answer to my prayers. Like a mini cupcake. Or mini Oreos. Or 100-calorie snack bags, only obvi way better.
Maison George Larnicol specializes in kouignettes in all kinds of flavors. I tried caramel beurre salé, citron (lemon) and chocolat. The caramel best showcases what the authentic, delicious flavor of a kouign amann should be, but the lemon was excellent, too—subtle and not over-the-top lemon like so many lemon-flavored cakes are. (Surprisingly, the chocolate didn’t do much for me.) The sales clerk recommended that I heat them up to loosen up the caramelized bits a little, but I was hours away from a microwave or oven, so I just sampled them right there on the rainy rue de Rivoli, one hand doing not such a good job of balancing my umbrella, the other maneuvering the kouignettes into my mouth. Even cold and in a rainstorm, they were still delicious.
So take heed, you visitors who run all over Paris looking for the perfect croissant, macaron, baguette or comte: please add a kouign amann and/or a kouignette to your list of must-try French foods .. and move it to the top.