The Ballad of Sally Lunn

Bread #8: Sally Lunn Bread (click on the link to find the Smitten Kitchen Sally Lunn Bread recipe)

This week I followed a Sally Lunn Bread recipe from Smitten Kitchen to a delicious somewhat hybrid of Brioche and the English Muffin. As you might guess, it’s packed full of butter making it deliciously rich and flaky but also kind of cake-like, moist in a melt in your mouth sort of way. Below you can see my rendition:

Like the English muffin, Sally Lunn is best served with a smear of butter and some good jam to be eaten for breakfast or a tea-time snack. I chose a fig-muscat jam for mine:


The origin of Sally Lunn bread is unclear. There are quite a few myths about how this bread came about. Some say it was originally made by Protestant refugees from France who referred to the brioche-like bread as “solil et loon” or Sun and moon, named for its warm glowing exterior and spongy moon-like interior. At the time of its invention, a great many French Protestants had come to England to escape persecution in France after Louise XIV rovoked the Edict of Nantes and left them vulnerable to attack. The most popular myth holds that Sally Lunn came from a French pastry cook, Solange Luyanm a protestant refugee who escaped to Bath, England to work under a baker. Here, her bread became her saving grace as she went from selling bread in the streets to finding success baking in the shops.

However Sally Lunn bread came to being, one thing is clear, how much it was loved by all who’ve enjoyed it since. The celebration of Sally Lunn Bread is especially evident in the Receipt to Make Sally Lunn, published in the 1876 Monthly Magazine and written through lyrical verse by the late Major Drew of Exeter.

A well-known cake at Bath
Written by the late Major DREWE, of Exeter

NO more I heed the muffin zest
The Yorkshire cake or bun
Sweet Muse of Pastry teach me how
To make a Sally Lunn.

Take thou of luscious wholesome cream
What the full pint contains
Warm as the native Mood which glows
In youthful virgin’s veins

Hast thou not seen in olive rind
The wall-tree’s rounded nut
Of juicy butter just its size
In thy clean pastry put

Hast thou not seen the golden yolk
In Chrystal shrine immur’d
Whence brooded o’er by sostring wing
Forth springs the warrior bird?

Oh save three birds from savage man
And combat’s sanguine hour
Cush in three yolk, the seeds of life
And on the butter pour

Take then a cup that hold the juice
Fam’d China’s fairest pride
Let foaming yeast its concave fill
And froth adown its side

But seek thou first for neatness sake
The Naiad’s crystal stream
Swift let it round the concave play
And o’er the surface gleam

Of salt more keen than that of Greece
Which cooks not poets use
Sprinkle thou then with sparing hand
And thro the mass diffuse

Then let it rest disturb’d no more
Safe in its steady feat
Till thrice Time’s warning bell hath struck
Nor yet the hour compleat

And now let Fancy revel free
By no stern rule confin’d
On glittr’ing tin in varied form
Each Sally-Lun be twin’d

But heed thou west to lift thy thought
To me thy power divine
Then to the oven’s glowing mouth
The woud’rous work consign

With respect to the mythic freedom this bread has brought, I present a modern rewrite of this receipt, in free verse, collaboratively written by myself (assigned the odd number stanzas) and my dearest friend, Samantha Melvin (assigned the even number stanzas) whose own blog, Learning to Walk a Tightrope, can be found here.

The Ballad of Sally Lunn

Stick your muffins and Yorkshire cakes
where the sun don’t shine
Show me a marriage of night and day
consecrated with the ballad of Sally Lunn

Show me a single pint of wholesome cream
luscious, hot like
the curves of Luna

I’ll show you the olive rind
It’s seeds round as fresh-cut navals on
Babes born in the throes of paradise,
where butter bleeds into clouds that crumble
like pastry, crumbs like soil but clean as
a whistle on the long-awaited train
singing Sweet Sweet Freedom

But what of the golden yolk,
Pilfered from the warrior bird
Whose wings travel no farther than the brood,
Now stored in the Chrystal shrine immured?
What’s become of it?


Sings the birds nesting
new life on the crowns of savages.
They flutter against the currents of hopeful thoughts:
a projection of future bliss from minds uncultured by
Their beaks bat the seeds of life until
yolks drip to the world below into
clouds clogged with butter

Into hands that embrace a cup
Filled to the brim,
Overflowing, dripping
Down our fingers strong

We’re distracted.

Naiad, the female spirit of fresh water lakes
plays a childhood game with us,
the discards of Paradise.
She hides in our reflection,
our crystal clear faces: a blemish on her mighty
Home. We seek her power.
Let her bring life Sally Lunn

Frugality is the sleight of hand
Extant is the bread of life
Salvation is the open palm

What a wonder it is to be safe,
To find comfort in completion
Only to be disturbed three times by the
Knock knock knock of Time
As it rests beneath the hour.

But now the bread of life revels free
for all with open palms
Un-confined, un-coiled in twine
Or tin or chain or wire

Out of the ash-christened stove
It rises
plump with the divine child
Sally Lunn; the union of Sun and Moon—



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