If you walk the streets of Douamenez on the windswept Brittany coast, you will likely smell the aroma of the town's claim to pastry fame, the decadent and delicious “butter cake.”
In Breton, the name of this caramelized croissant is kouign amman. It looks unutterable but in fact has a pronunciation as simply elegant as the pastry itself: “queen ah-mann.”
The kouign amman has been making waves in New York, San Francisco, and Beverly Hills (at Bouchon Bakery) for a couple of years. Lucky for us, Sharon Kenneally, a Cordon Bleu graduate, is making them right here in Montrose at the new Baked on Oceanview ($3).
Learning to create the flaky, multilayered discs with the crunchy sugar coating was a challenging process for Kenneally. She feels she not only met the challenge but improved upon it. Kenneally uses only European butter for her version. The higher fat and lower water content keeps the sugar from absorbing too much moisture, a problem that often creates a gloppy mess.
Proper chilling is also key to a successful pastry. Then of course one must bake it just right to get that sticky, caramelized coating. The balance of sweet, salty, buttery and burnt had me hooked from bite one.
It's this sort of attention to detail that makes Baked on Oceanview a valuable resource. Montrose residents may resist going to Baked because of their beloved Berolina Bakery just down the street.
Where Berolina is superb at traditional European breads and baked goods, Baked on Oceanview has a more modern American bent. Another house specialty, for instance, is the novel 4-inch hand pie ($3.50). Filled with fresh fruits from the local farmer's market or savory fillings like turkey or red chili and mushroom, these portion-controlled units are the perfect balance of flaky crust to filling.
The cinnamon donut muffin ($2.25) is an experiment in cross-breeding that really works, but the homemade Oreo cookie ($.95) is still a work in progress.
Their breads ($1.50 to $5) are made with natural, not commercial, yeasts. The sourdough is particularly delicious with a pungent aroma, a delicate crust and a dense, cake-like crumb. It is little like the chewy San Francisco variety and kinder to my kid's recently tightened braces.
Baguettes, sourdough and Dutch Crackle breads are usually on the shelves but you might call ahead for specialty breads like challah and kalamata olive.
The atmosphere could be a little more charming — it doesn't exactly invite you to sit a spell — but it is cheerful and light-filled, with plenty of parking around back.
It's also fun to see the mounds of dough on tables and the magnificent ovens just beyond the display cases. Still the best sight of all is a kouign amman on a plate in front of me.
LISA DUPUY is a dining critic for Marquee. She welcomes comments at LDupuy@aol.com.
Baked on Oceanview
Where: 3600 Ocean View Blvd., #7, Montrose
When: Tuesday to Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Contact: (818) 249-3587; www.bakedonoceanview.com