Christmas Couronne

A Christmas Carol holds a play in my household as a cornerstone of Christmas. In fact the 1984 version starring George C Scott is held in such high esteem as THE quintessential version that it heralds the “official” start of yuletide festivities on December 1st for us. Each time there is a new version I look forward to seeing how each of the ghostly visitors will be portrayed. My favorite being the largest of the all- the bountiful and exhuberant Ghost of Christmas Present. Maybe it’s their jovial grasp of transient life and joie de vivre? Or maybe it’s that they are a harbinger of plentiful – cornucopia overflowing with festive bounty. This is what brings me to this recipe- the couronne.

So many things about it that instantly makes me think of the Ghost of Christmas Present. From it’s wreath shape, to the fluted edges blossoming with sweet, festive fillings, to the sweet, heady flavor of marzipan (always a signature festive flavor for me). Consider it in the same vein as that other Christmas classic- stollen, alebit not as heavy I find. The braiding can be a little bit tricky to master – I’m not kidding when I swore at one point it must be like wrestling an octopus. Filling will fall out- just accept it. It is not a testament as to your prowess, it’s just inevitable. Any loose stray filling can just be sprinkled back over the fully shaped dough and nobody, aside from you and the kitchen walls, will be any the wiser.

Although this couronne is good for a week in an airtight container, it really is at it’s best up to three days after baking.

Ingredients

Dough

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 stick butter  
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 4 cups Bread Flour 
  • 2 1/4 tspn yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbspn salt
  • 3 Tbspn and 1 tspn sugar divided
  • Zest 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup Thompson raisins
  • 1/4 cup cherry wine (or orange juice for kid-friendly)
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and roughly copped
  • 1 cup almond marzipan

To glaze and decorate

  • 1/3 cup apricot jam
  • 1 cup icing sugar 
  • 1 tspn water
  • 1/4 tspn rum or rum extract 
  • 2 Tbspn Flaked almonds, toasted 

Method

  1. The night before you want to make the couronne, in an airtight container or jar combine the dried fruits, cherry wine and vanilla extract and mix well. Seal and set aside for the fruit to soak up the liquid, occasionally shaking/ stirring the mixture
  2. The following day, in a small pan combine the milk, butter and cinnamon stick. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until the butter has melted fully. Remove from heat and set aside to cool until tepid
  3. In a small bowl mix together the yeast, warm water and 1 Tbspn sugar until combined. Set aside for 10 minutes until frothy
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, remaining sugar and salt
  5. Add in the frothed yeast mixture and the butter/ milk (depending on the humidity of your kitchen you may not need all of the butter/ milk mixture. Start with 3/4 of it and add more slowly if needed)
  6. Knead with the dough hook attachment for 6-7 minutes until it comes together as a dough. Continue mixing until the sides of the bowl are clean and the dough is soft. It should stop feeling sticky and have a smooth exterior
  7. Transfer the dough to a large pre-oiled bowl, cover with cling film and set aside to prove in a warm place approximately an hour
  8. When the dough has about doubled in size, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Without knocking it back, roll out the dough into a rectangle roughly 13x10in in size
  9. Sprinkle the soaked plump fruits over the surface of the dough
  10. Scatter the chopped pecans over the surface of the dough
  11. Break/ tear the marzipan in to rough pieces 1/2″ to 1″ in size. Scatter these pieces over the surface as well
  12. By the time you’ve finished the surface of your dough should be covered with soaked fruits, pecans, and marzipan
  13. Roll the dough tightly like a Swiss roll along the long edge so you end up with a sausage shape approximately 13″ long and transfer the roll to a large lined/ prepared baking sheet.
  14. Cut the roll in half lengthways, all the way along it’s length. Turn the roll lengths so that the cut layers are exposed on top. Keeping the cut layers to the top overlap the two lengths of dough together forming a simple braid.
  15. Form the braided length into a circle shape and join/tuck the ends to form a ring shape. *I use a heatproof greased/ oiled can or circular bowl placed in the middle to wrap the dough around to help give the circular shape
  16. Cover the couronne ring and set aside in a warm place for 30-40 minutes to rise, until the dough springs back quickly when lightly prodded
  17. Preheat your oven to 425F
  18. Bake the proved couronne for 25-30 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool
  19. While the couronne is cooling, heat the apricot jam with a splash of water in a small pan over a medium heat until runny. Pass through a sieve to remove any pieces of fruit, then brush the sieved jam all over the warm couronne to glaze. Set aside to cool completely
  20. For the icing glaze mix together the icing sugar, water and rum (extract) to form a runny glaze. Drizzle over the cooled couronne and scatter with the flaked almonds
  21. The couronne will keep for up to one week at room temperature in an airtight container

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