A Couronne or Crown is a traditional French bread served at Christmas. This Cranberry and Pecan Couronne is so good I would happily enjoy it at any time of the year.
This pretty yeasted sweet bread is packed full of fruit and nuts and is simply bursting with flavour. Traditionally served at Christmas time it would make a spectacular addition to any festive table.
But I don’t see why you should save it just for Christmas, as it would make a delicious addition to any teatime spread for a special occasion.
A traditional festive loaf with a twist
The idea for this particular bake came from The Great British Bake Off 2019. I like to bake a recipe each week inspired by the show. On this occasion, it was festival baking and the signature bake was to be 24 yeasted buns that are served at festive feasts.
Many of the contestants choose hot cross buns but given that this show goes out in the Autumn it didn’t seem appropriate so instead, I choose this festive loaf.
The recipe was adapted from Paul Hollywood’s Apricot Couronne which was actually used for a technical challenge in the show back in 2013.
I flavoured my dough with orange zest and used cranberries and pecans with a maple syrup glaze to give it more of an international twist.
Mine also looks a little different as unlike in the original recipe I twisted my strands so that the split layers were uppermost as I twisted the dough together. It may not be traditional but I think it looks even prettier
It may look a little complicated to make but it really isn’t, and I have included lots of steps to help you with the shaping of the loaf.
How to make a cranberry and Pecan Couronne
Making the enriched dough
The first stage is making the dough. It a yeasted dough enriched with butter, milk and eggs, which will time to rise so you need to allow plenty of time for this.
All the ingredients are added to the bowl at once but if yeast comes into direct contact with salt it may kill the yeast, so add these at opposite sides of the bowl.
Then you mix the dough with your hands. It will be very sticky, to begin with. Once it has come together and you have incorporated all the flour, tip it out onto a work surface and start kneading.
Avoid the temptation to add extra flour and keep kneading the dough which will start to lose its sticky-ness as you work it. Then as you keep kneading, the dough should become smooth silky and soft. Only add extra flour if it is still sticky after 5 or more minutes of kneading.
You can see from the two pictures above that the texture of the dough has changed and the dough is no longer sticking to the work surface as I work. I did not dust the surface with flour or add any extra.
Use a mixer with a dough hook if you have one and let the machine do the work for you.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, covered and in a warm place to rise. I put a little oil into the bowl then roll the dough around so that both the dough and sides of the bowl are lightly coated with oil.
Because it is a rich dough it will take longer to rise than a simple bread dough. Mine took 2 hours at each stage at an ambient temperature of 30℃ (86°F).
Depending on the temperature of the place you leave it to rise it may be quicker or longer, so allow plenty of time. If you need to spread it over 2 days you can pop it in the fridge overnight to slow down the rise.
Making the Filling
While the dough is proving you can make the filling so it is ready when you need it. Place the chopped cranberries and mixed peel in a saucepan with the orange juice and bring to a gentle simmer, then remove from the heat and allow too cool.
Once the fruit has cooled beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then mix in the cooled fruit, chopped pecans and flour. Set aside until required.
Shaping the Couronne
Once the dough has doubled in size it is rolled out to a rectangle and spread with the filling which is then topped with a layer of marzipan before rolling up like a swiss roll.
The log is then cut in half lengthways leaving it joined at one end. The two legs of the roll are twisted together before shaping into a ring.
Carefully transfer to a baking sheet and cover loosely ( I pop the whole tray into a large plastic carrier bag) and leave until doubled in size before baking. This will probably take about 1-2 hours.
After Baking the loaf is glazed with some maple syrup and then drizzled with some maple flavoured icing and left to cool before serving.
Cranberry and Pecan Couronne
For the dough
- 300 g (10½oz) strong white bread flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 7 g (¼oz) sachet easy blend yeast
- 50 g (2oz) butter softened
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- 125 ml (4floz) lukewarm milk
- finely grated zest of 1 orange
For the filling
- 125 g (4oz) dried cranberries roughly chopped
- 50 g (2oz) chopped mixed peel
- juice of 1 orange
- 75 g (3oz) butter softened
- 75 g (3oz) light muscovado sugar
- 3 tbsp plain flour (all-purpose flour)
- 50 g (2oz) pecan nuts chopped
- 225 g (8oz) marzipan
- about 3 tbsp maple syrup
- 100 g (4oz) icing sugar
- flaked almonds to sprinkle
- baking sheet
- baking parchment
To make the dough
- Place 300g (10½oz) bread flour in a bowl and add 1 tsp salt to one side of the bowl and 7g (¼oz) yeast to the other side of the bowl. Add 50g (2oz) softened butter, 1 lightly beaten large egg and 125ml (4floz) warm milk to the bowl.
- Mix the dough with your hands until you have a very soft sticky dough. Tip the dough onto a work surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Knead in the orange zest. Continue kneading until the dough is no longer sticky and the dough becomes smooth and silky. Shape into a ball.
- Place a little oil into a bowl and add the dough to the bowl, turn the dough around in the oil so that the oil coats the bowl and dough. Cover and leave in a warm place to prove for at least 1½ hours or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile make the filling
- Place 125g (4oz) dried cranberries and 50g (2oz) mixed peel in a saucepan with the juice of one orange. Heat until just simmering then turn off the heat and allow to stand.
- Beat 75g (3oz) butter and 75g (3oz) light muscovado sugar together until light and fluffy. Stir in the cranberries and mixed peel, 3tbsp flour and 50g (2oz) chopped pecan nuts.
- Turn out the risen dough and without knocking back roll into a rectangle about 35 x25cm (14x10in). With the long side facing you. Spread the cranberry mixture evenly over the dough.
- Next roll out 225g (8oz) marzipan thinly and lay it over the cranberry mixture.
- Roll up the dough from the long side like a swiss roll. Roll it a few times to seal. Then cut in half lengthways cutting almost the whole length of the roll leaving it joined at one end.
- Twist the two lengths together and then join the ends to form a circular crown (Couronne). Carefully transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.
- Place the whole tray inside a clean plastic bag or cover loosely with oiled cling film and leave to rise for about 1-2 hours and is doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 200℃ (180℃ fan)/400°F/gas mark 6. Bake the Courrone for 25 minutes until risen and golden. Allow to cool for a few minutes on the tray then transfer to a wire rack.
- Brush with maple syrup.
- Mix 100g (3½oz) icing sugar with 1 tbsp maple syrup and enough water to make a smooth thin icing and drizzle over the warm loaf. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and leave to cool.