Finding Solace in French Pastry

Yewande Komolafe brings us a recipe for a Breton pastry alongside a touching column.

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By Melissa Clark

Yewande Komolafe explores the connection between sorrow and cooking in a poignant column for The Times this week. With it is a recipe for kouign-amann (above) a layered, butter-filled Breton pastry that she adapted from a bakery in Montreal. Perfecting this challenging recipe was an all-encompassing project that helped Yewande heal after the devastation of her 3-year-old daughter’s febrile seizure and loss of consciousness. “I sought refuge in the kitchen,” she writes, “where I’ve always found grief to be at its most reasonable. Grief occupies all of the senses, but in the kitchen, it neither aids in my cooking nor meddles with it.”

Yewande’s daughter woke up after 10 hours in the hospital, and immediately asked for her iPad. It’s a beautiful read — and a truly remarkable recipe, with layers of buttery croissant-like dough baked in a skillet until golden, and doused with spice-scented syrup. It does take time to make, but the ethereal results are well worth it. And you can watch a helpful video of Yewande making it here.

Although kouign-amann is arguably the most famous pastry from Brittany, the region, known for its excellent salted butter, is home to many other delightful confections. One of them is the sablé Breton, a crumbly butter cookie. In Dorie Greenspan’s version, she turns the simple shortbread-like dough into a galette, topping it with lemon curd and berries. Or you can slice the baked sablé into wedges; it’s a lovely treat any which way.

Before the sweets, you could start your meal with a nourishing, warming soup. Naz Deravian’s got a new soup I can’t wait to try, a vegan, pantry-friendly white bean and rice soup that’s golden from turmeric and seasoned with dill. Also from Naz is a terrific recipe for soft, spiced mushroom veggie patties. Serve them hot or at room temperature, with tangy pickles (maybe Alexa Weibel’s quick-pickled vegetable salad) as a contrast to their deeply earthy flavors.

Another new meatless recipe this week is from the chef Nina Compton, a hot take on a cold Spanish white gazpacho, made into a garlicky, creamy sauce topped with charred broccoli rabe.

If you love a good sheet-pan chicken recipe, don’t miss Yasmin Fahr’s spicy chicken with sweet potatoes and kale, spiked with a harissa-yogurt marinade. “Exceptional,” writes Joan in the notes, “I’m a novice cook and even I could make it.” Equally simple and alluring are Kay Chun’s sheet-pan chicken with potatoes, scallions and capers, and her porchetta-inspired sheet-pan chicken with artichokes and herbs, fragrant with ground fennel, garlic, rosemary and sage.

We have oodles of other chicken dishes — sheet-pan and beyond — at New York Times Cooking. You do need a subscription to get the recipes, and if you haven’t yet subscribed, why not take a moment to do so now? We are also on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, where Genevieve Ko demonstrates how to fold wontons in four different ways. “As long as the filing is encased in the wrapper, you’re good,” she said. You can find the recipe here. And for technical assistance, you can email the smart people at [email protected] with any questions that may arise.

Now, back to kouign-amann. Caitlin Raux Gunther wrote a fascinating piece for Food52 that dives into the origins of the pastry. Give it a read and see what you think.

Sam’s back on Friday, and I’ll see you on Monday.

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