A reader asked for some help finding an old recipe called Sally Lunn Bread or Cake.
It wasn't hard to find information about this type of sweet yeast bread, which originated in Bath, England. The recipe is said to have arrived with a French emigree in the 17th century.
It is traditionally served sliced horizontally and toasted. It looks much like an American hamburger bun.
It is served with sweet or savory toppings, but often just spread with plain or flavored butters, jam and clotted cream. It is still produced commercially in Bath and can be sampled at Sally Lunn's House in the city.
It is by sheer coincidence that I have been to Bath and eaten at the Sally Lunn's House for High Tea. I distinctly remember eating a half-portion of the brioche-like sweet bun with salmon, while my mother had hers with lemon curd and clotted cream.
There is a reference in a Charles Dickens short novel, "The Chimes," about the bakery item. A dreary evening is described as "the sort of night that's meant for muffins ... Likewise crumpets. Also Sally Lunns."
The buns traveled across the Atlantic centuries ago. They are a favorite of Southern bakers in the U.S. and sometimes called Sally Lunn Cake because it can be made in a tube pan. This recipe is from a food blog called NotQuiteNigella.com.
Sally Lunn Buns
1 cup milk
3/4 cup butter
4 to 4 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup caster or superfine sugar
1 tablespoon instant dried yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 egg mixed with 2 tablespoons milk for egg wash
1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and melt the butter on low heat until the butter melts, but do not boil the milk. Cool for about 15 minutes.
Beat the eggs in a bowl with a whisk until light and fluffy.
2. Meanwhile, mix the flour, sugar and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.
While mixing on the lowest speed, add the butter mixture and then the eggs and mix for 6 minutes until it becomes elastic. In the last minute or so add the salt. It will be a wet and sticky mixture but don't fret, it is meant to be like that.
3. Grease a very large bowl with butter and place the now very sticky dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise 1 hour to 90 minutes in a warm space in a draft-free room.
It will really rise up high. Punch it down and knead the dough for 2 minutes.
4. You can make these using small greased baking tins, or do them free-form: Divide into about 10-12 buns and allow to rise for another 30 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Just before they are ready to be put in the oven, brush buns with the egg wash and bake 15-20 minutes. Serve warm or toasted with just about anything.