Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Auvergne Crown (Couronne)

This is a white sourdough loaf that is shaped like an enormous bagel. This bread is known throughout France, and is particularly famous in Auvergne. Each baker in this region makes this unique bread a little differently. Some bakers use a poolish, while others make this bread as a straight dough. Still other bakers choose to make it with a stiff levain starter, which is what Daniel Leader's formula calls for. 

This bread contains a very small amount of whole wheat flour. It makes up only 5% of the sourdough build. Daniel Leader mentions in his introduction to this formula that this bread is a rare pure white bread that contains great character and complexity. I usually avoid 100% bread flour breads, but this was on my list and seemed perfect to bring to Caryn and Brandon's February Fondue Freak Out Pot Luck.  I decided late friday night to make the sourdough build and to bake this on saturday afternoon. 

I am going to stop briefly for a teaching moment. I know there are a lot of folks out there, who love to eat bread right out of the oven, when it is piping hot and steaming. I suggest that you muster up the will power and avoid doing this. Many breads acquire some of their characteristics during the slow and gradual cooling of a loaf, particularly a sourdough loaf.

In fact, there are some breads, like Volkonbrot, which actually call for a 48 hour rest. Volkonbrot is a 100% rye bread, and is very wet. It is often thought to be impossible to bake this into a bread.  I have made this loaf several times, and I love it. However, this bread actually gains a lot of its taste and acidity from its rest. For instance, I baked the Miche for Caryn and Brandon's party on Friday, so that it would have a 24 hour rest to enhance the flavor. On the other hand, the Couronne was made the day of the party and did not enough of a rest period. It did not have the chance to fully develop its sour flavor.  As a result, it was less flavorful than it would have been had I allowed it a few more hours to develop. My message to you is this: if you are going to take the time to develop a sourdough starter which takes several days, and then develop a sourdough build for 12 hours and then slowly ferment and proof a naturally leavened bread, you owe it to yourself to let it completely cool and rest. Allow the crumb to settle and then you can enjoy a much tastier loaf the next day. I also want to mention that the shelf life of a naturally leavened bread is quite a bit longer than a bread leavened with yeast and the extra day of rest will not factor into the actual shelf life of your bread. 

Since this bread did not contain any yeast, it required a very long ferment and a fairly long proofing. This bread bulk-fermented for 4 hours and then proofed for two. I also made sure to pre-heat my oven and my stone for close to an hour. I know it not to good on the electric bill, but it aids tremendously in forming a crust.

The shaping of this loaf is also very interesting. After bulk fermentation, the dough is placed on a lightly floured surface. The dough is then shaped into a log which is approximately 18 inches long. The two ends are joined together to form a circle. Leader suggests that you overlap the ends by approximately four inches. Make sure that it will fit on your stone. Most stones will be plenty big, but double-check to be on the safe side. This enormous bagel is then placed on a floured peel and then it is proofed until it is ready to bake. I always dust sourdough breads with a touch of flour before I cover them with plastic or a towel during their proof. I like the look of the flour in the bread when it bakes and it also keeps the plastic from sticking to the dough. The last thing you want is the plastic wrap sticking to the dough. An ounce of prevention (dusting with flour) will keep your perfectly shaped loaf from being ruined. I speak from experience and I do not want it to happen to you. Plastic which sticks to your dough can be very frustrating.
This bread is baked at 400 degrees for close to 40 minutes. I would have expected this bread to be baked at a higher temperature, but it came out very well and very crusty.  I have no complaints. I was a little concerned about transferring this bread onto my stone because of the shape, but it transferred rather easily. Again, I would recommend semolina to aid in this transfer. 

I wish that I had more time for this bread to rest so that the flavors could fully develop, but I did not. None the less it was very good. I was hoping for a more sour taste, but the bread was well liked, and disappeared rather quickly. I was really glad that I decided to bring two loaves with me rather than just one. I have to say that I really like a bread with a lot of crust. This is one way to do it. Another way is to make a "fougasse" (which I posted on last year). 

So, here is another sourdough added to my repertoire. Here are some photos:
The proofing Couronne

Excellent crust development

A closer look at the crust and the score

And a closeup of the crumb

Bake on


  1. Can you make hyperlinks from the bolded words in your post to the glossary page. Do you have any of this bread left for sampling?

    1. In my latest post I did add a hyperlink for the term Volkonbrot, I hope it works out well for you. Unfortunately this bread went really fast at the Potluck, I barely got to eat a piece.