Thursday, March 24, 2011
Homemade white bread (Sally Lunn bread)
...and, look out, it hurts! Because I'm sure you're not quite sick of reading about the weather in PA, I'll be brief so as not to push you over the edge. Two days ago it was 70 degrees. Last night I left work and was soaked to the bone in about 3 solid minutes! This silly girl thought she could beat the raging storm when, in fact, the storm beat her... with hail the size of golf balls!
A tornado touched down about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh near my parents' house. The last time a tornado touched down in western PA in March? 1977 or something. Ridiculous! (Okay, you can uncover your eyes. The weather segment is finished.)
So, upon arriving home looking like a drowned rat, I did the most logical thing I could think of -- changed into sweats and baked up a nice loaf of the best white bread this world has ever known! Now, you must know that this wasn't just another loaf of white Wonder bread. This is the kind that makes me forget all about wheat, whole grain, ciabatta, foccacia, sourdough, and even the challah varieties. And, if there's one thing I love, it's bread of all kinds. I do not discriminate :) Like I said, self-crowned carb queen.
I spotted this recipe just over a week ago on one of my favorite food blogs. To the casual observer, it was just another white bread. But, to me, it screamed success from beginning to end. No kneading whatsoever, just pour the batter and go - two points. Common pantry ingredients - another point. Slightly sweet taste with a real crust but an inside that's light as air - point, point, point! Thank goodness I didn't banish it to the folder of bookmarked recipes on my internet explorer for later baking, as is normal practice.
Sally Lunn bread supposedly got its name from the woman (actually named Solange Luyon) and her eventual bakery in England where it was first made in the late 1600s. But, let's be honest -- who cares about the history? We're here to talk about delicious you because you're here to read about food, not history. What does matter is that her legendary bread has outlived her and kept her baking legacy alive.
This blows that age-old insult "plain white bread" right out of the water. For starters, it has some serious flavor! It's sweet without being cakey, moist without falling apart, and enveloped by a golden just-hard-enough crust that's worthy of a food magazine cover.
Oh, and did I mention the little air pockets throughout the bread? They make the bread so light and chewy, putting to rest those haunting memories you might have of dense and cardboard-like homemade bread. Shh, we won't discuss it any further. Let's focus on those air pockets. Happy thoughts.
Okay, maybe I'll have two pieces. It is warm and fresh out of the oven.
Oh, and those little pockets? Perfectly tasty on their own, but truly meant to hold some melted butter, perhaps a drizzle of honey and a sprinkling of salt or cinnamon. Be still my now-warm-and-safe-from-the-hail heart and happily-satisfied-stomach. Bring rain, hail, or snow, Mother Nature! Just let me have my bread :)
Sally Lunn Bread
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted the recipe from Maida Heatter's Cakes)
-makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf
A few notes: If someone told me she (or he) had never baked bread or wasn't familiar with working with yeast and wanted to change that, this is the recipe I'd offer. It's very novice-friendly! The first time I made this (yes, sans camera), my bread was done around 37 minutes. The second time it was done around 34, so I'd say to start checking your loaf a few minutes before the 35 to 40 window, just to be safe. Finally, as great as this is on its own, it makes great sandwiches and even better French toast a day later.
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 9-by-5-by-3-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. Cool in pan for 5 minutes then turn out to a rack to cool. (If you'd like to square off the loaf, cool it out of the pan and upside down on the rack.) Store, covered in plastic wrap or in a sealed container, for up to 5 days.