Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sally Lunn Bread and the Dangers of Overmixing

While poking through my Joy of Cookinglooking for something to bake (and an excuse to use my new mixer) with limited ingredients on hand, I came across a recipe for Sally Lunn Bread, which contains nothing more than sugar, fat, flour, eggs, milk, and a pinch of salt: things I try to have in my pantry at all times. It actually sounded really bland, but two and a half years ago I actually was in Bath, home of the apparently famous Sally Lunn's, which I seem to recall being toted as the "oldest house in Bath" or something. We were escorted to some frou-frou, overcrowded tea room and ordered the standard afternoon tea meal-esque thing - tea and a Sally Lunn Bun, served with tea and Devonshire clotted cream (which I still crave every now and then) and cinnamon butter. In all honestly I have no recollection of how good or not good this thing was, so I'm guessing it was just something that made me less hungry for maybe two hours or so.

Anyway, I tried making this at my house and I learned a few things. First, if you're going to make sweetened butter (yes, I tried making cinnamon butter), you're going to want to sift your sugar or else it's going to be all lumpy and ugmo-spreading. I never sift anything, somewhat because I'm a lazy bastard about that, but mostly because I don't actually own a sifter. I think that would stop you from sifting too, but if you have a sifter, you should sift your powdered sugar before you make sweetened butter.

Second, don't walk away from your mixer while it's mixing a cake (or muffins, or anything really) to go have an IM conversation with someone. Overmixing is bad. It makes things un-fluffy and dense and unappetizing. Overmixing is hard to do when you don't have a mixer - you just combine everything until there's not dots of flour left and then you STOP.

So my Sally Lunn cake ended up slightly bricklike, and the cinnamon butter is still sitting in my fridge waiting for me to sledge it on to something, and I ate the cake with some butter smudged onto it for breakfast for a few days but Ralph-dog got about half of it. He digs the overmixing, but I swore to him, and I'm swearing to you, dear readers, that I am going to use my mixer more conscientiously from now on.

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