I've not been very successful with bread baking in the past. My friends are. My friends make beautiful bread, and post photos of it, and I help to cheer their accomplishments, but inside I am secretly jealous.
Why can't I make bread? I think, gazing longingly at my oven. What's wrong with me?
The obvious answer, that I'm clearly descended from aristocracy rather than bread baking peasant stock and am therefore genetically predisposed to have others make bread for me, offers little comfort as I stare at small, salty, dismal loaves produced and quickly disposed of in my kitchen. I tried to address this problem earlier this year, using a kit, but met with only partial success.
That's why I was so excited the other day to find a happy collision of my Pyrex hobby and my cooking hobby:
The Pyrex Bake-A-Round, produced in the 1970's and possibly into the 1980's. The Bake-A-Round isn't particularly sought after by collectors, and is often found (like mine) in the box, but it was only three dollars, it wasn't broken, and the original instructions were still inside, so I figured it was worth a try. How could my bread possibly get any worse?
I assembled all of my tools and ingredients:
(At this point my friend Heather is looking at that Pyrex bowl and saying, "Old Orchard? You hate Old Orchard." It was a gift.)
The Bake-A-Round instructions said that I could use any bread recipe, so I figured that I would just try the mix again, since it was partially successful. I started activating my yeast in warm faucet water, and then set about greasing the inside of the Bake-A-Round, which is easier said than done:
Fortunately, the instructions said to start at one end and grease toward yourself. They also said not to use oil, which is why I didn't just spray the inside of the tube with cooking spray. I was kind of terrified that if I used spray the glass tube would explode in my oven, so I followed the instructions, and greased the hell out of that thing:
Then I got to work on the bread. The Bake-A-Round instructions said to shape your loaf on waxed paper, so I did:
I then realized that the loaf had to fit inside the Bake-A-Round, and therefore had to be longer and skinnier, rather than rounded, so I had to shape it again. Then, following the instructions, I slid the waxed paper into the tube:
The next step was a minor disaster. The Bake-A-Round instructions say to slide the dough to the middle of the tube, then turn it upside down, and the dough will fall off of the waxed paper, which you then slide out.
The hell it does.
If you ever have a Bake-A-Round of your own, grease the waxed paper, too.
After a lot of shaking and cursing, I extricated the waxed paper from the tube and tried to shake the dough back toward the center:
At this point you cover the ends of the tube with foil, then put it in the holder and leave it somewhere warm to rise. This has been a problem with my bread baking in the past. My apartment doesn't have a spot warm enough, usually. This time, though, I set the oven on "warm" and put the whole thing inside...
AND IT WORKED.
Look how much bigger the bread got! It rose! Never again will hunchbread shame my kitchen!
Excited, I warmed up the oven (which needs cleaning; don't judge) and slide the Bake-A-Round inside for baking:
I ignored it through the entire baking process, although I did keep an ear open for the sound of exploding glass. I didn't get an oven full of glass and bread dough, though.
I got a somewhat attractive loaf of bread:
It's round, and crusty, and soft and airy on the inside:
And I made it.