Tuesday, March 15, 2011

sally lunn bread + honeyed brown butter spread

beaming loaf

Four and a half years ago, I shared a recipe for white batter bread which I like to joke was the original no-knead bread for its lazy approach to assembly. I learned about this particular batter bread when I took a multi-weekend bread baking class (cue sigh over pre-baby levels of free time) and even though it was the least hearty, stretchy, hollow-sounding, craggy-crusted or rustic of the breads we made, it was unforgettable because it reminded me of a cross between a cake and a bread. [Also, it was unbearably delicious when sliced warm and slathered with salted butter. Don’t trust me on this, go find out for yourself.]

all mise-d up
adding yeast

Well, it was mostly unforgettable. In the 4 1/2 years since, there have been new jobs, new apartments, new people (hello!), new projects, less sleep, more work and well, even unforgettable things can go and get forgotten until one of my favorite commenters (oh yes, I pick favorites; bad blogger!) piped up on the batter bread post the other day and told me that it reminded her of a Sally Lunn bread, which I had never heard of and immediately had to drop everything to research.

adding butter and milk

a batter bread

Cooking-wise, I’m in what I consider the dregs of March, this itchy time before anything is growing in the ground where if I see another potato, strand of pasta or soup I might toss it out the window in contempt. But bread! Bread is always welcome, especially this one and even more especially for a luxurious weekend brunch. Like any food story worth tucking into, the story of Sally Lunn Bread comes with drama over its origins — Was it originally made by Protestant refugees, who called them “soleil et lune” or sun and moon cakes? Was it named for Solange Luyon, a pastry cook in Bath, England who for decades sold these buns on the street? Was knowing how to bake it truly essential to being a successful housekeeper, as this 1884 book, suggests? Because, if you were to look around my “house” right now, the fact that I’d never made Sally Lunn before would explain a lot about the lack of housekeeping “success” exhibited here.

ready to bake

Nevertheless, this is some fine, fine bread. It tastes like a light brioche but involves less butter, fewer eggs and significantly less of a time commitment. It differs from the batter bread that I made all that time ago by being even more dessert- and less sandwich-like; i.e. it’s even awesomer. And although I know a slice of this only needs a pat of butter and schmear of strawberry jam to make anyone you share it with — preferably at breakfast, or its luxurious twin, brunch — weep gently with joy, I got a little out of control and attempted a salted and honey-ed brown butter spread that I will not make the mistake of having forgotten 4 1/2 years from now.

salted and honey-ed brown butter spread
toasted, honey buttered, lunn bread

One year ago: Breakfast Pizza and Irish Soda Bread Scones
Two years ago: Migas with Tomato-Chipotle Coulis and Layer Cake Tips + The Biggest Birthday Cake Yet
Three years ago: Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake and Butterscotch Ice Cream
Four years ago: Italian Bread

Sally Lunn Bread
Adapted from Maida Heatter’s Cakes

This recipe makes 1 9x5x3-inch loaf of bread. For a more traditional shape, you can double the recipe and bake it in a 9-inch (10 cup) tube pan. My changes to Heatter’s recipe were halve the recipe, further reduce the sugar, halve again the yeast (yes, halve, there was a lot!), swap out some water for additional milk and to streamline the directions to hopefully keep them as simple as possible.

2 cups (250 grams or 8 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (25 grams or 7/8 ounce) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
1 1/8 teaspoon (1/2 packet or 1/8 ounce) active dry yeast
3/4 cup (177 ml) milk
4 tablespoons (57 grams or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk

In a large bowl, mix 3/4 cup flour, sugar, salt and dry yeast by hand or with an electric mixer.

In a saucepan, heat the milk and butter together until the mixture is warm (105 to 110 degrees); don’t worry if this butter isn’t completely melted. Gradually pour the warm ingredients into the dry mixture and mix with an electric mixer for 2 minutes or stir vigorously by hand with a wooden spoon for 3 minutes. Add the egg, yolk and another 1/2 cup flour and beat again for 2 minutes by machine or 3 by hand. Add the last of the flour and beat or stir until smooth.

Scrape down bowl and cover the top with plastic wrap. Let rise for one hour or until doubled. Meanwhile, butter and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Once the dough has doubled, scrape it into the prepared pan. Cover with buttered plastic wrap and let rise for a total of 30 minutes. After 15 minutes, however, remove the plastic and preheat your oven to 375°F.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Heatter says the bread should make a hollow sound if tapped with your fingertips but I haven’t weathered mine enough yet that I didn’t find it unpleasant.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes then turn out to a rack to cool.

Just to note, Heatter suggests that the bread be cooled out of the loaf pan but upside down on the rack, I presume to square off the loaf, so this is an option for more perfectly square bread.

Salted and Honeyed Brown Butter Spread

1 stick (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, divided
1 to 2 tablespoons honey (use less for lightly sweet, more for a more traditional honey butter)
Few pinches flaky sea salt

In a small saucepan, melt half your butter over medium heat. Once melted, reduce heat to medium-low. The butter will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. While it is cooling, leave the other half of the butter out to soften slightly (semi-firm is fine).

Whip softened butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Slowly drizzle in the room temperature browned butter, honey and salt continue whipping until combined. Chill butter in fridge until a nice spreadable consistency, or until needed.


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