Thursday, 4 December 2014

Technical Thursday: Apricot Couronne

In this episode of Series 4 the bakers were asked to tackle sweet dough, and the Technical Challenge was Paul Hollywood's Apricot Couronne - a sweet, glazed crown of rich bread filled with walnuts, apricots and raisins.

I'm notoriously bad at any form of dough so was really not looking forward to this at all, but it actually ended up going really well… I don't want to jinx it, but I'm hoping this means I'm no longer quite so scared of sweet dough!

The original recipe can be found on the BBC Food website here, but it's also below with my notes and photos.


For the dough:
250g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
5g salt
7g instant yeast
50g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
105ml milk
1 free-range egg, lightly beaten

For the filling: 
90g unsalted butter, softened
70g light muscovado sugar
120g ready-to-eat dried apricots, chopped and soaked in orange juice
35g plain flour
60g raisins
65g chopped walnuts
1 orange, zest only

To finish:
50g apricot jam
200g icing sugar
25g flaked almonds


Chop the apricots into small pieces and cover with orange juice in a bowl. I used a small lunch-box sized carton of juice, and this was more than enough. Set aside and leave to soak until needed.

Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side of the bowl, the yeast to the other and the butter in the middle.

Add the milk and egg and mix to combine, either using your hands or an electric mixer with a dough hook (as I did: there's nothing I hate more than getting elbows deep in dough…). Continue to mix until all the flour from the sides of the bowl is incorporated. Use the dough to clean the inside of the bowl and keep going until you have a soft dough. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and begin to knead. Keep kneading for 10-12 minutes. Work through the initial wet stage until the dough starts to form a soft, smooth skin. When the dough feels smooth and silky, put it into a lightly oiled bowl.

Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave to rise for one hour, or until doubled in size.

While the dough is rising, make the filling. Beat the butter and muscovado sugar together until smooth.

Drain the apricots and add to the butter mixture along with the flour, raisins, walnuts and orange zest. Mix to combine.

Line a baking tray with baking parchment or silicone paper. Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface. Taking care not to knock the air out of it, roll out the dough into a rectangle, approximately 33x25cm/13x10in. Turn the dough 90 degrees if necessary, so you have a long edge facing you.

Spread the apricot mixture evenly over the dough. Roll up the dough tightly (like a Swiss roll).

Roll it slightly to seal, then cut it in half lengthways (you can leave one end joined to help you twist the dough and form the circular crown). I would definitely recommend leaving one end intact!

Twist the two dough lengths together to make a rope, then join the ends of the rope to form a circular ‘crown’. Transfer to the baking tray.

Put the tray inside a clean plastic bag and leave to prove for 30-45mins, or until the dough springs back quickly if you prod it lightly with your finger.

Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200C / 400F / Gas 6. Bake the couronne for 25-35 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown.

Set aside to cool on a wire rack immediately. The butter from the filling had leaked out in the oven and I was worried that leaving the couronne on the tray for too long could potentially lead to a soggy bottom. Although it's very hot and a little fragile, it moves easily and thus retains a crisp bottom.

Gently heat the apricot jam with a splash of water and then sieve it to leave a smooth glaze.

Brush it over the warm loaf to glaze. (Apologies for the poor photo: winter lighting is the bane of my existence at the moment…)

Mix the icing sugar with enough water to make a thin icing, drizzle over the loaf and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Leave to cool before serving.

Well that went well! This is one of the only Technical Challenges where I didn't flap once, and apart from a mini-panic during the first prove - my dough took an extra half an hour to grow to the right size - the rest went totally to plan. At no stage did I have to redo anything and there was no frantic damage control at the end. Does this mean I've finally mastered sweet dough?! (please say yes!)

I don't think it's risen as much as it's supposed to, but I'm not complaining at all! The response to the couronne was really positive: apparently the textures are wonderful, and everyone seemed to like the juxtaposition between the soft fruit and crunchy walnuts. It's a sweet, moist bread that wouldn't look out of place with a coffee at Elevenses!

So what do you think of this Apricot Couronne? Let me know in the comments below!

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