Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Trader Joe's 4 Kouigns Amann

Somewhere in the depths of our vaults, I've written about (or at least alluded to) Saturday mornings. Best morning of the week, by far. More times than not, there's at least an opportunity to sleep in a little, wake up, make some good coffee in the French press, and actually have a chance to sit down, relax, and enjoy it with my lovely wife Sandy. Granted, the rest of the day might be filled with errands and odds and ends, but usually those are on our terms, not The Man's. A nice, peaceful, relaxing morning was exactly what we had this past Saturday - heck, even our toddler slept in til about 9:30, as did we.

Wish I could say Trader Joe's 4 Kouigns Amann really added something a little extra special. Breakfast is almost always my favorite meal of the day, and I felt a break would be good from the normal eggs/toast/breakfast meat/fruit routine. I've heard these pastries are a pretty decadent treat, and we've had wonderful success with another proof-and-bake treat in the past, giving me high, high hopes.

Alas, not to be. I think I've narrowed it down. First, the proofing process went a little askew. Think of each amann as a dough square, with the corners folded in so there's an X on top of the square. While rising overnight (a little longer than the six to seven hour range noted, but it still "overnight"), the corners on two of the amanns unfurled, making it a flat rhombus that laid bare all the sugary delectability lurking in what should have been the doughy depths. The other two (which I did not mean to make but was forced to when I left them in the box on the counter overnight by mistake - hey, I worked til midnight, gimme a break) kept much better form.

Secondly, the directions state to bake for about 25 minutes, or "until quite dark. Do not underbake." I went for the "quite dark" mark, which wasn't far past the 25 minutes, but apparently it was just enough that the caramelized nether-regions got burnt and more or less unappealing. The amanns that were accidentally left in the box fared much better in this regard, but still...I'm just not completely impressed by them. At their bests, the outsides got crispy and buttery, the insides soft, melty and sugary, and the bottom hittimg of some caramel undertones, but kinda missed a little je ne sais quoi to really put them over the top or make them memorable. And much of what we ate was fall short of this standard, unfortunately, and I'm not sure all the blame falls on us.

Both Sandy and I feel kinda indifferent about them, with perhaps a little disappointment and regret. I mean, if you're gonna start your day with 13-gram-saturated-fat bombshell straight to the coronary pipework, it oughtta be for something more than a blasé bite, right? I'd say this is a doubtful repurchase for the $4 or so. We'll be slightly generous, though, and go with a two each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's 4 Kouigns Amann: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons 


  1. "those are on our terms, not The Man's" - this line wins the prize for being the first thing to make me laugh audibly today.

  2. It looks like a smooshed croisant...btw remember TJ's version of pigs in a blanket? I baked those to direction and they never came out right. I also notice they're no longer at our TJ's.

  3. I'm shocked by the low score. I've managed to go through 4 boxes since I first discovered these. Easily in my top 10 TJ's items.

  4. Kouigns Amann are one of the best things at Trader Joe's. I think user error here played a part in the low score! Yes, they need to be dark, but don't overcook them. My husband did that the first time and then we learned to cook them for less, check on them, and go longer if need be. These are amazing if done right!

  5. These are one of my favorite Trade Joe offerings.

  6. We like reading this blog as it's obvious you're neither born writers nor cooks, just inhalers of consumables that give their honest opinions. After skipping the first paragraph and reading the review we dashed out to purchase these--as suspected, they were perfect! Crisp where they should be with a heavenly kiss of caramelization among fluffy wings of buttery bliss. /Agree with other commenters; amazing if done right and a favorite!

  7. The Kouigns Amann are my absolute favorite, but this is one time where you need to mostly ignore the box directions. I had similar results to yours the first time, and I was disappointed. Thankfully I thought to try again, and the result was exceptional! If you decide to give them another chance (and you should!) try these tips. 1) Don't let them proof for longer than 7 hours. 6 is ideal, but I've gone as little as 5, and they're fine. 2) Don't overcook them. I know it says not to undercook either, but trust me on this one. I bake them for exactly 23 minutes (24 tops) and the results are amazing! I also like to sprinkle a little extra white sugar on top for added crunch, but it's not necessary. Just a preference. I hope you give them another try! :) PS - to help them retain their shape a bit better, I like to mold the baking cups around the frozen dough s tightly as possible by folding/pressing it down. It really helps!

  8. Strongly disagree. These are the most amazing dessert at Trader Joe's, by far. I'd have to say they are definitely top 5 frozen material. Perfect with a little yogurt and fresh fruit. It looks like you burned the heck out of them. Careful next time!