Friday, November 4, 2011

Be Prepared!

Election Day Cake

I have always loved Election Day. I love the exhilarating mystery that lurks in the brisk autumn air, the feeling of uncertainty, of change, really... Everything, and everybody seems just a bit more alive! Of course, this was long after my great grandma and other women ever made the thought of my participation in an election possible. Something that I took for granted when I was younger. So in honor of Election day I give you;

The Election Day cake, an American institution. The tradition dates from the 1600s. Weeklong celebrations often accompanied certifying the election results, and women baked these yeast cakes for out-of-town-guests.

The Original ELECTION CAKE Recipe ~

From Lydia Maria Child's recipe for Election Cake, which appears in the 1833 edition of The American Frugal Housewife, published in Boston.

Old-fashioned election cake is made of four pounds of flour; three quarters of a pound of butter; four eggs; one pound of sugar; one pound of currants, or raisins if you choose; half a pint of good yeast; wet it with milk as soft as it can be and be moulded on a board. Set to rise over night in winter; in warm weather, three hours is usually enough for it to rise. A loaf, the size of common flour bread, should bake three quarters of an hour.

This recipe that I have found has reduced Mrs. Child's recipe by three-fourths and added a little spice, which was, and is, typical in election cake, though Mrs. Child omits it.

Yield: 24 pieces

    •    1/4 cup lukewarm water
    •    2 packages dry yeast
    •    3/4 cup whole milk, heated to lukewarm
    •    3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and forming
    •    6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    •    1 large egg, at room temperature
    •    1/2 cup sugar
    •    1 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
    •    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    •    1 teaspoon salt
    •    1 cup currants

1. Pour the water into a 4- or 5-quart mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the top, and set aside until the yeast dissolves, about 3 minutes. Stir in the warm milk, then beat in 1-1/2 cups of the flour, making a stiff batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 30 minutes (no longer).

2. Beat in the butter, egg, sugar, spices, and salt. Then work in the remaining 1-1/2 cups flour, making a soft, rough dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 to 30 minutes.
3. Knead the dough until smooth, for 5 to 10 minutes. It will be very soft and sticky. Gradually add more flour as necessary, a few tablespoons at a time, to form a smooth dough.

4. Knead in the currants. Roll the dough into an 8-inch log. Cut the log into 4 equal pieces, then divide each piece into 6 little rolls. To create surface tension so the rolls will puff up round, roll each into a little ball. One at a time, pinch 1 side of the ball with your fingers as though stretching loose skin, then tuck the stretched dough into a pucker at the bottom of the ball. Do this several times until the surface looks taut. Dredge the rolls in flour and arrange pucker-side down in a greased 9x13x2-inch baking pan, 4 rows across, 6 rows down. Loosely drape with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until generously doubled, 1-1/2 to 2 hours. The rolls should all be touching.

5. Set a rack in the lower-middle level of the oven. Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the cake until all the rolls are puffed and richly browned, and those in the center register at least 190 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 20 minutes. Let the cake rest in the pan for 3 minutes, then gently shake the pan back and forth until the cake loosens. Invert the cake onto a cookie sheet, then reinvert it onto a rack. Serve warm or at room.
We’ve come a long way baby!