couronne – pain de compagne

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couronne double (photo mef 2005) We STILL don’t have a digital camera (we keep meaning to get one; we really do!) but luckily, my brother-in-law brought his digital camera, when he and my sister came to dine with us for Thanksgiving dinner. He kindly took this photo so that I could show off this amazing bread to more than just us four.

You too can impress your family and friends by making this bread! It’s not terribly difficult (once you get past any fear of kneading sloppy dough). You can either follow the actual recipe for “couronne – Pain de Compagne” (was at http://www.judihendricks.com/bread/related_pg.html#recipies) featured in the novel Bread Alone by Judith Ryan Hendricks or you can try the version I came up with. Here is my take on Hendricks’ recipe for couronne – Pain de Compagne:

Rustic French-Style Couronne

(1 large double couronne or 2 medium sized single rings)

Ingredients

Poolish:

  • ½ tsp active dry yeast
  • ½ c lukewarm water
  • ¾ c whole wheat flour

Actual Dough:

  • ¼ c lukewarm water
  • ½ tsp active dry yeast
  • 2¼ c additional lukewarm water
  • All of the fermented Poolish
  • 6½ c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • tray of hot water

Preparation

Poolish
On the evening before you plan to bake the bread:

  1. Mixing: In a small glass bowl, mix ½ tsp yeast into ½ c lukewarm water (do the baby’s bottle test on your wrist) and let sit til it’s creamy.
  2. Put the wholewheat flour into a medium sized bowl.
  3. Add the yeasted water to the flour and beat about 100 strokes. This mixture will be quite sloppy.
  4. Fermenting: Cover with plastic and ferment on countertop in a draught-free area until the next morning. (up to 8 hours)

Actual Dough
In the morning of the day you plan to bake the bread:

  1. Mixing: In a small glass bowl, put the yeast in ¼c lukewarm water (do the baby’s bottle test on your wrist) and mix together until it is creamy.
  2. Pour 2¼ c water into the fermented Poolish and stir it around a bit. Along with the yeasted water, pour the Poolish water into a large bowl. Add the flour. Using a wooden spoon, mix until it is just combined. Knead it a few times to combine well. Cover with plastic and let it rest for about 20 minutes.
  3. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto an unfloured work surface. Sprinkle the salt overtop the dough.
  4. Wash and dry the mixing bowl.
  5. Kneading: Without adding extra flour, knead the dough until it is smooth and silky (about 10 minutes). Let your dough scraper (a spatula works) be your friend if the dough is sticking to the board. I’ve found that even after 15 minutes of squooshing the dough on the board, it still stays pretty sloppy and sticky even though most of it pulls away from the board.
  6. Proofing: Maneuvre the dough into the large bowl (should be large enough to allow the dough to expand by at least 3 times). Cover with plastic. Let it ferment at room temperature for 20 minutes.
  7. After 20 minutes has passed, very lightly sprinkle the work surface with flour. Carefully turn the dough out. If necessary, gently spread the dough out (try not to disturb any bubbles). Using the bread scraper and still trying not to disturb any bubbles, fold the sloppy left side into the center, then the top into the center, then the right side, then the bottom. As you lift it into the bowl, fold it in half once more. Try to place it in the bowl smooth side up. Cover with plastic. Let it ferment at room temperature for 20 minutes again. Repeat this step two more times. (This step is done at 20 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes after the first kneading.) It’s usually not until the third time that the dough will look like the smooth soft pillow that is described in books. The amount of dusting flour used in those three maneuvres is not more than a couple of tablespoons and probably much less (sorry, I’ve never actually measured).
  8. After those 20 minute sessions have passed, let the dough rise undisturbed for about 2 hours until it has doubled and is light and bubbly.
  9. Shaping: Sprinkle a tiny bit of flour on the work surface. Gently turn the dough out, disturbing it as little as possible. Lightly sprinkle the top of the dough with flour. Cut the dough in half. Gently fold (try not to disturb the bubbles) the left side into the center, then the top, then the right side then the bottom. Turn it over. Continue to fold it underneath itself to form an even tight log without actually deflating the dough. Do the same with the other piece of dough. Place them seam side down to form ring shapes on a parchment covered peel. Before sealing the ends of each ring together, link the two rings together in chain fashion. Sprinkle generously with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for an hour or more – until the dough is about doubled. To test, flour your finger and press gently on the edge – it should very slowly spring back. For comparison, try pressing early on to see how it quickly springs back when the dough has not risen enough.
  10. Baking: Thirty minutes before you are going to bake, put the baking stone on the second from the bottom rack. Pour water into a broiling pan and place it on the bottom rack of the oven. Turn oven to 500F.
  11. At the time of baking, spray the top of the boule liberally with water. Put the bread in oven and immediately turn the oven down to 450F. Bake the bread on the middle rack for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 400F and continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes or until the internal temperature is between 200F and 210F (it should be hollow sounding on the bottom). Half way through the baking, remove the tray of water and turn the bread around to account for uneven heat in the oven. You may also want to turn the oven down one more notch at this time.
  12. When the bread is done, turn off the oven. Put the finished bread back in the oven and leave with the door ajar for 5 or 10 minutes. Remove to cool upended on cooling rack. Wait til the bread is completely cool before cutting it. If you want to eat warm bread, it is advisable to reheat the bread.

The broiling pan of water in the oven is to create steam at the beginning of the baking time to make very crusty bread.

Uneaten bread should be stored at room temperature rather than refrigerated. (the refrigerator causes the bread to go stale faster) Bread can also be stored in the freezer – double bagged airtight plastic. Take it out of the freezer and leave it in the bag until the bread has thawed. To reheat the bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the oven for ten minutes.

edit 12 October 2005: Make sure that you add overflow parchment paper on either side of your peel and place the peel on a larger flat surface. (This recipe makes into a humungous loaf.) When I carried it to the oven, I had to shift the parchment paper over so that most of the risen loaf was on the peel and about 4 inches wide of floppy overflow was resting on the other side of the peel. Then I held the peel with one hand and the overflow with the other hand underneath the overflow parchment paper to stop it from oozing down to the floor. Amazingly, it stayed relatively straight once it hit the oven.

Happy baking!

The double wedding ring couronne is, in all modesty, a thing of beauty - two interlocking circles of crusty, golden bread. And it smells like heaven.

-Judith Ryan Hendricks, Bread Alone: A Novel, p. 168

 

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  • MrsBrown

    While I can see that this bread looks magnificent and certainly sounds magnificent, it’s far too much work for me. I think I’ll just make cookies.

  • ejm

    No, no, MrsBrown, it isn’t too much work at all. I think that making cookies is far too much work; so making this bread will be an absolute breeze for you.

    I confess that the last time I made this bread, I did not bother with the 20 minute parts mentioned in steps 10 11 and 12. I just amalgamated the steps by kneading for 15 minutes and then left the dough to rise til it was doubled. The bread didn’t suffer at all. In fact, I think this is the best bread I’ve ever made.

  • amy

    Hey, thanks for the photo! When I read the book I was having a hard time visualizing the loaf. This picture def. makes me want to try baking it.

  • ejm

    I have to say that I was a bit flummoxed by the description in the book too. I only guessed that this is what she was talking about because she said it was entwined rings to celebrate someone’s wedding announcement.

    When I googled for images of couronne, I came across a number of images of crowns and realized that that is what it means – “crown”. There were also a number of wreaths labelled as “couronne”. I never did see any photos of double couronnes though….

    Next time I make this bread, I really do plan to make two single rings rather than a double entwined one.

    Amy, you could always halve the recipe and make just one or a smaller version of the entwined rings.

    edit: and of course, thanks must go to my brother-in-law for bringing his camera so that I could post a photo in the first place!

  • Yum, beautiful couronne. I love the linking rings!
    Glad your comments are working now. :)

  • ejm

    Wow!! That was quick! Thank you, Natashya.

    Yes, I loved the linking rings too. Amazingly, I haven’t repeated this (I have no idea why) and always make single rings or boules.

    -Elizabeth