One of my favorite things about estate sales is the element of surprise.
One of my other favorite things is the thrill of the hunt.
And when you combine those things together, oh brother, what do you get?
You get a very enthusiastic woman screaming “THIS IS MINE NOW” in the middle of a sale after she unexpectedly happens upon a Pyrex Bake-a-Round from the 1970s.
As I do before any estate sale, I combed the pictures at EstateSales.NET and mentally mapped-out my way through the sale. I had my plan. I would start with the beautiful saltwater aquarium near the entry that I secretly wanted, even though I knew there was no way I would properly care for it if I brought it home. But it never hurts to look, right?
And I knew there was a dulcimer that I had to check out for a coworker. It looked like it would be the next stop after my longing-gander at the tank.
Then, it would be time for the kitchen items. Although I didn’t see anything on my list of secretly coveted treasures, I knew there was always the chance that I might happen upon something I’ve never seen before, which is always fun.
And there it was: the Bake-a-Round.
As seen on T.V.
It wasn’t in the pictures on EstateSales.NET. I study those things like a Where’s Waldo, only instead of Waldo I’m searching for that VHS-based board game “Atmosfear” I played once as a kid, or a set of Franciscan Starburst dishes. If that Bake-a-Round was in the pictures, I would have seen it and made a beeline for it when I arrived, bypassing even the fish tank. The fish tank, people!
So it’s mine now. I brought it back to the office, cleaned it out, and began dreaming of bread.
Which is not unusual, but this time I had a reason beyond my own gluttony.
And look, I know you probably fall into one of two categories: you’re either incredibly excited for me and my good fortune, or you’re wondering what the big deal about baking in a glass tube is.
Well, let’s turn all of you into the former, why don’t we?
For its maiden bake, I chose to go classic and make the Basic White Bread recipe that was included in the packaging. I appreciated that the recipe had very short rise-times. When I have a hankering for bread, I don’t have time to play around.
To make this bread, you’ll need:
½ cup milk
1-½ tablespoons sugar
1-¼ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons shortening
½ cup water
1 package dry yeast
3 cups flour
An unspecified amount of butter
First, warm up your milk, and add the sugar, salt, and shortening until it’s all melted together.
Real talk: this is the first time since childhood that I’ve used shortening. It didn’t melt right away. I needed to heat up the milk again. You can too.
Next, pour the warm water into a bowl, add the yeast and stir until dissolved, then add the milk mixture. Then add 1-½ cups of flour and beat the mixture vigorously. Stir in most of the remaining flour and knead (either on a lightly-floured board or, as in my case, using your stand mixer’s bread hook) until the dough is smooth, non-sticky, and elastic. If you need to add more flour to achieve this, do so.
Place the dough in a lightly-greased bowl. Grease the top of the dough-ball as well. Cover the bowl and set it in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size (about 30 minutes).
Punch down the dough to remove bubbles, and then roll it up jelly roll-style (i.e. lay it out in a 6” x 10” rectangle, and roll the dough, starting at the narrow end. Seal the dough about every half-turn, and then again very well at the end.
Grease the Bake-a-Round tube. We used canola spray, and the next day saw a note in the instructions that said “do not use oil.”
The tube did not explode and no one died, but that’s not to say it won’t happen next time. So maybe try yours with butter or shortening, just to be safe.
Center the dough in the middle of the tube. Push the ends of the dough together well with both hands, until it’s about 4”-6” long and almost touches the top of the tube. Then butter both ends of the bread to help keep things from drying out. Cover each end of the tube with aluminum foil and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or so, until the dough is almost doubled.
To be honest, ours expanded a bit too much. The dough, ultimately, should be at least an inch away from either end. Otherwise, as it bakes, it will bake around (ha!) the edges of the rack. It’s not the end of the world if that happens, but it does kind of take away from the magic of a tube of bread.
The instructions say to bake the bread (in the tube, in the rack) at 375-degrees for 50 minutes. But ours took 30 minutes before it was golden brown and gave a hollow *thump* when you tapped on it We carefully removed the tube from the rack (which was a little cumbersome since, as mentioned, our bread over-rose), and it slid easily from the tube.
That was the magic I was waiting for.
I have, of course, had bread pop out of a baking pan with relative ease, but something about that tube just made me fear the whole thing would get stuck.
And it wasn’t just me. As I paraded my Bake-a-Round around to show off to anyone who would feign the slightest bit of interest, that was the most popular question: Won’t it get stuck?
And look at the perfect results. Delicious round bread, just waiting for a slice of cheese, a piece of salami, a shmear of butter, or nothing at all. A friend commented that it’s the perfect size for a tomato sandwich, which I suppose is true if you’re into that sort of thing.
I spend my spare time planning my next loaf of bread to attempt in the Bake-a-Round and wondering when I will find my next coveted treasure. Will I find the #44 yellow Pyrex bowl from my childhood at my next estate sale. What about a Bakelite-handled cake breaker? Time will tell.