This is not the post I had planned for this week. I was hoping to get my next baby project posted, but sadly it’s taking more time to finish than I anticipated. So, instead, I baked.
My husband and I have recently starting binge watching the Great British Bake Off, and it makes me want to bake. A lot. I shouldn’t be surprised by this given my affinity for baked goods. Apparently, at the age of 3, when asked what I wanted for Christmas, I responded with “some cake”, and at the age of 5 or 6 I asked my Mum to teach me to bake without a mixer, in case at some point in my life I didn’t have one and still felt a compulsion to bake. So what I wanted to bake first was some kind of sweet bread. I would have loved to start with a traditional Cornish saffron cake, but my husband isn’t a big fan, and he tends to get mad when I bake for people who aren’t him! So instead, I was planning to make a Croatian povitica. That is, until I looked at the recipe and saw that the dough would need to be stretched out to 1m in length, and that just isn’t going to happen in my mournfully small kitchen. So, option 2 was a couronne. This is a twisted sweet bread named for it’s crown-like shape. The one on the show was filled with apricots and marzipan, which sounds delicious to me, but my husband wasn’t loving that idea. I’m not much of a traditionalist with much food – I’m all for changing things up to suit different purposes. In this vein, I switched out the filling for something closer to that of a povitica, although I’ll say now that I didn’t really follow a recipe so much as look at a list of ingredients and make something up. I also decided to make 6 small ones instead of 1 large one.
I made a couple of substitutions to the dough itself. I didn’t have any bread flour, and with a 5 month old I’m not dealing with the hassle of the grocery store for 1 ingredient. So I used regular all purpose flour instead. I also didn’t have instant yeast in my pantry, but I did have a jar of active yeast in the fridge, so I used that instead and just converted the quantity. The rest of the ingredients and instructions for the dough were following Paul Hollywood’s recipe, which you can find here. OK, one other substitution I should admit to – I made it in my mixer and just finished the kneading by hand. Tired Mommy arms and all that…
Once the dough was made and rising, I started on the filling. I creamed 1/4 cup butter with 1/3 cup sugar until pale and, well, creamy. I then beat in 1 egg yolk, followed by 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa and finally 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts. The walnuts could have been finer, but I wanted there to be a bit of texture instead of the filling just being paste.
To assemble the couronnes, I basically followed the instructions in the original recipe except that after rolling the dough I cut it into 6. I spread the filling onto each in a fairly thin layer and rolled them tightly from one of the long sides. I did find it helpful to pinch the seams closed before cutting the rolls in half lengthwise, and then twisting the pieces around each other. Once twisted, I curled the ends around to make circles and transferred the couronnes to a baking sheet. Next time, I’ll probably reduce the width of the initial rectangle so that the 6 pieces aren’t as long and either have them be wider or a little thicker to make the rolls smaller but thicker.
The recipe stated to glaze with apricot jam, but since I didn’t have any, and I’d already separated an egg to put the yolk into the filling, I used the beaten egg white to glaze them. I did this once they’d been in a 400 F oven for 20 minutes, and then put them back in for another 5. The final step is the icing, which has to be done once they’ve cooled. For this I used the icing that I put on my scones when I bake them. It’s very simple, just powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract. The exact quantities aren’t overly critical, it depends on what consistency you’re going for. All I would suggest is to add the liquid very very gradually – it doesn’t take much to make it too runny. You can use water instead of milk, and switch the vanilla extract for something else or leave it out altogether if you prefer. I didn’t want the hassle of cleaning a piping bag for something so small, so I used a snack sized zip top bag with one corner cut off. Put the icing into the bag, squeeze out the remaining air and seal the top. Cut one of the bottom corners off (the amount you cut will determine how fine your piping is) and squeeze. Then just throw it out when you’re done!
OK, they might not win me any baking championships any time soon. But that’s not going to stop me
eating them all before my husband gets home fighting my husband for them when he gets home from work!
Chocolate Walnut Couronnes
For the dough:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 packet instant yeast or 2 1/4 tsp active dried yeast
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 1/2 oz milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
For the filling:
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/4 – 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-2 drops vanilla extract
1/2 – 1 tsp milk or water
To make the dough:
Put the flour into the bowl of a mixer, add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until a soft dough has formed. Knead until the dough is soft and smooth.
Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise for an hour, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, make the filling:
Cream the butter and sugar until pale. Beat in the egg yolk. Stir in the cocoa and walnuts.
Then, assemble the couronnes:
Pre-heat the oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle and cut width-wise into 6 even pieces. Spread the filling on each piece, leaving a gap around the edge. Roll each piece tightly from the long edge, and then cut in half lengthwise, leaving a small piece attached at one end to make the twisting easier. Twist the 2 pieces together like a rope and join the ends to form a circle. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Glaze with the egg white and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Once cool, finish with a drizzle of icing.