*If you cannot find bread flour then you can make your own substitute by adding vital wheat gluten to all-purpose flour. 1 tbsp of vital wheat gluten is good for 2 cups of all-purpose flour. Add the gluten to your measuring cup and then top up with the flour.
You can knead the dough by hand but machine is easier and I used my food processor as usual. Put 2 cups of bread flour into the bowl and add the yeast. Add the water and melted butter and run the machine on slow speed till mixed. Add the salt and as much more of the flour as is necessary and knead until you have a soft and elastic dough that is not sticky. Shape the dough into a ball and put it into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover loosely and leave to rise for one hour.
Place 250gm of cold butter between two sheets of greaseproof paper and bash with a rolling pin, then roll it out to a 14 cm square. Place in the fridge ( not freezer) to keep it chilled.
Take the proofed dough and gently deflate it. Lightly flour your working surface and roll it out to a 20 cm square. Place the butter in the centre of the dough diagonally, so that each side of butter faces a corner of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter to enclose like an envelope.
Gently roll the dough into a 45cm x 15 cm rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough up over the middle, then fold the top third of the dough over, like you would a letter. You will now have a sandwich of three layers of butter and three layers of dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. This completes one turn.
Repeat this process twice more, so you have completed a total of three turns, chilling the dough for 30 minutes between turns. After chilling, the dough and butter should be cold but still pliable enough to roll out easily.
Now, roll the dough into a rectangle as before. Sprinkle the surface of the dough uniformly with the caster sugar and fold into thirds again. Chill if necessary otherwise, work quickly and roll the dough into slightly larger than 40cm x 30 cm rectangle. Now trim off the rough edges so that your dough rectangle measures exactly 40cm x 30 cm.
Sprinkle the dough with caster sugar and cut the dough into 12 squares each measuring 10cm x 10cm. I cut mine into smaller squares (8cm x 8cm) because my muffin tins are on the smaller side.
Grease a 12-cup muffin tray well with oil. Gather the dough squares up by their four corners and place in the muffin tins, pulling the four corners towards the centre of the muffin tin, so that it gathers up like a four-leaf clover. Press these corners well together; they can open up when unattached to each other. I thought I had pressed mine well, but they still opened up while baking! Sprinkle the tops with caster sugar and leave to rise at room temperature for about 30 minutes, covered with a clean tea towel, until slightly puffed up.
Bake the shaped dough at 220C (425F). Bake the pastries for 30-40 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cover with foil halfway through if beginning to brown too much (and they will). Itu2019s alright if some parts of your Kouignette are a little darker from caramelisation of the sugar.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Be careful not to burn yourself on the caramelised sugar, but if you leave them to cool for too long, the caramelised sugar will harden and they will be stuck in the tin. Serve warm or cold, though they taste best slightly warm. They also taste best the same day theyu2019re baked.
If you donu2019t want to eat them all in want go (of just if you want to, but shouldnu2019t), bag and freeze them. When you want warm them up, defrost them and place them in a warm oven (180C/ 350F) for about 5 minutes or until warm. They will crisp up again.
This recipe makes 12 pastries or more if you cut smaller squares from the dough.