In which I definitively prove that a cinnamon couronne is better than meth.

I’m a stoical person; I don’t get excited about much, and I like it that way. Excitement is often loud, and loud things irritate me in much the same way that mullets and hot pink irritate me. Let’s all just calm down. However, I consistently get REAL excited about one thing—homemade cinnamon rolls products, fresh from the oven. AmIright? The feeling I get when the tiny carb molecules race through my bloodstream is much like the feeling Tuco (on Breaking Bad and, now, Better Call Saul) gets when he takes a hit of meth. “Tight, tight, tight!” Or so I imagine, as I've never tried meth because who has the time? If they don't sell it at the grocery store or Amazon, I'm not buying it, as I'm not going to run all over town constantly, trying to find it.

My son has inherited my cinnamon roll obsession, so he's constantly requesting that I make cinnamon bread products. Some cinnamon breads are more annoying to make than others because there are so. many. fiddly. steps. required. First the rising, then the rolling out and filling-spreading and rolling up and cutting and shaping, then the proving, then the baking, then the icing-making, and then, FINALLY, the icing-spreading. We need to tighten this up, people. So I thought, "Are there any other bread recipes in How to Bake that I could adapt to be a type of cinnamon roll that won't annoy the living bejesus out of me?" And the answer is yes! Paul Hollywood's apricot couronne is gorgeous, but Ted (the boy) would rather eat his own finger than eat bread with fruit and marzipan in it. However, I saw potential in the recipe. It's sweet, although I added a little sugar to make it sweeter, and it's already designed to be rolled up and twisted. I thought it could work.

And it did work. I didn't document the first time I made it because I was making it purely to feed the boy, not to share on the blog. However, I did remember to take pictures (most of them, anyway) the second and third times I made it. So, prepare yourself for the majesty of amateur bread dough pictures. I KNOW YOU LOVE THEM.

First, because it's available on Paul Hollywood's website, I'll copy and paste the original apricot couronne recipe here because some of you might prefer it over a plain cinnamon/sugar bread. You'll also need it for the dough recipe, regardless.

Ingredients:

For the bread:

250g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

5g salt

8g instant yeast

50g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing

135ml warm full-fat milk

1 medium egg, lightly beaten

For the filling:

120g ready-to-eat dried apricots, chopped

150ml orange juice (freshly squeezed or from a carton)

90g unsalted butter, softened

70g light muscovado sugar

35g plain flour

60g raisins

65g chopped walnuts

Finely grated zest of 1 orange

200g marzipan

To finish

50g apricot jam

100g icing sugar

50g flaked almonds

Recipe:

Makes 1 loaf Prep: 3 hours Bake: 25 minutes

A couronne, or "crown," is a traditional French Christmas loaf. I've been making these rich sweet breads - stuffed with marzipan, fruit and nuts - for years. Believe me, they are well worth a try. They make a wonderful centrepiece to a Christmas feast, or a spectacular gift.

1. The night before, for the filling, put the apricots into a bowl, pour on the orange juice and set aside to macerate.

2. The next day, tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the butter, milk and the egg and turn the mixture around with your fingers. Continue to mix until you’ve picked up all the flour from the sides of the bowl. Use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl and keep going until you have a soft dough.

3. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead. Keep kneading for about 6 minutes. Work through the initial wet stage until the dough starts to form a soft smooth skin.

4. When your dough feels smooth and silky, put it into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise until at least doubled in size – at least 1 hour, but it’s fine to leave it for 2 or even 3 hours.

5. While the dough is rising, make the filling. Drain the apricots. Cream the butter and muscovado sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Mix in the drained apricots, flour, raisins, walnuts and orange zest.

6. Line a baking tray with baking parchment or silicone paper.

7. Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface. Without knocking it back, roll out the dough into a rectangle, about 33 x 25cm. Turn the dough 90° if necessary, so you have a long edge facing you. Spread the apricot mixture evenly over the dough. On a floured surface, roll out the marzipan thinly and lay it over the apricot mixture. Roll up the dough tightly like a Swiss roll. Roll it slightly to seal, then cut it almost in half lengthways, leaving it just joined at one end – like a pair of legs. Twist the 2 dough lengths together, then join the ends to form a circular ‘crown’. Transfer to the baking tray.

8. Put the tray inside a clean plastic bag and leave to prove for 1 hour, or until the dough is at least doubled in size and springs back quickly if you prod it lightly with your finger. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 200°C

9. Bake the couronne for 25 minutes until risen and golden. Place on a wire rack. Gently heat the apricot jam with a splash of water, sieve and brush over the warm loaf to glaze. Mix the icing sugar with enough water to make a thin icing, drizzle over the loaf and sprinkle with flaked almonds. Leave to cool.

My process was much simpler because I didn't have to mess with any of the filling or night-before prep. I just made the bread dough and used a regular melted butter and cinnamon/sugar mixture as the filling, as you will soon see in my riveting photographs. However, I did add about 25-30 grams of sugar to the dough, as it wasn't sweet enough the first time I made it.

First, it's important to note that it's a wet, sticky dough. I purposely made it a little less wet the second time I made it because it was too difficult to handle the first time.

You can see in the picture above that it even LOOKS sticky and hard to manage. However, it's a fun dough, too, very ploofy and puffy and squishy, especially after it rises.

LOOK AT THE HEIGHT. You cannot contain it; it does not abide by your rules!

It was a lot less sticky after rising, so it rolled out easily.

(You can tell above that I had started spreading the melted butter and then was like, "Oh, sh*t. I forgot to take the picture.)

Then I did spread it with about 1-2 Tbsp. of melted butter and a mixture of around 65 grams of (regular) sugar and one Tbsp. cinnamon. (You can make any adjustments that you like . . . I was just guessing at what would be appropriate.)

And then, as per usual, I rolled it up.

And then came the tricky part--slicing it in half, leaving one end connected, so that it could be properly twisted. Because the dough wasn't as sticky and hard to work with this time, it actually went quite smoothly. (Prepare for a picture of my hand and giant wrist. I have what you might call a "sturdy" Irish skeleton.)

Well, it doesn't look as big in this picture. But rest assured that I have neither discernible wrists or ankles; my arms and calves sort of blend in to my hands and feet. I'm a delicate rose.

Note the end that I left connected:

And then there's nothing to do but wind the two halves around each other. The resulting twist is a bit prettier when some of the innards are twisted out and up so that they're visible.

And then you put the ends together to make the crown!

And then you have to transfer it to the pan in one piece unless you're smarter than I and transferred the strand to the pan before joining the two ends. I re-twisted it a couple of times in the process to try to ensure that it kept a good shape.

And, from here on out, it's a very easy job--simply bake, wait for it to cool, and then ice (if desired).

Now I have a confession to make. All of these pictures are have been from my third attempt at baking the couronne, and I made two of them. (That isn't the confession--that would be a boring confession.) One of them, the one you see above, turned out perfectly. The other one . . . did not.

So, I made one cinnamon couronne and one cinnamon horseshoe that also got overdone on one side for reasons unknown. Baking . . . what can I tell you. It's a son of a bitch.

I have another confession to make. I forgot to take pictures of the above two loaves (from my third time making couronnes) after they were frosted, but I DID take post-icing pictures of the SECOND couronne I had made a week or two prior. You'll be able to see a difference in the shapes, so I wanted to explain the difference.

Our couronne (above), brushed with melted butter:

And so ends the collection of pictures of our couronne. It's the Ned Stark of the blog world--gone too soon. The following is the couronne from my second attempt after being brushed with melted butter.

And then frosted:

If a person wanted even more cinnamon and sugar in the loaf, she could brush the top of the loaf with more melted butter and cinnamon/sugar mixture before it proves, but I think it's pretty as-is. And IT'S SO TENDER. It's undoubtedly the most tender cinnamon-roll-like bread you'll ever eat. For that reason alone, it's a fantastic adaptation of Paul's recipe. Also, obviously, it's very pretty and not any more difficult than regular cinnamon rolls. It's the cinnamon roll you make and take with you when you want to shame someone who annoys you (not that I would ever indulge in this type of childish behavior), or, conversely, when you want to make something delightful for loved ones. Thus, it's beautiful AND multi-purpose, which is so efficient and which, obviously, makes it much better than meth--and that's what I'm looking for in a snack food.