Tucked away on some cozy lane of Bath, England, lies the birthplace of a bread which became a mad fad of the eighteenth century. There, a tea-shop proprietress, Sally Lunn, secured immortality for her name and the bread which she offered to her increasingly fashionable customers as the rich and titled occupied the tiny resort to take the waters. Or so goes the apocryphal history—unfortunately no historical record exists of the lady or her shop. A more academic, but equally undocumented, explanation proposes Sally Lunn as a corruption of “solimeme,” the name of a similar French bread from Alsace. Whatever its shady background, it became one of the most popular yeast breads of the South.
A vigorous hand beating is required to exercise the gluten, hence the stroke counts in the following recipe. The limited rotary action of a mixer or food processor cannot give the elastic stretch that you achieve through long and high strokes. Kneading a dough this soft would necessitate the incorporation of too much flour; the lovely brioche-like texture would be destroyed.