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Sally Lunn Bread

This recipe is adapted from ``Bill Neal's Southern Cooking'' (University of North Carolina Press, 1985). The long beating by hand develops the gluten in the flour and encourages the characteristic light and airy texture that resembles that of French brioche. Newer versions of this old-fashioned Southern yeast bread use an electric mixer. Take your choice.

Since anyone making Thanksgiving dinner has much to do already, this sweet, rich, light bread would make an ideal present for your host or hostess for the feast. It is best served warm from the oven with butter. Sliced, lightly toasted, and served with jam or fruit, it is delicious for breakfast. Any leftovers make a first-rate bread pudding.

1 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup sugar
1 package active dry yeast
3 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

Combine the milk, 1/2 cup butter, and sugar in a saucepan. Gently heat until the butter and sugar are dissolved in the milk. Let cool to lukewarm, then stir in the yeast and let it sit until little bubbles appear. Stir in the eggs.

Put the mixture in a large bowl and blend in the flour and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until the dough becomes elastic and shiny, beating 400 strokes. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume. Beat the dough down, counting 50 strokes, and set aside for 15 minutes.

Generously butter a tube pan with the remaining butter. Beat the dough another 50 strokes and put it evenly in the tube pan. Cover again and let rise until doubled.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake in the middle of the oven until the bread is risen and golden in color, about 40 minutes.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

By Elizabeth Riely, Globe Correspondent

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