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How to Make Auvergne Crown

Why this recipe works The Auvergne Crown, or couronne auvergnate, is a large, crusty, ringshaped loaf made with white flour and leavened with a sourdough culture. It can be found in boulangeries throughout France, but it originated in the Auvergne region of central France, an area known as the source of most of the country’s grain. Unlike simple white breads, the Auvergne Crown is deeply flavorful, owing to its mildly tangy, aromatic sourdough starter and a long, slow fermentation process. We experimented with several approaches to forming this 100 percent whiteflour sourdough bread into its unique crown shape. We started by rolling the dough into a log, or folding it into a baguette shape, before bending it into a ring, but the results were inconsistent: The crust was uneven, the width variable, and the holes in the crumb too irregular. We had the best results when we shaped the dough into a taut boule and stretched a hole through the center before placing the loaf on a liberally floured couche to proof. (For more information on couches, click here.) Happily, this process was easier, too. An inverted bowl placed under the couche helped maintain the crown shape. Since this is a rustic loaf, we wanted a deep-brown crust, so we let the loaf bake for longer—35 to 40 minutes—and we used the crust’s rich, toasty appearance in addition to the interior temperature to guide us when gauging doneness. Take care when removing the couche from the loaf in step 10, as it may stick slightly to the dough. If you can’t find King Arthur all-purpose flour, you can substitute bread flour.

  • makes 1 loaf
  • resting time 21 hours 35 minutes
  • rising time 17½ hours
  • baking time 35 minutes
  • total time 47½ hours, plus 3 hours cooling time
  • key equipment 2 rimmed baking sheets, couche, 2 (9-inch) disposable aluminum pie plates, 2 quarts lava rocks, baking stone, instantread thermometer

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starter

  • 1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) water, room temperature
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) Sourdough Culture

dough

  • 1¾ cups (14 ounces) water, room temperature
  • 4½ cups (22½ ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt

1). For the starter Stir all ingredients together in 4-cup liquid measuring cup with wooden spoon until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, let sit at room temperature for 5 hours, then refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours. (Alternatively, starter can sit at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours and be used immediately; do not refrigerate.)

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2). For the dough Stir water into starter with wooden spoon until well combined. Place flour in bowl of stand mixer. Using dough hook on low speed, slowly add starter mixture to flour and mix until cohesive dough starts to form and no dry flour remains, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as needed. Cover bowl tightly with plastic and let dough rest for 20 minutes. Add salt to dough and mix on low speed until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly greased large bowl or container, cover tightly with plastic, and let rise for 30 minutes.

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3). Using greased bowl scraper (or your fingertips), fold dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 45 degrees and fold dough again; repeat turning bowl and folding dough 6 more times (total of 8 folds). Cover tightly with plastic and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat folding and rising every 30 minutes, 3 more times.

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4). After fourth set of folding and rising, turn out dough onto lightly floured counter (side of dough that was against bowl should now be against counter). Press and stretch dough into 10-inch round, deflating any gas pockets larger than 1 inch.

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5). Working around circumference of dough, fold edges toward center until ball forms. Cover loosely with greased plastic and let rest for 15 minutes.

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6). Place 4-inch bowl that has been inverted in center of rimmed baking sheet, then drape couche over bowl and dust liberally with flour. Repeat pressing and folding of dough to re-form ball, then flip dough ball seam side down and, using your cupped hands, drag in small circles on counter until dough feels taut and round and all seams are secured on underside of loaf.

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7). Using your fingertips, press through and stretch center of dough to create 5-inch hole. Invert dough ring onto prepared couche and pinch any remaining seams closed. Fold edges of couche over loaf to cover completely, then carefully place sheet inside large plastic garbage bag. Tie, or fold under, open end of bag to fully enclose. Let loaf sit at warm room temperature for 1 hour, then refrigerate for at least 12 hours or up to 16 hours.

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8). Remove loaf from refrigerator and let rise (still inside plastic bag) at warm room temperature until nearly doubled in size and dough springs back minimally when poked gently with your knuckle, about 4 hours (remove from bag to test with knuckle).

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9). One hour before baking, adjust oven racks to lower-middle and lowest positions. Place baking stone on upper rack, place 2 disposable aluminum pie plates filled with 1 quart lava rocks each on lower rack, and heat oven to 475 degrees. Bring 1 cup water to boil on stovetop.

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10). Remove sheet with loaf from garbage bag, unfold edges of couche, and dust top of loaf with flour. Lay 16 by 12-inch sheet of parchment paper on top of loaf. Gently place second rimmed baking sheet on top of parchment and invert loaf onto parchment. Carefully, remove top baking sheet, bowl, and couche. Reshape loaf as needed, tucking edges under to form taut ring shape.

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11). Carefully pour ½ cup boiling water into 1 disposable pie plate of preheated rocks and close oven door for 1 minute to create steam. Meanwhile, using sharp paring knife or single-edge razor blade, make one ½-inch-deep slash around outer circumference of loaf, about 1 inch from outer edge. Make second ½-inch-deep slash around inner circumference of loaf, about 1 inch from inner edge.

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12). Working quickly, slide parchment with loaf onto baking stone and pour remaining boiling water into second disposable pie plate of preheated rocks. Bake loaf for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees. Rotate loaf and continue to bake until crust is dark brown and loaf registers 210 to 212 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer loaf to wire rack, discard parchment, and let cool completely, about 3 hours, before serving.

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problem The loaf burns.

solution Reduce the oven temperature partway through baking.

This large loaf bakes longer than many other rustic breads. To achieve good oven spring (the rise that dough experiences when it first hits a hot oven). To ensure a lofty—not squat—crown, we start the loaf at a high temperature—475 degrees. But you can’t bake the loaf at this temperature for the entire time it takes to cook through. After 40 minutes of baking at this temperature, the loaf would be charred. We reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees after the loaf has baked for 15 minutes. If you forget to do so, your loaf will have a bitter crust.

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