I finally made Sally Lunn Bread. I've seen various versions of this famous bread in a lot of my cookbooks and couldn't figure out what the allure was. Why were so many cookbooks including it?
But by george, I've got it! Now that I've made it and tasted its richness and analyzed its dense cross section and feared I'd be home alone with the loaf eating all of it in one sitting, I understand. It's cake bread. Er, not cake, but cake bread. As in bread that has cake-like qualities. Notice the eggs, milk, and butter called for in the recipe. Your everyday white sandwich bread does not contain any of those ingredients. Sally Lunn Bread is special!
I just want to know, with a stick of butter already in the dough, is it wrong to slather a slice with butter before you pop it in your mouth? Don't judge me.
Adapted from a recipe in Fast Breads by Elinor Klivans
Makes 1 large round or 2 rectangle loaves
1 1/4 cups milk, any fat content
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (one 1/4-oz packet)
3 large eggs
Choose your baking pan first. Use either a 9 1/2- or 10-inch tube pan or two 8x4- or 9x5-inch loaf pans. Butter the bottom and sides of the pan(s). I used two 9x5 but wish I had used two 8x4 so the bread would be taller (but either is fine!). Line the bottom with parchment paper and then butter the parchment. Yes, that's a lot of buttering.
In a small saucepan on medium heat, combine the milk and butter until a thermometer reads around 130 degrees F. Remove from the heat and allow to cool considerably (if it's still too hot to stick your finger in it, it is not ready to use).
In a stand mixer, blend together 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, salt, and yeast on low speed. Carefully add the milk-butter mixture and beat on low until smooth. Cover the bowl with a towel and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Beat in the eggs on low speed for about 1 minute. Add the remaining 3 cups flour and mix for 6 minutes. It's totally normal that the dough is a bit thin and sticky and doesn't pull away from the sides of the bowl. Avoid the urge to add unnecessary extra flour. And don't worry about kneading it. Simply scrape the sticky dough into the prepared pan(s).
Place the two pans side by side on your countertop and cover with plastic wrap or a towel and allow to rise for about 1 hour. It's ready when the dough has risen about halfway up the sides of the baking pan(s).
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the bread until golden brown and the top is firm to the touch, about 50 minutes. If you're using smaller pans, the baking time may be less, so err on the side of checking the bread early. The bread should rise to the top of the pan(s). Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Then invert onto a cooling rack and turn over so they are cooling right side up. Be sure to remove the parchment paper before they are left to cool.
To store the bread, place in a plastic bag and seal to keep airtight. Leave at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes great toast, especially after 3 days when it's not as fresh!
Step-by-Step in Pictures
Heat the milk and butter, then set aside to cool...
Scrape dough into two prepared loaf plans, cover and let rise for an hour, and then bake at 375 degrees F for up to 50 minutes...