If you have a food mixer with a paddle fitting, make the dough as follows: into the bowl put the flour, salt, yeast, milk and eggs and mix until the dough becomes smooth and shiny. Add the butter piece by piece as you mix well for a further five minutes, until all the butter has been incorporated into the dough. It’s important to add the butter very gradually.
If you do not have a machine, make the base dough by bringing the flour, salt, yeast, milk and eggs together in a bowl. Tip the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about ten minutes, or until the dough becomes smooth and shiny. Gradually incorporate the butter piece by piece into the dough, kneading as you go.
Tip the dough into an oiled 1 litre/1¾pint plastic container with a lid – it needs plenty of room to rise. Leave the dough to rise until at least doubled in (at least an hour, or overnight in the fridge).
Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, without knocking the air out of it. Roll it out to a thickness of just under 1½cm/¾in, in a rectangle that’s about 40-50cm/16-20in long. Have the long side facing you.
Cover the dough with a loose layer of ham. Break off large pieces of mozzarella and distribute them all over the ham. Scatter the basil over the top.
Roll up the dough from the long side furthest from you, into a long sausage shape. Cut the roll of dough in half down the length to expose the filling, leaving you with two long strips side by side.
Twist the two strips together, holding both ends of the dough and twisting your hands in opposite directions, to make a long rope that’s quite tightly twisted. Form the rope into a circle and join the ends together so that the dough becomes a ring – a ‘couronne’ or crown.
Put the crown onto the lined baking tray, and put the tray in a large plastic bag, big enough so that the risen dough won’t touch the sides. Leave the crown to rise for 1-1½ hours, or until it has at least doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. For this recipe you ideally don’t want a fan oven.
Whisk an egg with a pinch of salt and brush the egg over the crown. Finally top the couronne with grated parmesan.
Bake the couronne in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until golden-brown. Leave to cool slightly. Serve warm or cold.