Hazel hosts her Wisteria Tea every spring, celebrating the spectacular wisteria vine that swathes her pergola in fragrant lavender blossoms. This event is coming right up, and we’re thinking about our menu. I’ve been poring over my older cookbooks, and I found this comment in the 1975 Joy of Cooking, on the subject of tea breads: “Nut and fruit breads are attractive baked in six-oz. metal juice cans so that they slice prettily for tea.”This set us off on an exploration of baking breads in cans. Not juice cans. I can see the charm in tiny rounds of bread but I can’t imagine what I’d do with the contents of the innumerable six-ounce cans I’d need. (Can you tell I don’t drink bloody Marys?)
I started with what used to be known as one-pound cans (now generally 14.5 ounces) and a recipe from the 1972 Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook for carrot bread. I discovered two things: Filling a can three-fourths full so it can rise, per the directions in Joy of Cooking, does not give the batter room enough. (Maybe it works with six-ounce cans?) I opened the oven just in time to see the batter rise over the top and slide slowly down the side and plop onto the bottom of the oven. Discovery number two: The resulting bread is a bit too sweet for sandwiches. Delicious, yes, and the crumb is lovely and delicate, but a cup of brown sugar is too much for my taste.
Version number two: I reduced the amount of sugar and filled the cans a little less than two-thirds. Oh, and this time I remembered to add the nuts.
Here’s the recipe, as modified. I think it’s going to be great with egg salad and watercress, but I plan to experiment with sandwich toppings also.
Carrot Sandwich Bread
1 cup finely grated carrots
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup boiling water
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup chopped pecans
Combine the carrots, sugar, vegetable oil and soda in a large bowl; boil the boiling water over all and stir to mix. Let cool.
Beat the eggs with a fork and add to the cooled carrot mixture. Combine the dry ingredients and stir in quickly, just until the batter comes together. Mix in the pecans. Pour into the greased cans—leaving about one third of the can for head room–and let stand for a few minutes.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes. Cool thoroughly before attempting to remove from the cans. I found that it came right out when I left enough room for the bread to rise. It’s easier to slice if you chill in the fridge overnight.