ursula: (Default)
This afternoon I made Election Cake, based on the 1796 Amelia Simmons recipe:

    Thirty quarts flour, 10 pound butter, 14 pound sugar, 12 pound raisins, 3 doz eggs, one pint wine, one quart brandy, 4 ounces cinnamon, 4 ounces fine colander [sic] seed, 3 ounces ground allspice; wet the flour with milk to the consistence of bread overnight, adding one quart yeast; the next morning work the butter and sugar together for half an hour, which will render the cake much lighter and whiter; when it has rise light work in every other ingredient except the plumbs, which work in when going into the oven.


My version (sized for a party, not an entire election) is as follows:

    Dissolve 4 1/2 tsp. yeast in 6 tbsp. warm water. Add 2 cups milk, then slowly mix/knead in 6 cups of flour. Knead the resulting dough for about ten minutes. Set aside to rise for an hour (presumably 30 quarts of flour would need more time.) Cream 2 sticks of butter (half a pound) with 1 1/2 cup of sugar. Mix in an egg, 4 3/4 tsp. red wine, 3 tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. brandy, a teaspoon each of cinnamon and ground coriander, and about three-quarters of a teaspoon of allspice, along with a pinch of salt. Combine the butter mixture with the dough mixture, then stir in about 9 ounces of raisins. (Hard work! I used the dough hooks on my hand mixer.) Divide batter between 2 buttered loaf pans. Set aside to rest for forty-five minutes, then bake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. (I used a 375-degree oven, and it took about an hour and a half, ending with a very dark crust-- a cooler oven might be better.)


The result is not unlike a superior bakery scone: sweet for a breakfast but plain for a dessert, and inclined to break into large crumbs.
ursula: (sheep)
I put my name in for The Omnivore's Dilemma on the library hold list, and read it yesterday. The high school geek part of me feels a little bit odd about reading something so unabashedly popular, straight off the New York Times best-seller list or at least the year-end round-up of Important Books (the author's initials are monogrammed on the cover), and it's easy to make the book sound quaint, centered as it is around an unabashed conceit: Michael Pollan eats four meals, beginning with a McDonald's meal (in his convertible) and ending with one he has grown, foraged and hunted himself. But an overemphasis on the quaintness obscures Pollan's basic argument, which is not in substance different from [livejournal.com profile] mjbarefoot's recent rant: no label can substitute for personal knowledge of the places your food came from and the people who brought it to you. And an overemphasis on the warm fuzzy personal connections obscures the degree to which this is a specific political critique of specific U.S. government policies, in particular a subsidy system which encourages the overproduction of corn.

November 2016

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