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I made a rule for myself that I am very surprised I've not yet broken: Don't keep bread at home unless you've baked it yourself. This exists because: 1) I'm a toast fiend, and 2) I have three bread-baking cookbooks I really ought to put to use. I don't have a stand mixer, so no dough hook attachment for me, just plain old-fashioned hand-kneading. So I turned to an old-fashioned recipe for bread in the likeliest of sources: Betty Crocker Lost Recipes: Beloved Vintage Recipes for Today's Kitchen.
There are a lot of eye-catching recipes in this book, from the 1950s-style cheese sandwich loaf (a four-layer sandwich frosted in cream cheese) to White Ting-a-Lings (a candied bark made of peanuts and chow mein noodles). But this bread recipe struck me the most, because on all counts, it seemed like regular ole' white bread, except it was round like a chiffon or Bundt cake. It's called Sally Lunn Bread, a close relative of Britain's brioche-like Sally Lunn bun.
As someone who does not own a tube pan (grrrrr N.Y.C. apartment space), I wondered if would be possible to use this same recipe in two loaf pans. Food52's managing editor and resident novice bread baker Joanna Sciarrino generously offered to take this idea for a test drive. It worked!
"This bread was exceptionally easy in that you literally combine everything in a big bowl, stir it together, let it rise, and then pour it into a pan to bake," she says. "More or less like a quick bread, only with an extra hour for proofing." The texture could be described as brioche-meets-English muffin, which is to say, it's a pretty rustic white bread, with a little bit of enrichment from the milk, butter, and eggs. Seasoned bakers might find it's nothing to write home about, but beginners will hold a loaf up to the air, in the style of Rafiki holding Simba in The Lion King.
At least, that's how I felt when I made it this weekend in two loaf pans, when I had absolutely no bread in my house and needed it ASAP, or I would cry from toast deprivation. It was my second time making my own bread, so I felt confident enough to add a teaspoon of dried rosemary to the batter while mixing. (Sorry, I lied—It wasn't of rosemary, but various sprinkles of this-and-that herbs in my pantry, including herb mixes like za'atar. Still, it was very addictive.) I'm no Eric Kayser, but baking this bread—and other no-knead breads like Alexandra Stafford's—gives me the confidence to actually use his cookbook. Since two loaves is a lot for one gal to eat, I plan on using leftovers for pangrattato and so much more.
Whether you choose to make Sally Lunn bread in its original tube form or any other shape, nothing—nothing!—will make your avocado toasts happier than homemade bread. Egg salads will be similarly grateful. Turn it into French toast (and twice fry it!). The friends and family you share it with will ask you for the recipe, and you will tell them: It is so easy. If I can do it, you can too.
- 1/2 cup very warm water (120° F to 130° F)
- 2 packets (2 1/4 teaspoons each) active dry yeast
- 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups very warm milk (120° F to 130° F)
- 1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon butter, if desired
Have you ever baked bread before? Would you like to start? Tell us about it in the comments!