Friday, July 29, 2011

Sally Lunn Bread

Sally who?  It's a bread (as you might have gathered from the post title. duh.).  I've never made bread.  That seemed weird to me.  Why hadn't I ever made bread?  And who-the-who is Sally Lunn?
Lately whenever I run across a recipe that I've never- in-my-life heard of before, I'm pretty much guaranteed that if I holler over to my Mother-in-law, "Have you heard of ...?"  There's a pretty good chance that she has.
Sally Lunn is a classic southern bread that allegedly came from across the pond (ENGLAND).  There are a few different ideas about who (or what) Sally Lunn was.  Some stories say that Sally was the daughter of a pastry chef from Bath, England.  While yet other legends say it wasn't named after a person at all, rather it was a bastardization of a french phrase "soliel et lune" (sun and moon), which makes reference to the breads round shape.  Yet another myth says it springs from a type of brioche called "solilemme".  This is one of the greatest things about recipes to me--all the stories that go along with them and the history. Whenever I come across old cookbooks, I go a little ga-ga like some sort of epicurian nerd.  Ahem.
So you see the confusion. In any case, what we are talking about is a dense, yet light and slightly sweet yeasty bread.  Delicious.  Especially while piping hot schmeared with butter and strawberry preserves.  Which explains why I don't have any pretty fresh-out-of-the-oven pictures to share with you.  We descended upon it like vultures on fresh carrion.
I had three different Sally Lunn recipes staring at me, but I chose to go with The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook.  Why?  Because they are from Charleston, SC and I have been known to covet all things Charlestonian.
I also chose this recipe because the rising time was something like a total of 45 minutes.  Which seemed weird to me because all the other recipes were like 4 hours.  But hey.
Turns out the correct rising time probably is closer to somewhere in the 2 hour range. Of course my in-laws house is  freezing most of the time, and so after about 40 minutes of no-rise action, I got  smart and put the dough under the heat lamp on the stove.  Voila.  Magic rising dough.
And 35 minutes later amazingly beautiful bread.
Now go bake a loaf.

Sally Lunn Bread from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 cup whole milk
1 package (1/4 ounce, or 2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast, at room temperature
8 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup sorghum molasses, cane syrup, or honey  (I used sorghum molasses.)
3 large eggs at room temperature
4 cups sifted unbleached all purpose flour, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the temperature read 105 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Turn off the heat.  Pour the yeast into the milk, whisk gently with a fork to dissolve (some of the yeast may not dissolve immediately), and let stand until tiny bubbles form on the surface of the milk, 5 to 10 minutes.

With an electric mixer, cream 7 tablespoon butter with the molasses in a large bowl until smooth, glossy, and slightly fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs, 1 at a time and beat until cafe-au-lait in color (if you use honey, it will creamy light yellow).

In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the salt.  Add the flour mixture and the milk and yeast mixture to the egg mixture, about a 1/4 at a time, mixing well with wooden spoon after each addition, until all the flour is incorporated and the dough comes together.  Stir for a few minutes to ensure a smooth consistency.

Mark the level of the top of the dough on the outside of the bowl with a dab of butter or flour.  Cover the dough with a  clean dish towel and let it rest in a warm place.  When the dough has doubled in size, about 35 minutes (or in my case 1.5 hours), transfer it to a clean flat surface and punch it down.  Beat it with your fist 30 times.

Okay, my dough was super super super sticky.  Which I think was from the wonky time I had with it rising.

Butter an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.  Transfer the dough to the loaf pan and pat it evenly into place.  Set in a warm place to rest.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  When the dough has doubled in size again (about 12 minutes--or in my case 30), bake on the middle rack for 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.  Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes.

Slice.  Butter.  Eat. Repeat.

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