The History Of Wedding Cake

Nicole Jankowsk wrote . . . . . .

On June 2, 1886, 28 fashionable guests gathered solemnly in the Blue Room of the White House in anticipation of a rare matrimonial event.

President Grover Cleveland, a notorious bachelor at 49, was to wed 21-year-old Frances Folsom after a yearlong clandestine engagement. Wedding invitations had been sent only five days before.

Never before — or since — had a sitting president taken his vows in the White House. But while many facets of Cleveland’s executive affair resembled 21st-century wedding revelry, the Blue Room ceremony would seem strange in some ways to a modern wedding guest.

The newlyweds did not kiss to seal their vows; the stoic president detested such a public display of affection. And the cake was far from a white-frosted, tiered confection.

The Clevelands celebrated with a 25-pound nut-laden fruitcake, which was common for wedding cakes until almost the 20th century, says Claire Stewart, author of As Long as We Both Shall Eat: A History of Wedding Food and Feasts.

As Stewart, a former executive chef and culinary management professor, explains in her new book, “the white layered confection known today is a fairly modern invention.” But the rituals of the cake, including joint cutting and sharing, are centuries old.

Stewart believes that studying the feasts and fancies of weddings past offers so much more than historical detail. It provides insight into our own lives — why we celebrate as we do today.

For example, the symbolism behind cake traditions likely encompasses a complex mix of purity, fertility and superstition.

“Ancient Roman wedding ceremonies were finalized by breaking a cake of wheat or barley (mustaceum) over the bride’s head as a symbol of good fortune,” Carol Wilson writes in the food studies journal Gastronomica.

It’s likely this particular ritual was also a very public display signaling the groom’s new possession of his bride’s virginity. Modern wedding cakes, with their snowy white and flowery exteriors, can be seen as an extension of this same concept.

But the modern wedding cake’s rise to “visual cornerstone and iconic marriage symbol” is just one aspect of the feast of wedding history that Stewart’s book serves up.

As privileged guests raised a glass to the newlywed President and Mrs. Cleveland, they were likely unaware they were partaking in a toasting practice dating back as far as the sixth century. Stewart writes that the tradition of the champagne wedding toast “stems from a time when unions between warring factions could serve to forge peace.”

A celebratory sip from a communal cup by the father of the bride at a reception once signified to all in attendance that the provided wine was safe to consume. And clinking glasses together might be part of a long-held superstition that the sound scared away the devil. Even the term “toast” likely stems from “a time when spirits were often rancid, and a piece of spiced bread was put into the cup to improve the flavor,” Stewart writes.

Wedding trends — as well as standards of etiquette — have historically trickled down from the upper echelons, Stewart explains, “with the lower classes eager to replicate the restrained behavior of their so-called betters.”

In the Renaissance era, for example, “peasants or the lower classes had very raucous wedding affairs, with lots of drinking and games. It was considered a giant party where everyone and anyone was invited.” These boisterous parties were also meant to prove that a bride’s family could afford to throw an extravagant celebration.

But, according to Stewart, “the wealthy elite didn’t have to work to project wealth,” so their wedding celebrations were much more subdued. Soon, upwardly mobile members of the middle class took notice of how the wealthy elite incorporated specific guest lists and careful itineraries into their wedding festivities. By the 1800s, the more “staid wedding repast” became the idealized wedding for everyone.

During the Victorian age, when restraint and propriety were paramount virtues, the focus of the wedding celebration suddenly shifted away from the food and onto the decorations.

“Victorians tended to see all indulgence as filthy. The consumption of food in general seemed to them a rather animalistic endeavor — one they wanted to distance themselves from as much as possible,” Stewart says. It was impolite to even comment on the wedding food at all.

Blame this for the intense importance that some modern couples put on centerpieces and wedding favors.

An edition of the The Dodge City (Kan.) Times, dated June 10, 1886, reveals that guests at Cleveland’s wedding were sent home with “satin boxes containing dainty pieces of the bridal cake, each one bearing the hand-painted monogram “C.—F.” While presumably most revelers ate their gifts shortly after the wedding, at least a couple of pieces have been preserved for posterity.

The Grover Cleveland Birthplace museum in Caldwell, N.J., houses a 130-year-old slice in its collection — albeit with one bite missing. As the story goes, a visiting Cub Scout was dared to take a tiny nibble in the 1950s.

After more than 60 years in a decaying cardboard box, the cake couldn’t have tasted very good.

Then again, it is fruitcake: black, cement-like and heavy – so perhaps it was simply impossible to tell.

Source: npr

Chocolate Truffles with Almond Butter

Ingredients

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons raw almond butter
2 tablespoons raw coconut nectar
3 packets monk fruit extract
salt
1 no-sugar-added dark chocolate bar

Method

  1. Mix the almond butter, coconut nectar, and monk fruit extract in a mixing bowl until smooth. Season with a pinch of salt.
  2. Form the mixture into 8 equal-sized balls, stick a toothpick in each ball, and place on a piece of wax paper on a plate. Transfer to the freezer and chill until very firm, about 1 hour.
  3. Place three-quarters of the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high until the chocolate has just melted, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  4. Add the remaining chocolate and stir smooth and still warm.
  5. Remove the almond butter balls from the freezer and, using toothpick as an aid, roll a truffle to coat with the chocolate until covered. Set on the wax paper-lined plate to cool. Repeat with the remaining truffles. Place back in the freezer to set, about 5 minutes and serve.

Tip

You can roll the truffles in 1/4 cup of chopped almonds before they set for a prettier presentation and extra negative calorie power.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Negative Calorie Foods

Rubik’s Cube Cakes

The “No-Knead Bread” Chef Now Has the Secret to Sourdough

Kate Krader wrote . . . . . .

How do you explain America’s ever increasing obsession with bread, even as the ranks of gluten-free adherents continue to expand?

Credit one pioneer in the world of artisanal bread: Jim Lahey. At his Sullivan Street Bakery, which began in a tiny storefront in Soho in New York in 1994, Lahey baked monumental loaves such as the long, oval, pane pugliese with a sturdy, almost-burnt crust and chewy, moist interior. Soon, he was supplying bread to prestige restaurants around the city, including Jean-Georges and the Spotted Pig, as well as to upscale markets like Dean & Deluca.

Since then, Lahey has embarked on a mission to empower home cooks to bake their own bread. Through the University of Bread seminars he teaches at his bakery headquarters in New York’s Hells Kitchen, the “no-knead” method he introduced more than a decade ago has become a sensation, turning an army of hobbyists into passionate bread makers. No-knead bread, as the saying suggests, is a loaf made with minimal ingredients and work; the only thing you need a lot of is time—at least 24 hours.

But Lahey’s no-knead bread has become a victim of its own success. “Everyone is an expert now; no one wants to take those no-knead classes,” he told me, referring to “They want to learn the next thing.”

That new thing? Sourdough bread, with its yeasty, lightly tangy flavor and buoyant crumb. If no-knead is the beginner loaf for home bread bakers, sourdough is firmly in the intermediate category. No-knead bread is made with pre-packaged bakers yeast, a fast fermentation that works fine, according to Lahey in his forthcoming The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook (W. W. Norton & Co., November 2017). “But it tends to preclude the development of more interesting flavor.”

Lacey continues: “If you are like me and want breads that are not merely predictable but awe-inspiring—with an open crumb and a bouquet of unbelievable flavors—then you’re going to need a different kind of fermentation, one that relies on a sourdough starter.” He prefers a liquid-y starter style mixture that he calls a ‘biga’ to help the dough ferment and rise.

In his upcoming book, Lahey devotes plenty of room to topics like “a beautiful fermentation,” and he counsels readers on how to make their own. (His secret ingredient is a kale leaf, which has natural yeast clinging to it.) It’s a three-day process at minimum and can often take up to five days just to get the starter started, plus a couple of additional days to let it refresh.

For those who like short cuts, though, there is good news: Excellent ready-made starters are out there. The venerable baking company King Arthur sells a very good one, and Sullivan Street expects to have its own commercial product by this summer. Your local bakery or passionate bread baking neighbor might also be persuaded to give you starter for your bread.

In this exclusive preview, here is Lahey’s sourdough bread recipe, adapted from the The Sullivan Street Bakery Cookbook, co-written with Maya Joseph. It takes four steps and, with a starter, can be done in about four hours.


The Ultimate Fast Sourdough

“Often I counsel patience when baking—so very often, the only secret to making a good bread better is to wait a bit longer, and let the flavors, fermentation, and rise develop, “writes Lahey in the book. “But as an impatient guy, and there are sometimes when I want to mix, bake, and eat a loaf not tomorrow, but today. Here is a recipe for those moments. It’s not instant bread, but it is faster bread. ”

Yield: One 9-inch round loaf.

Equipment: A 4½- to 5½-quart heavy pot with lid; a large piece of parchment paper.

Ingredients:

100 grams prepared starter (such as King Arthur Classic Fresh Sourdough Starter)
200 grams (about 1 1/4 cups, plus 2 tablespoons) unbleached all-purpose flour
100 grams (about 2/3 cup) whole wheat flour
6 grams (about 1 teaspoon) fine sea salt
230 grams (about 1 cup, plus 1 tablespoon) 65ºF-70ºF water
Wheat bran, for dusting

Method:

1. In a large bowl, combine the white flour, wheat flour, and salt and whisk to combine. In a small bowl, whisk the starter and water until the starter is fully dissolved. Pour the starter mixture into the flour, and use a flexible spatula to quickly mix. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean kitchen towel, and let the dough sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Turn the dough, pulling it off the sides of the bowl and folding into the center as you turn; work it as little as possible. Cover loosely and let rest for 30 minutes before turning the dough again. After approximately 5 turns, or 2 ½ to 3 hours, the dough should be ready. (Don’t expect to see a big increase in size in this dough—by turning the dough every half-hour, you are doing what I call the lazy man’s version of kneading the dough—improving the texture without much effort.)

Note: How do you tell when it’s ready? You want it to get to the point where it is capable of holding a shape, and not ooze into a pancake when you shape it into a ball. It should be so interested in sticking to itself that it easily peels off the bowl when ready to shape.

3. Place a large piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan and cover with wheat bran, so that you can no longer see the paper. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and form it loosely into a ball: hold it with both hands and gently tug the sides down and under, into the middle of the dough, to make a taut ball; don’t let the dough tear. Set the dough seam side down on the bran-coated paper. Dust the top of the dough lightly with more bran. Cover loosely with the towel and let it sit at room temperature until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 500ºF (450ºF if your oven runs hot). Preheat a cast-iron ovenproof pot with tight-fitting lid, such as Le Creuset, in the oven. Carefully remove the lid and transfer the dough on the parchment into the pot. Use a serrated knife to score the loaf with a long slash, to allow the dough to expand. Cover the pot immediately and place the pot in the oven.

5. Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes with the lid on. Carefully remove the lid and tear off any excess parchment. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes with the lid off, until the crust is a very, very dark brown. (I urge you to let the bread cook, uncovered, until the top of the bread nearly blackens and the sides reach a very, very, very dark brown.) Remove the loaf from the pot. Cool the loaf on a wire rack. The loaf will continue to cook as it cools, so try to wait an hour or so before cutting into it.

Source: Bloomberg

Daily Diet of Fresh Fruit Linked to Lower Diabetes Risk

“Eating fresh fruit daily could cut risk of diabetes by 12%,” the Mail Online reports.

A study of half a million people in China found those who ate fruit daily were 12% less likely to get type 2 diabetes than those who never or rarely ate it.

It was also found that people with diabetes at the start of the study who ate fruit regularly were slightly less likely to die, or to get complications of diabetes, such as eye problems (diabetic retinopathy), during the study than those who ate fruit rarely or never.

Many people with diabetes in China avoid eating fruit, because they are told it raises blood sugar. However, the study suggests fresh fruit may actually be beneficial for people with and without diabetes.

Fruits which release sugars more slowly into the blood, such as apples, pears and oranges, are the most popular in China, according to the researchers. So this may be the preferred option if you are worried about diabetes risk, or have been diagnosed with diabetes.

The study doesn’t show that fruit directly prevents diabetes or diabetes complications, as an inherent limitation of this type of study is that other factors could be involved. And it doesn’t tell us how much fruit might be too much.

Overall, the research suggests fresh fruit can be part of a healthy diet for everyone.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Oxford, and Peking University, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment, Non-communicable Disease Prevention and Control Department, and Pengzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention, all in China. It was funded by the Kadoorie Charitable Foundation.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Medicine on an open-access basis, so it’s free to read online.

The Mail’s report was basically accurate, although it did not point out that this type of study cannot prove cause and effect. The report confused some readers by saying that fruit does not raise blood sugar because it is metabolised differently to refined sugar.

However, what the study found was that fruit-eaters’ blood sugar was not on average higher than that of non-fruit eaters. Like most food, the rise in sugar levels after eating fruit is usually temporary.

The Sun’s report was poorly written and contained some basic grammatical errors.

What kind of research was this?

This was a large-scale prospective cohort study. Researchers wanted to look for associations between fruit eating, diabetes and complications of diabetes.

However, while this type of study is good for spotting links, it cannot prove that one factor causes another.

What did the research involve?

Researchers used information from a big ongoing cohort study called the China Kadoorie Biobank Study, which recruited half a million adults aged 30 to 79 between 2004 and 2008.

Participants filled in questionnaires about their health, diet and lifestyle and had measurements taken of their blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and other health-related factors. The diet questionnaires were repeated over the course of the study. After an average seven years of follow-up, researchers looked to see how fruit consumption related to diabetes.

Some people in the study (almost 6%) had diabetes at the start of the study. While not actually specified in the study, we assume the majority of these cases were type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually begins in childhood and is less common than type 2.

About half of them had previously been diagnosed, and half were diagnosed due to their blood sugar readings taken during the study. China’s Disease Surveillance Points system was used to identify any deaths and cause of death during the study. Disease registries and health insurance claims were used to look into diabetes-related health complications.

The researchers took the average responses from the diet questionnaires to establish how regularly people ate fruit, to account for possible changes in dietary habits.

They adjusted the figures to take account of potential confounding factors including age, age at diabetes diagnosis, gender, smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity and body mass index.

What were the basic results?

Only 18.8% of people surveyed reported eating fruit daily, and 6.4% said they never or rarely ate fruit. Some 30,300 people had diabetes at the start of the study, and there were 9,504 new cases of diabetes in the seven years of follow up, or 2.8 for each 1,000 people each year.

  • People who ate fresh fruit daily were 12% less likely to develop diabetes than those who never or rarely ate fresh fruit (hazard ratio (HR) 0.88, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.83 to 0.93).
  • Of the people with diabetes at the start of the study, 11.2% died during follow up (16.5 for every 1,000 people each year).
  • People with diabetes who ate fresh fruit on three days a week or more were 14% less likely to die of any cause, compared to those who ate fresh fruit less than one day a week (HR 0.86, 95% CI 0.80 to 0.94). They were also less likely to die from diabetes-related causes or cardiovascular disease, specifically.
  • People with diabetes who ate fresh fruit daily were also 14% less likely to have complications of damage to their large blood vessels (such as heart attack or stroke) than those who ate fresh fruit never or rarely (HR 0.86, 95% CI 0.82 to 0.90). They were also 28% less likely to have small blood vessel complications, such as eye or kidney disease (HR 0.72, 95% CI 0.63 to 0.83).

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers say their results “provide strong evidence in support of current dietary guidelines that fresh fruit consumption should be recommended for all, including those with diabetes.”

They say that people with diabetes in China eat much less fruit than people without diabetes, because of concerns about sugar in fruit. They say the study shows that better health education is “urgently needed” in China and other Asian countries where diabetes is common, and many people misunderstand the effects of eating fresh fruit.

They speculate that “natural sugars in fruit may not be metabolised in the same way as refined sugars,” although their paper did not investigate this.

Conclusion

The study findings – that eating fresh fruit every day does not raise the risk of diabetes, and may reduce it – are reassuring and in line with dietary advice in the UK. It’s also helpful to see evidence that people who already have diabetes are likely to benefit from fresh fruit as well, because there has not been much research into fruit-eating for people with diabetes.

However, it’s a step too far to say that fresh fruit prevents diabetes or diabetes complications. Fresh fruit is just one part of a healthy diet, and diet is just one of the things that may affect someone’s risk of getting diabetes. This type of study can’t tell us whether fresh fruit actually protects against diabetes, because it can’t account for all the other health and lifestyle factors involved.

Though it would be expected that the results of this large scale study should be applicable to other populations, there may be differences between people from China and other populations. This could include differences in prevalence of diabetes and its risk factors, differences in healthcare (for example, diagnostic criteria and methods for coding health outcomes in databases), and other environmental and lifestyle differences, including fruit consumption.

The study didn’t ask people which types of fruit they ate, but the researchers say the most commonly eaten fruits in China are apples, pears and oranges, which release sugars more slowly into the blood stream than bananas, grapes and tropical fruits.

It’s important to make a distinction between whole fresh fruit, which contains lots of fibre, and fruit juice, which is very high in sugar. Previous research that we reported on in 2013 found that fruit may lower diabetes risk, but fruit juice may raise it.

The most effective method of reducing your diabetes risk is to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, through a combination of regular exercise and healthy eating.

Source: NHS Choices


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