Trump Cannoli or Hillary Pancake #2
Food and politics have been intertwined for as long as they both have been around and I think it is safe to say it is a love hate relationship. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about an interesting study of food delivery services and the correlation of the most common items ordered to the partisan leaning of a given district in which the order was placed. This week we will talk about how food has historically played a role in our politics.
“Let them eat cake”
Brioche is a pastry of French origin that is similar to a highly enriched bread. Brioche is made in the same basic way as bread, but has the richer aspect of a pastry because of the extra addition of eggs, butter, liquid (milk, water, cream, and, sometimes, brandy) and occasionally a bit of sugar. Brioche, along with pain au lait and pain aux raisins and are commonly eaten at breakfast or as a snack. Brioche is often cooked with fruit or chocolate chips and served as a pastry or as the basis of a dessert with many local variations.
"Let them eat cake" is the traditional translation of the French phrase "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" and is commonly attributed to Marie Antoinette. However, there is no record of this phrase ever having been said by her but it does appear in Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions, his autobiography. The first of his six books were written in 1765, when Marie Antoinette was nine years of age. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the young girl uttered those words. Rousseau's statement was an effort to express his desire to have some bread to accompany the wine he had stolen; however, he felt he was too elegantly dressed to go into an ordinary bakery. Finally, he recalled the stopgap solution of a great princess who was told that the peasants had no bread, and who responded: "Let them eat brioche."
The quotation, as attributed to Marie Antoinette, was claimed to have been uttered during one of the famines that occurred in France during the reign of her husband, Louis XVI. Upon being alerted that the people were suffering due to widespread bread shortages, the Queen is said to have replied, "Then let them eat brioche." The quote would reflect her disregard for the peasants since the absence of basic food staples was due to poverty rather than a lack of supply. Although this anecdote was never cited by opponents of the monarchy at the time of the French Revolution, it did acquire great symbolic importance in subsequent histories when pro-revolutionary historians sought to demonstrate the obliviousness and selfishness of the French upper class.
In Colonial Times, Election day was a much bigger deal, since many holidays, like Christmas, were frowned upon by the Puritans. Election Day was a chance for colonists to celebrate and enjoy the festivities of the holiday. Hartford, Connecticut is often called the birthplace of the Election Cake. Connecticut was a colony that had the right to elect its own Governor, and Election Day had become a big holiday there by the early 18th century with the Election Cake as a central focus.
According to Bon Appetit "Muster" cake, as it was called before the American Revolution, was "a dense, naturally leavened, boozy fruit and spice cake — baked by colonial women and given to the droves of men who were summoned for military training, or 'mustered,' by order of British troops." Later it became known as election cake. Women would make it in massive quantities to encourage men to vote and come to town hall meetings. Election Day was a festive occasion, with lots of food and the booze flowing.
Here is an Election Cake recipe courtesy Melissa Gaman from the Cooking Channel website.
Two .25-ounce envelopes dry active yeast
1 cup warm, but not hot, water (about 105 degrees F)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
1 cup mixed dried fruit, such as golden raisins, cranberries and pitted prunes, chopped if large
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup American whiskey, bourbon or rye
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a medium bowl. Stir a few times and let stand to allow the yeast to dissolve and begin bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Sift 1 1/2 cups of the flour into the bowl and stir until mostly smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for about 30 minutes. The mixture will expand, loosen in texture and will have large bubbles on the surface.
While that sits, generously butter a 12-cup Bundt pan and set aside. Place the dried fruit, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar and all of the whiskey in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Heat in the microwave until hot and bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir and set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, whisk the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour with the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and salt.
Beat the butter with the remaining 1/2 cup brown and the granulated sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined (the mixture may look slightly curdled at this stage), and then add 1 teaspoon of the vanilla. Beat in the yeast mixture and then reduce the speed to medium-low and gradually beat in the flour mixture. Add the plumped dried fruit with any remaining liquid and beat on medium speed until the fruit is well blended. The dough should be soft and elastic at this point.
Transfer the dough to the prepared Bundt pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until the dough fills the pan about three-quarters of the way, about 2 hours. When is the cake is almost done rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Bake the cake until golden brown and a skewer inserted comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Loosen the sides with a small metal spatula and turn onto the wire rack to cool completely.
Before serving, stir the confectioners' sugar with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon milk. Gradually add as much as needed of the second tablespoon of milk to make a thick glaze that will just gently run. Spoon over the top of the cake, allowing the glaze to slowly run down the outside and inside of the cake.
Cook's Note: This cake is great made a day or two in advance. Just hold off on the glaze until you are ready to serve.