Imagine my deception at my first Californian Xmas when I realized I wouldn't get my typical Belgian "cougnou"*. Unthinkable! So I started looking for a recipe to bake my own. I found one on Marmiton (in French) and another one here (still in French). My final recipe is a mix of those two. Every year in December I bake these pastries for my family... but also for our friends. Everybody loves them, especially the kids. I enjoy sharing my pastries and my traditions with them.
* It tastes a little like a French "brioche", but less buttery.
Cougnou (makes 6 cougnous of +/- 120 gr each)
320 gr unbleached all-purpose flour (2 cups)
15 gr d active dry yeast (3 ts)
15 cl milk (2/3 cup)
1/2 ts salt
50 gr sugar (1/4 cup)
75 gr butter (2/3 stick)
optional: raisins, pearl sugar*, or chocolate chips
egg wash: 1 egg + 1 tbs water
* I usually buy my pearl sugar in Belgium; you can also buy it on line
1. Dissolve the yeast in warm milk and let stand for 10 min.
2. In a large bowl, sift the flour and make a fountain.
3. In the middle of the fountain, add salt, sugar, egg, butter (softened but not melted) and the yeast dissolved in warm milk.
4. Knead vigorously until you obtain a smooth and elastic dough. You can add a little bit of flour if the dough sticks to your hands.
5. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place. The dough should double in size.
6. Work the dough again (slightly) and add the raisins and/or the pearl sugar (traditional option) or the chocolate chips (not traditional).
7. Cut the dough in 6 pieces of +/- 120 gr each. The cougnou's traditional shape is supposed to remind a newborn (guess who) wrapped in a blanket (a long big shape for the body in the middle and 2 small balls for the head and feet). You can also simplify and make round shapes.
8. Put them on a baking dish covered with parchment paper.
9. Let rise a second time about 1/2 hour.
10. Preheat the oven to 360F/180C.
11. Brush the cougnous with the egg wash.
12. Bake for 20' or until the cougnous are golden brown.
13. After cooking, spread a mixture of sugar and water on the surface of the cougnous with a brush.