I was watching The Great American Baking Show when I got the idea to make this couronne with cranberries and pecans. I love watching the show just to see all of the talent and artistry that goes into each baking challenge.
Some of the “show-stopper” recipes are absolutely awe-inspiring. That said, I’m personally not a fan of laborious cake-decorating or intricate desserts.
I love making a stunning cake so long as it can be done without shaping fondant and marzipan or worrying about it tipping over.
As I thought about my personal approach to baking, I was reminded of the French Christmas bread couronne, which literally translates to crown.
A classic couronne is shaped like a ring, and a Christmas couronne is made with enriched dough (i.e. milk, eggs, butter, etc.).
A couronne is naturally a gorgeous sight, regardless of what you put in it. The ring shape gives the bread a stunning, unique appearance.
And when you do happen to fill it with plump cranberries and a dusting of powdered sugar, it’s a beautiful thing to see. Plus, you don’t have to have any special baking skills to make it look this pretty.
Making a Couronne
In addition to utilizing cranberries and pecans, I made a quick frangipane (almond cream) for my couronne. Making the couronne is very much like making a batch of cinnamon rolls.
I rolled the dough out into one large rectangle, then topped it with the filling: frangipane, dried cranberries, pecan pieces, and orange zest. The only difference between making a couronne and a cinnamon roll is in the way you cut the dough.
After the dough is rolled into a long log, it’s vertically sliced down the middle in a wishbone-like manner. The two tails are braided over each other to create one big braid or twist. The two ends of this big braid are circled in toward each other to form a ring or wreath.
Couronne for Breakfast
I love eating a slice of this couronne with my morning coffee for breakfast. It’s slightly sweet, but nothing too sugary for breakfast.
It also smells heavenly because of the orange zest. The crumb is light, fluffy, and very similar to brioche. If you’re looking for a lovely holiday bread to enjoy while you open presents, look no further!
Couronne with Cranberries and Pecans
A buttery, fluffy, orange-flavored bread nestled with almond cream, pecans and dried cranberries.
for the dough
- 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup milk 105 to 110 degrees F, warmed to lukewarm temperature
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter melted
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg yolk
- Oil for greasing the bowl
- Powdered Sugar for dusting
- 1 large egg beaten for egg wash
for the filling
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 cup almond flour
- teaspoons splash of cognac or rum couple
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/3 cup pecan pieces
- zest of 1/2 an orange
- 1 tbsp cornstarch see note
In a medium bowl, combine the yeast, sugar, and milk. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes. Then stir in the melted butter.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour and salt together. Pour in the yeast mixture and the egg yolk. Mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If you're using just a bowl and spoon (no mixer), then stir until the dough comes together into a compact mass.
Dump the dough into a bowl greased with oil, then cover with a sheet of plastic wrap. Allow the dough to proof for at least 1 hour, or until it's nearly doubled in size.
Create the filling by creaming the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl, using a rubber spatula. Add in the egg and mix to incorporate.
Pour in the almond flour; stir to create a paste-like mixture. Add the splash of cognac and mix again to combine. If you are using the cornstarch (or all-purpose flour - see note), add that in and give it all a stir to combine.
Once the dough is ready, dust your work surface with flour. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Roll the dough out into an approximate 9" by 13" rectangle. Spread the almond cream over the dough, leaving a 1/2" border bare along the edges.
Sprinkle the dried cranberries and pecan pieces all over the cream. Distribute the orange zest all over too. Now, grab the long side of the dough that is farthest from you, and using a typewriter-like motion, roll the dough towards you into one long log with the seam side facing down.
Take a sharp knife and starting 3/4 inch in from one end of the log, making a vertical cut down the log. You want to create a wishbone-like shape by making this cut. Turn the tails of the dough onto their sides so that the exposed sides of the dough are facing upward. Now, cross one tail of dough over the other until you reach the bottom, creating one long braid.
Circle the two ends of the braid towards each other to form a ring-shape. Pinch the two ends of the braid together to keep the ring sealed shut. Brush the beaten egg all over the dough.
Bake the bread for approximately 30 minutes, until a deep golden color all over. A toothpick inserted in the bread should come out pretty clean. Allow the bread to cool on a wire cooling rack. Once cool, dust with powdered sugar.
For a visual on what the braiding and cutting process of the dough looks like, please refer to the following video link, which demonstrates a similar recipe: https://youtu.be/YiHIYmplVTw?t=3m30s
Frangipane can melt quite easily due to the non-absorbing nature of almond flour. Some French recipes call for adding a heaping spoonful of cornstarch to the frangipane filling to help counteract this. You can try the cornstarch, or you can also trying add all-purpose flour. Another tip is to refrigerate the couronne until it's nice and chilled before you bake it."