About a year ago during a time of pandemic-influenced baking and baking interest, an article came about through which I learned about the delightfully unnecessary bread tube. These long aluminum tubes molded into fanciful shapes – mostly hearts, flowers, and stars – were used to bake yeasted and quick breads alike into sculpted loaves. They do not purport to enhance flavor or texture. Nor do they claim to make the bake more efficient. They simply produce something that would, say, be found on either end of the most precious cucumber sandwiches stacked on a tea tray, or tucked into the lunch box of a child who has a parent that goes the extra mile. But these specific instances could just as well be achieved with a regular loaf tin, a knife, and a cookie cutter if one’s heart is so inclined. The bread tube seemed the very essence of novelty unitasker-hood taken to another level on the merit of pure aesthetic fancy and the added difficulty inherent in getting a bake actually right in the contraption.
Naturally, I have been on the lookout for them ever since.
So, it was my good fortune to move to an area that is home to at least one tag sale a week and a plethora of antique, consignment, and used-good shops. For, amidst a table full of unopened yarn from the 60’s and out of print first editions, a box of bread tubes cried out to me. After a cursory check on their condition, which proved to be near pristine, and an approving price of $3 dollars, I thanked the good people of the Lutheran church and brought them into my life.
I didn’t get to inducting them into the kitchen immediately. I wanted to make sure I had my wits about me and the right recipe for my first steps. There were also other bakes to be made, for an apple picking trip notfollowed by an apple pie was a tradition I simply could not bring myself to break in such idyllic fall surroundings. But after a week or two, when the time for my weekly sweet baking approached, I laid eyes on a can of pumpkin puree kicking around and it all fell into place. The texture of a pumpkin cake batter would be perfect to test out the bread tube baking experience. And, if all went well, I could cut the cutely shaped cake into slices that I could adorn with maple frosting and toasted candied nuts, perhaps some sugar work as well, to make little entremets, perfect for at-work building wide distribution. I did a final brush-up on the process and got to creation.
The batter was standard and came together in no time. I approached a crossroads, however, when it was time to pour it into the tubes. My reading had told me that it was good practice to only fill the tube halfway, especially for the first couple bakes with them, since the breads would expand. But the amount of batter I found myself with would fill one tube halfway, and another only a quarter. While I knew I should probably play it safe, I hated the feeling of inefficiency in using – and therefore cleaning – two tubes for batter that didfit into one with space at the top. It wasn’t half a tube of space, but a quarter seemed healthy, especially for a non-yeasted bread. I poured it all in, covered the end with parchment paper and lid, and placed the sheet pan holding the upright tube in the oven. After setting the timer for 50 minutes I waited all of 3 before turning the oven light on and peaking in the window to check for disaster. Oddly enough, all seemed calm thus far. I went about my weekend cleaning with high hopes.
When I checked in about fifteen minutes later, however, the results of my hubris had begun to emerge. Literally. Around the bottom seam of the tube, small blurbs of batter had begun to seep out. No matter, I thought. There was nothing to be done about it at that point anyway, and a little leakage was truly no big thing.
And then a little leakage turned into a lot.
Enough to begin a cake that was fully baking on the sheet pan independently of the tube.
Enough that I put another sheet pan under it for overflow protection.
I had definitely overfilled.
By the time the timer went off I had an amorphous sheet cake and seemingly baked bread tube on my hands. And only after ten minutes of cooling would I be able to discover if the baked shapes that existed on either end of the tube were signs of success or red herrings. Having already made one clear mistake that day, I exercised patience with the cooling, and waited the necessary time before trying to unmold. When I did, I was met with a duality. I had two ends of cleanly shaped pumpkin cake flowers, but the middle was the site that demonstrated my folly. Between two well-baked ends was a gaping hole. I had cake, yes, but only on the ends and sides. The bulk of the cake was to be found on the pan.
The Carnage of Cake left from Poor Bread Tube Execution
But while I did not have a beautiful, entremets-ready cake to work with, I did have a tasty one that was perfectly usable for other creations. And so, after some noodling with the possibilities and weighing them against what I had on hand and actually wanted (because honestly, a cake pop is never going to be the most appealing option. Keep them at Starbucks and Starbucks alone) I turned my haphazard cake mistake into a pumpkin spiced bread pudding, a perfect base for the local maple cream ice cream I had waiting in the freezer. It also turned it into a full-on bread pudding day, as dinner was already slated to be a savory mushroom bread pudding/stuffing hybrid to use up some old, imperfect bread that was also in the freezer. So, while my aversion to inefficiency did lead me down the garden path to less than ideal aesthetic results, it did lead to more efficiency in using up the half-and-half. And most important of all, it lead me toward a delicious evening of bread pudding, a food theme of the day I would highly recommend.
Foiled plans make for a rockin’ bread pudding with a scoop of ice cream and a previous weeks caramel sauce success
I’ll be taking another stab at bread tube baking soon, likely with a banana bread, but careful to keep myself in check when it comes to filling time. Yet, it is a comfort to know that even if I find myself facing an overflowing tube again, it will not necessarily mean facing a wasted bake. And, in the spirit of the inherent superfluity of the bread tube, it never really mattered in the first place anyway. The creative journey was the thing I was after, and in that it truly delivered.