“Couronne means ‘crown’, named for its classic ring shape. This rich,
sweet bread is a speciality of Lyon, and a traditional Christmas treat
in France. Stuffed with fruit and nuts, it’s similar to stollen in that it is yeast-risen, while its lightness is closer to that of panettone. Delicious served warm – enjoy! ”
Place all the dried fruit in a bowl, pour over the brandy and leave it to soak for 30 minutes.
To make your dough, warm the milk in a pan over a low heat. Tip the flour into a large bowl, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt on one side and the yeast on the other.
To the middle, add the butter and warm milk, then beat and add the egg. Use your hands to pull the ingredients from the sides and mix it until it forms a dough.
Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead for 10 to 12 minutes, or until smooth and springy.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, beat together the butter and sugar for about 5 minutes, or until pale and fluffy, add the egg and continue to mix until smooth.
Halve the vanilla pod lengthways and scrape out the seeds, then roughly chop the nuts. Add the nuts and vanilla seeds to the butter mixture.
Thoroughly drain the soaked dried fruit and add it to the bowl along with the zest from the orange. Mix well.
Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Gently turn out your risen dough onto a floured surface, then roll it out to a 30cm x 25cm rectangle.
Spread your filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 2cm gap around the edges, and roll it up as tightly as you can from the longest side.
Gently press the edge to seal, then carefully cut your roll in half lengthways.
Fold and twist the two pieces of dough over each other, so it looks like a twisted piece of rope.
Carefully lift the twisted bread onto the prepared baking sheet and secure both ends to form a ring. Loosely cover the dough with oiled clingfilm and leave to prove again for 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/gas 5.
Once proved, bake the couronne for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it’s golden brown and risen. If it browns too quickly, cover the couronne with a tent of tin foil.
Leave it to cool on a wire rack. Gently heat the apricot jam with a splash of water and strain it through a sieve. Brush the warm loaf with the apricot glaze, then top with some almonds and icing sugar.
The key to making an enriched dough is to ensure the milk is tepid (warm to the touch). If it's too hot, it will ruin the yeast; if it's too cold, your dough will take a very long time to rise.