Best Pastry With an Unpronounceable Name

Kouign amann at Bad Wolf Coffee

Critics' Picks

Yes, it can be annoying when the only obstacle between you and one of the most magnificent pastries you will ever eat is a tongue twister of a name. But it's not so hard. Just say "queen ah-mahn." It means "butter cake" in Breton, the language traditionally spoken in Brittany, in northwest France. What should really annoy you is that Bretons have been making this magnificent confection—composed of dozens of layers of pastry and salted butter covered in a crust of caramelized sugar—for at least 150 years, but until recently it was virtually unknown in the U.S. That's right: kouign amann existed, and you were eating cupcakes. Don't waste any more time. Go to Bad Wolf Coffee right now and try Jonathan Ory's version. Ory claims it's not hard to make kouign amann. (There's the outrage again: if it's so easy how come no one was doing it?) That may be true, if, like Ory, you're a pastry chef—here in Chicago, Floriole and Hewn also produce delicious specimens. But Ory's is the best. His pastry is rich and buttery without being greasy, and its flattened shape ensures maximum surface area for the caramelized sugar. It's pastry bliss. Again, that's "queen ah-mahn." What other unpronounceable glories are those Bretons hiding?