The couronne is similar to the king cake, or Roscón de Reyes, which was traditionally served on Epiphany to celebrate the coming of the Magi to meet the infant Jesus. Although there is another French bread called a couronne Bordelaise, which is made of plain dough shaped into balls and arranged in a ring before baking, that is not what we’re making here. This version uses an enriched dough with a sweet, fruity filling that is shaped into a circle like a crown, or, in French, couronne.
This being a technical challenge, the recipe is, of course, Paul Hollywood’s. He has a similar recipe in his book, How to Bake, which has an additional layer of marzipan added to the filling, which sounds heavenly! But I’m using the recipe followed by the bakers in The Great British Baking Show, which can be found on the show’s website here.
All the bakers in the Great White Tent did a pretty good job on this technical bake. Howard came in last, unfortunately, with comments from the judges that his couronne was too thin and the filling was not spread evenly. Ruby’s, on the other hand, was “almost perfect,” according to Mary Berry.
My couronne, while it tasted delicious, was also a bit uneven. It definitely had a thick side and a thin side. Also, I ran into a bit of trouble with the twisting. I tried to follow Paul’s instructions on the Masterclass episode of this bake (season 2, episode 3 on Netflix), but in the end I didn’t feel like the filling was exposed enough, which would have given it more of a crown-like look.
Still, this is not a difficult bake if you’ve made yeast breads before. The technique is exactly like a cinnamon roll or Chelsea bun, except instead of slicing the dough crosswise and placing each roll separately in a pan, the filled, rolled dough is sliced lengthwise and twisted into a ring.
Once the ring is proved and baked, the apricot/raisin/orange-zest filling spills out through the dough, tempting the baker to cut into it before adding the toppings. But don’t give in! There’s more! A warm apricot glaze gives it a golden sheen, followed by a thick drizzle of rich, white icing and a generous sprinkle of sliced almonds for a rich, royal teatime treat!
Here’s a link to Paul’s recipe, but I’ve adapted it for American bakers below.
Paul Hollywood’s Apricot Couronne
(Adapted for American bakers)
For the dough:
- 1¾ c. bread flour
- 1 t. salt
- 4 t. yeast
- 3½ T. unsalted butter, softened
- 7 T. whole milk, room temperature
- 1 egg, room temperature
For the filling:
- 2 T. apricot jam
- 1 c. powdered sugar
- 1-2 T. water
- ¼ c. sliced almonds
- Before starting on the dough, soak the chopped apricots in the orange juice to use for the filling later. If your raisins are pretty dried out, like mine were, soak them in the orange juice, too.
- Put the bread flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt to the bowl on one side and the yeast on the other. Add the softened butter, milk and egg, and mix with your fingers. Continue mixing until you’ve picked up all the flour from the sides of the bowl, and keep going until you have a ball of soft dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10-12 minutes. Work through the initial “wet” stage until the dough starts to develop a soft, smooth skin. When the dough feels smooth and silky, put it into a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover the bowl with a dry dish towel and let the dough rise for about an hour until doubled in size. (It can be left to rise for 2-3 hours, Paul says in his “How to Bake” cookbook.)
- While the dough is rising, make the filling: Drain the orange juice off of the soaking fruit and discard the juice. Put the apricots, raisins, softened butter, brown sugar, flour, walnuts and orange zest into a bowl and mix thoroughly. Set aside until needed.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto the lightly floured surface again. Without punching it down to deflate it, roll it out to a rectangle about 10 inches by 13 inches. Once it’s rolled out, spread the filling evenly over the dough. Roll up the dough lengthwise as tightly as possible, like a Swiss roll. Press the long edge slightly to seal.
- Cut the roll in half lengthwise. (You can leave one end joined to help you twist the dough and form the crown, if you like.) Twist the two strands of dough together, then bring the two ends together to form a circle and twist them to seal. Carefully transfer the crown to a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover with a damp dish towel and let rise for 30-45 minutes, until the dough springs back quickly when you poke it lightly with a fingertip.
- While the couronne is rising, heat your oven to 400°F. When the dough has risen enough, remove the dish towel and place the baking sheet in the oven. Bake for 25-35 minutes until risen and golden. You may want to use an instant-read thermometer to check to see when the temperature reaches 190°F. Then you know it won’t be raw in the middle. After removing the baking sheet from the oven, transfer the couronne to a wire rack.
- Gently heat the apricot jam with a splash of water, then push it through a sieve into a bowl. Quickly brush the jam all over the warm loaf to glaze. Mix the powdered sugar with just enough water to make a thin paste. Drizzle it over the loaf, and then sprinkle the flaked almonds on top. Leave to cool. Slice and serve!