On a visit to Bath, England in 2010, I had afternoon tea at Sally Lunn's Historic Eating House & Museum. Despite the sketchy history, I enjoyed the tour of the historic house/bakery, and the food was tasty. Here are some pictures from Sally Lunn's in Bath:
|Sally Lunn's, Bath, England|
|"Sally Lunn" Baking her Buns!|
|Close Up of the Cooking Hearth at Sally Lunn's.|
Third: Another theory suggests that the bread came from The Alsatian region of France. This theory suggests the French origins of its name; however, it is difficult to prove this theory either. As a matter of fact, the first French record of Sally Lunn is from 1815 by the French chef, Antonin Careme who visited Brighton, England to cook for the Prince Regent at the Royal Pavilion. At Brighton, the French chef was supposedly introduced to Sally Lunn bread; but then when he returned to Paris, he introduced this bread to the French claiming it as his own creation. There are many holes in this story, too, but the biggest one is the fact that Careme did not go to Brighton until 1816! So how did he learn about it before he ever even visited England?
It is not surprising that there is no easy answer explaining the origin of this recipe. Folk traditions get passed on from one generation and/or region to another and therefore, while there is a lot of repetition, there can also be a lot of variation in both the history of the tradition and in its execution (in this case variations in the recipe).
While the origin of Sally Lunn Bread may continue to be an enigma, there is no doubt as to the deliciousness of the bread. Below are several examples of historic recipes for Sally Lunn. Both the c.1770 Virginia and the c.1824 Baltimore recipes use yeast as a leaven but there is no mention of any flavorings such as mace. Rutledge’s, The Carolina Housewife, (1847), includes chemical leavenings of tartaric acid and soda (either sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate) instead of yeast, and she also instructs cooks to flavor the bread with mace. I offer a simple modern adaptation below combining elements of each of these recipes.
Recipes from the Raleigh Tavern Bake Shop, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Publication. Williamsburg, VA: 1984.
Sally Lunn – Mrs. Merryman, c.1824
The Manuscript of Ann Maria Morris, Maryland Historical Society, Special Collections Library
Sally Lunn, c.1847
This recipe is the one that I have been using of decades. It offers a rich and moist center with a firm but not tough crust. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Note: This recipe takes many hours to allow the dough to rise several times; therefore, start it in the morning for an evening meal.
1 Cup Warm Water
2-1/4 Teaspoons Active Dry Yeast (One - 1/4 Ounce Packet)
1/4 cup Soft Butter
This is how the dough should look after rising for one hour:
5. Stir down dough and mix in remaining cup of flour. I like to use a wet wooden spoon to do this. The moisture on the spoon prevents the dough from sticking to it too badly. It should look like this:
7. Grease a 9-inch tube pan with butter and pour/scoop the batter evenly into the tube pan. Cover tube pan and let the dough rise in a warm place for 20 minutes. Heat the oven to 350º F while the dough is rising this last time.
8. Place the tube pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 45 minutes or until bread is brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped.
9. Serve warm. Butter, honey, apple butter, jam, and marmalade go very well with this bread when it is hot. Cooled slices of the bread can be used to make sandwiches.
4. Alan Davidson, The Penguin Companion to Food, 2002, p. 820.