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Saturday, 01 January 2000

Tomato on Sally Lunn Bread--The Messiest Sandwich on Earth

Written by  Ansell Hawkins

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Let's make Sally Lunn bread and then turn it into a memorable sandwich dripping with juice from fresh tomatoes! As the story goes, a young girl in eighteenth century Bath, England, sold buns that were dark on top and light underneath, likened to the sun and moon (Sel et Lune). Keep saying it fast and you'll get "Sally Lunn."

Because the bread takes 1 hour to rise and then another rise of 1 hour before baking for 45 minutes, this can become a morning or afternoon project punctuated with trips for the kids to clean up their rooms or read something from their summer lists. Call them back to punch the dough down, either with their fists or with a heavy wooden spoon. Punching the dough was the "highlight of the activity" for Kyle (age 5), said Mom M. of California. If there is no rise and everyone agrees to continue on anyway, expect it to be "sort of fun, but a very sticky mess," said another mom.


* 3 1/2 - 4 cups all purpose flour
* 1/3 cup sugar
* 1 package active dry yeast ( be sure to check the date)
* 1/2 cup milk
* 1/2 cup warm water
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 3 large eggs
* 1 stick butter/ 4 ounces/ 8 tablespoons


* 2 loaf pans
* 1 serrated knife
* 1 large bowl
* 1 small saucepan
* 1 whisk
* 1 wooden spoon


The Hannans called themselves the Little Chef/Big Chef team as they gathered The ingredients and made everything ready. Mom M. reported too that measuring made it "fun to confirm how much Addison (7) and Kyle know about things like 1/3 cup and 1/2 teaspoon." Then she let them get the project underway: "Have your kids pour the 1/2 cup warm, not hot, water into a large mixing bowl."

Add the yeast and sugar, stirring gently to dissolve. This is called proofing the yeast, and it will create a bubbly mixture in 10-15 minutes, "proof" that the yeast is still active. If this bubbly action does not happen, do what Lynda Hannan did when she advised son Jack (age 4), "I think your yeast is a little flat there, Son" and poured the whole mixture down the drain. Nothing on earth can persuade a yeast bread to rise if the yeast is dead. Don't let your nose be the guide, because as Peter, also age 4, noticed ," Yeast smells stinky- can I drink it?" There is, of course, no reason why Peter should not or cannot drink "it" although I strongly suggest a simple finger dip as opposed to a draught.

While the kids are completing that task, warm the 1/2 cup milk, butter and salt in a small saucepan, or as Big Chef Hannan put it, "until it reached the consistency of tiger butter." Lest you kill the yeast, keep this mixture from becoming too hot, or simply allow it to cool down. The youngsters may then add this liquid to the proofed mixture. Have them gently whisk one egg at a time into the mixture until blended.

Because the dough needs to be beaten and will become quite stiff, it may be best to move the large mixing bowl to the floor, perhaps on spread-out newspapers, with plenty of paper towels handy. According to their mom, Ryan (12), Rachel (9) and Christine (4) LaClair "liked getting messy."

Have the children add the flour, one cup at a time, stirring slowly to allow all the flour to incorporate before adding the next cup. The LaClairs also liked "trying the dough and the flour as they went." Soon, assuming there is any left, the dough will become somewhat elastic, pulling cleanly from the sides of the bowls. At this point, have the kids cover the bowl with a damp cloth and allow it to rise until double in bulk, usually an hour or so.

Send the children to play or do chores.

Call them back to punch the dough down, either with their fists or with a heavy wooden spoon. Then let them beat it 100 strokes, perhaps letting the youngest or smallest child go first. Have the kids divide the dough evenly and place it into the buttered loaf pans, covering again with the cloth and allowing to rise.

Parents, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and place the uncovered bread pans in the oven for 45-50 minutes.

Have the kids stay inside as their sense of smell will be the first indication that the bread is coming to done. Tap the loaves lightly with your fingertip and if they sound hollow, they are done. Remove them from the oven and let them cool in the pans 5 minutes before turning them out to cool on racks or astride the empty loaf pans. A half hour of cooling will make for easier slicing.

Now comes the messy part, and I've always found it best to lean into it and let it all roll down. Constant admonitions to be neat are fruitless and frustrating for everybody.

Find several ripe tomatoes, either off the backyard vines or at the market and slice them onto a platter. Slice the Sally Lunn, not too thick. Slather on mayonnaise, pile on the juicy reds, add salt and pepper to taste, and watch the slurping begin. Encourage the little ones to elaborate. Addison M. likes to add muenster cheese and turkey, while brother Kyle "thinks this is gross."

Keith LaClair said," It was the best dinner Peggy ever cooked."

Parents, don't despair. It is, after all, summer, and this sandwich is one best eaten outside on a picnic table. Send the little ones immediately afterward onto the slip-n-slide or under a sprinkler. Not in observance of the "half-hour rule" but simply to keep the waters clean, do not direct them to the pool. This is not a meal for the faint of heart, but rather for the bacchanalian in all of us. Have fun and hose down! --Ansell Hawkins


Last modified on Thursday, 03 March 2011 13:43
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