You won’t find many people as passionate about a subject, or as knowledgeable, as Brian Wood is about kouign-amann. Wood is credited with making the classic, delicate pastry, which originated in Brittany, France, famous in the Bay Area and beyond. He also literally wrote the book on baking and pastry, Baking and Pastry: A Professional Approach, developed for the San Francisco Baking Institute, where he also taught and developed the pastry program.

Additionally, Wood has worked in R&D for several large, national bakeries such as Full Bloom and Essential Baking and has consulted at bakeries around the country. He founded Starter Bakery in 2010 as a wholesale operation supplying the greater San Francisco area’s specialty retail grocers, caterers, restaurants and coffee shops, and in 2023, opened a boutique retail bakery café in the Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland.

In early March, Wood taught a workshop at the Camp Bread event in Rhode Island. The class, titled “Variations on Kouign-Amman,” explored the versatility of this very special and old pastry in a modern light.

Brian Wood has spent years perfecting kouign-amann for consistent, commercial production. His playful and creative use of flavor highlights seasonality and regional specialties, while his impeccable aesthetic and practical approach allows for stunning garnishing techniques that are scalable for production.


Brian Wood, the founder, owner and executive pastry chef of Starter Bakery.

| Source: Clara Rice


“To me, it’s a very specific pastry with a very specific heritage,” Wood says. “When I came up with the formula I use, I think in 2009, I wanted to replicate a really authentic version. That recipe is the same one I use today, and that’s the recipe I taught.”

The biggest misconception, he says, is that what many refer to as “kouign-amann” these days is really just croissant dough that has some sugar on the outside, a big deviation from what he thinks of kouign-amann to be: salted butter, caramel notes, and a denser texture than you would have in a croissant. While the technical aspects can be challenging, such as laminating with sugar, is worth it for the fully authentic version.

To create the perfect kouign-amann, Wood says that starting with a good formulation is critical, with a certain amount of saltiness to the dough and a certain percentage of caramel notes. Regarding execution, don’t let the dough rest too long, processing it fairly quickly.

“In our kouign-amann, we do three single folds, and the sugar goes in the second and third fold. Letting the dough rest a half hour between the series of folds, as long as you put in the right amount of sugar, you won’t have any liquification,” he says.

Wood and his team offer different flavor variations at the bakery. Bittersweet chocolate pairs well, so they work with Guittard Chocolate Company on the wholesale side, using the 72 percent couverture in the center. For the retail program, they use Valrhona chocolate in the center. As far as seasonal variations are concerned, a classic version they offer is pear almond. They make caramel poached pears in-house, putting those on top of house-made almond frangipane. Hazelnut praline is another popular flavor, using caramelized hazelnuts.