We like a challenge, so, upon flicking through recipe books to find inspiration for last weeks menu our eyes were drawn to a beautiful work of buttery art in Paul Hollywood’s “Bread”. Before the latest season of The Great British Bake Off we (and probably most of the nation) would have never heard of a couronne. Now however we know that a couronne is a round treat made of soft, rich, buttery dough, which is usually sweet and stuffed with dried fruit or similar. The recipe we came across was for a savoury one, still rich, still buttery but filled with prosciutto, basil and oozy mozzarella – you can find the recipe here. It was lust at first sight and we put it straight on the menu for Saturday. We’ve made two enriched doughs before – challah and cinnamon buns so this is still fairly new ground for us. The dough is made entirely in a mixer with a dough hook because it’s so sticky and hard to work by hand, mainly due to the huge amounts of butter! This has a whole pack of butter in it. Hello cholesterol problems! But as an occasional treat it’s fine, and it’s so tasty that you have to think “sod it!”.
We’re not saying this is the easiest bread in the world, probably not the best choice for your first foray into yeasted bakes, but we’re by no means experts and it turned out beautifully! Bread, and especially enriched doughs, are seen as really scary by some people (i.e. us, just over a year ago!) but it’s one of the most therapeutic ways to spend an hour or two and you get something really delicious at the end of it. Anyway, enough wanging on, on with the main event!
First up: the dough. Your butter must be soft for this so we used an old Mary Berry tip (cheers Bezza!) – cube your butter and place in a jug/bowl of lukewarm water to soften it. The water shouldn’t feel particularly warm to the touch otherwise you’ll end up with a bowl of melted butter and water, just slightly warm. The strong white flour is placed in the bowl of a mixer with yeast and salt, and then milk and eggs are added. Use the dough hook to combine these and then, while it’s still running, slowly add the butter. This should take at least 5 minutes but ours took about 15 because our mixer isn’t the sturdiest! Once all of the butter has been added and there are no large streaks of it take it out and leave to rise in a large, oiled bowl for at least 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
When it has risen tip it out onto a lightly floured surface. Don’t knock back, just roll out to a large rectangle (about 50cm by 30cm and about 1.5cm thick). Now’s the time to put the toppings on – we followed the recipe but because this one was a success we now can’t stop dreaming up new fillings! Anyway, for this one lay the strips of prosciutto over the dough trying to cover as much of it as possible. Then tear the mozzarella over and lastly tear the basil leaves over. Roll it up starting from a long edge so you have a large sausage of dough with the filling swirled in the middle. Now comes the slightly tricky part; slice the dough lengthways down the sausage and then grabbing the ends tightly twist it quite tightly so that you end up with a rope-like structure with most of the filling on the inside. Coil this into a circle and place on piece of lightly oiled greaseproof paper on a baking tray.
This beast then needs to prove for an hour or two until roughly doubled in size again. Preheat the oven to 200°C after about an hour of rising. When you’re ready to bake brush the couronne with a beaten egg and sprinkle on some grated parmesan, and pop in the oven for around 25 minutes. After this time you should be greeted by a golden monster, complete with oozy cheese! Leave it to cool for at least 20-30 minutes, it will still be warm after this time but not boiling hot.
We had ours served with the salad that was suggested in the book with spinach, roasted butternut squash, goats cheese, olives and spring onions and we added our own little crunch with toasted pinenuts. This was a brilliant dinner, it would be ideal for when friends are over too and what an amazing impression it would make when it landed on the table! We also had the couronne with tomato-based soups later in the week which was lovely too.
So give yourself a day when you’ve got time to give this recipe a bit of love and attention and give it a go, it’s so worth it, we would say for the sense of pride alone but the cheesy delight that you end up with isn’t bad either!