Cougnou (Belgian Christmas Pastry)

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
1 egg
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.


Anonymous said...

Oooh, childhood memories.
Thanks for posting the recipe.

Did you order some Belgian food from the website?

Anonymous said...

I've just tried your Cougnou's recipe yesterday evening. Amazing! I'm Italian, I live in Emilia Romagna and I was in Bruxelles 8 times (my brother works there); I discovered Cougnou last year in a bakery and it was love at first bite! So thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing this recipe! I love Belgium and Cougnou reminds me to that beautiful place. Thank you again! Ciao! Elisabetta