The mysterious Sally Lunn

You may have heard of Sally Lunn and her buns, even if you haven’t been to the lovely and ancient city of Bath in our county of Somerset. There is evidence of people  living around the area of Bath since the Bronze Age, but it’s the buildings which the Romans built around the  natural hot springs which is still most in evidence now. Some Arthurain legends have the city as the site of King Arthur’s Battle of Bardon, and there are strong legendary associations with him and the area, especially at Glastonbury, about twenty-five miles away. In more recent times, Bath became more fashionable in Regency times, and this is about the time that a yeasted bun called a Sally Lunn became popular.

Whether there really was a person after whom Sally Lunns were named, or a person who first created them, or whether it’s a mispronunciation of the name of a French Huguenot woman – possibly baker, no-one actually knows. The name, but not the bun, is a mystery… but it doesn’t matter, you can visit Bath and go to The Sally Lunn Eating House, have a nice cup of tea and a bun. This establishment is extremely old, so even if you only have a cup of tea and miss the bun, it is still an interesting place to visit with an old oven in the basement which dates to 1137.

By the way, don’t confuse the Sally Lunn with the Bath bun; the Bath bun, which seems to be older in terms of when there is first a recorded mention of it, is also a yeasted bun but it has crystals of sugar on the top, dried fruit inside, and sometimes a whole lump of sugar too, whereas the Sally Lunn is plainer and not as sweet.

This may not be the original recipe which apparently was brought from France, but this is the one I have in my Somerset recipe collection:

The Sally Lunn

  • ¾ oz fresh yeast/ 3 level tbsp dried yeast
  • 2 level tbsp castor sugar
  • 2 fl oz warm milk
  • 9 oz strong flour
  • ½ level tsp salt
  • 1 oz sugar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 oz melted butter
  • 3 fl oz warm milk (another three as well as that above)
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tsp castor sugar
  • 1½ fl oz hot milk
  1. put the yeast and 2 level tbsp castor sugar in a basin, add the 2 fl oz warm milk and mix then beat together, leave in a warm place for 30 mins
  2. mix the flour, sugar, salt and zest
  3. beat the 2 oz melted butter and the 3 fl oz warm milk together, add the egg and beat some more!
  4. add alternately the yeast mixture and the flour mixture to the egg, butter and milk mixture, beating well so it’s all blended
  5. pull together and then knead really well for about 10 mins
  6. form into a round and put into a very well buttered round 8½ inch, 22 cm cake tin; cover with a buttered paper and a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for another 30 mins until it’s nicely risen
  7. bake in a hot oven, 210º C, 450º F, gas mark 8  for 15 mins
  8. dissolve the 1 tsp castor sugar in the 1½ fl oz hot milk to make glaze
  9. when the bun is cooked, take it from the oven, brush with sugar milk glaze, return it to the oven for 2 minutes

There is a particular way the bun should be served:

  1. when cool, slice the bun twice (into thirds) so you have three circles of bun
  2. spread with a lovely lot of Somerset butter
  3. put the bun back to ether again and cut into 12 slices
  4. serve immediately with a cup of tea

I have no picture of a Sally Lunn, I ate mine without remembering totake a photo… my featured image is of Bath

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