To celebrate the election, I pulled out my American History Cookbook by Mark H. Zanger. If you are interested in historical cooking, this cookbook is just amazing. It is full of original recipes from American history, starting with the pilgrims and Native Americans in the 1600s through the 1970s. All the recipes are associated with events in history, like the Civil War and the temperance and prohibition movement. Each recipe includes the historical context for the recipe and information about where the recipe originated.
For the election, I flipped to a recipe for Election Cakes from 1795. Election cakes were similar to modern coffee cakes and were made to be shared on election day. The cakes were baked in very large quantities to feed the whole town when they came out to vote in the election, watch local soldiers drilling, and just gossip.
This particular recipe is from The Compleat New England Huswife from Salem, Massachussetts, which is wonderful for me, since my family was in Salem at that time. The original recipe, as presented in the American History Cookbook, is a two-day recipe that yields 40 to 50 servings, and includes some ingredients designed to recreate what cooking was like at the time. I really love to experience that historical accuracy, but that can mean finding some slightly obscure ingredients. This time, I decided to adapt the recipe to make it a little easier and to make a much smaller batch. It turned out deliciously- and my 7 year old daughter loved it, which made me love it even more. It was a chance to talk to her about why voting matters and what it means to be American. It was fabulous!
Here is my simplified adapted version of the Election Cake (1795) recipe from the American History Cookbook.
4 cups of flour 7 tablespoon softened butter 1 cup sugar 2 large eggs 1/3 cup half and half 1/3 tablespoon yeast 1 1/3 cups whole milk 1 teaspoon nutmeg 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ground cloves.
3. Add the yeast/half-and-half mixture to the flour mixture and mix. Mix in whole milk and eggs until dough forms. If it is too wet, add additional flour. If it is too dry, add additional milk. It should be moist though not sloppy.
4. Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead using floured hands. Knead 10-15 times.
5. Cut the dough into two equal pieces and shape each piece into a well-greased loaf pan.
6. Let the dough rise until double, between 3 hours and overnight.
7. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15 minutes.
8. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and cook for additional 25-30 minutes. Test the doneness by inserting a knife. If knife comes out clean, it’s done. If moist dough is on the knife, continue baking by adding 1 to 2 minutes at a time.
9. When done, slice and enjoy!