Romancing the Bread: Sally Lund

The other day I baked up a large loaf of Sally Lund bread and was instantly transported back to my days of frequenting the Bahamas.  Within a heartbeat of sampling its yeasty-buttery- eggy-sweet-softness, I flashed on the much adored Bahama bread sold throughout the islands there.

Sally Lunn 0364One of the highlights of any trip to the Bahamas especially to the outer islands of the Exumas, the Abacos and beyond, is to enjoy slices of their famed Bahama bread.  Local women have mustered up a small industry catering to island trade and cultivating a loyal client base of return visitors— all seeking a supply of this addictive bread.  Once you’ve inhaled it and savored it, you are hooked.

For those aboard itinerant sailboats and motor yachts, it represents lingering sessions of bread sliced with island jam or made into cinnamon toast, French toast, lobster sandwiches, or perhaps a creamy bread pudding.  The association of the bread with the laid-back joy of island life blend into one and are forever linked.  You eat your fill while it’s fresh and freeze what you can — but it’s never quite the same.

Since the Bahamas remain an Independent Commonwealth of Great Britain, their relationship is deeply entwined, spanning back to the early 1700’s.  It’s likely that both Bahama and Sally Lund breads have similar pedigrees with the French brioche style of bread.  In Bath, England, its history dates to the late 1600’s when French baker, “Sally Lund” (Anglicized pronunciation) arrived on the scene. The story goes that her unique brioche bread became so popular that it soon bore her name. Variations of the sweet buttery-egg enriched bread, fashioned into both loaves and buns, have been a staple in the taverns and inns of Bath ever since.

Of course, American colonists had their own versions of Sally Lund bread, and it was also destined to become an intrinsic part of Southern comfort and hospitality.  In Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie, Bill Neal refers to it as “resembling a brioche in texture, the aristocrat of Southern breads.”  That’s lofty praise.

From a purely pragmatic perspective, it is actually a well-mannered batter bread that requires no kneading and can be prepared a day ahead — which allows you more time to prepare yourself for a real treat.  Simply enjoy the loaf freshly sliced with butter and a bit of jam, or as an easy dessert topped with seasonal fruit slathered with a lovely custard sauce.

Sally Lund Bread

Inspired by  Biscuits, Spoonbread, and Sweet Potato Pie by Bill Neal, and other sources

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup sugar (or more to taste)
  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  •  4 eggs, beaten well
  •  2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, approximate

Directions

  1. Spray and butter a 9″ tube pan or two 6-cup loaf pans.
  2. Heat milk, add sugar and stir until it dissolves; cool to warm to the touch.  Dissolve the yeast in the milk and let stand in a warm place until bubbly, about 10 minutes.
  3. Combine the eggs, salt, and melted butter in a small container.
  4. In mixing bowl with paddle mixer, add the flour and stir in the milk/yeast mixtures to combine.  Then add the egg/butter mixture.  Beat until a smooth, soft batter forms.
  5. Remove dough to a clean, buttered bowl.  Cover, and set in a warm place to rise until it doubles in size, about 1 hour.  (Or store in refrigerator overnight, well wrapped.  For chilled dough, turn out into flour board to divide into 2 loaves or proceed with tube pan.)
  6. Using a wooden spoon beat down the room temperature dough to deflate it and spread it evenly into the baking pan/s.   Cover, and let rise again until light and doubled, about 1 hour.  Meanwhile preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Bake the bread until it is gold brown and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, 35- 40 minutes.  Let cool on a rack about 10 minutes and then turn out of pan onto the rack to cool.   Makes 1 to 2 loaves.

 

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