While pumpkin seems to be the preference for Thanksgiving dinner pies, apple likely has even more of a traditional connection with the early day colonists.
While apple harvests in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan were disappointing yields this season, we still must be thankful for our apple opportunities, even when they are not ample.
Grandma Potempa loved both baked apples, as well as spiced apples.
Raising her nine children (my father Chester being the youngest) with Grandpa Potempa as a hard-working Polish Catholic family on a small farm during the Great Depression, it offers plenty of reasons for counting blessings and being thankful.
The family farm has traditionally sported plenty of apple trees of all varieties.
During the winter months, Grandma Potempa could store brimming baskets of apples in the dirt floor root cellar which would last through the long winter months.
Apples have a taste and texture that lend themselves as an ingredient for poultry stuffing, tarts and crisps, in addition to cider (and then vinegar), apple butter and applesauce, the latter which was one of Grandma Potempa's signature canning specialties.
From a health standpoint, apples are high in fiber to help with digestion. Apples have also traditionally been called "nature's toothbrush." Even though they don't actually clean the teeth surface, they still enhance dental hygiene since biting and chewing an apple stimulates the gums and the sweetness (or tartness) of apples prompts an increased flow of saliva, reducing tooth decay by lowering levels of bacteria in the mouth.
The pilgrims also embraced the Native American's trick of drying apples, which results in a more concentrated source of energy than the fresh form. It takes five pounds of fresh apples to make just one pound of dried apples.
This week's recipe for a moist and delicious Spiced Apple Cake with Buttercream Frosting is from the winning recipe whipped up by Julie Yarusinsky, 22, a senior studying marketing and management at Purdue University Calumet. She is the daughter of Chuck and Bev Yarusinsky of Hammond and was the winner of the Fifth Annual Purdue University Calumet Intramural Baking Contest. The event was last Tuesday and once again, I served on the judging panel. I was joined by Purdue Professor Judy Hack of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Studies Department, student Ian Hernandez, Head Women's PUC Soccer Coach Leslie Ferguson and Adam Schwartz, chef for Chartwells Food Service.
In previous years, the contest has highlighted competitions for making cookies, cupcakes, brownies, pies and this year, cakes. The other finalists were Olivia Radencic, 22, of Schererville and Elementary Education major, who made an Oreo Cookie Cake and Rebecca Stankowski of Lowell, who works at Purdue Calumet as the executive director for multidisciplinary studies and learning outcomes assessment, with her recipe for a carrot and ginger cake with cream cheese frosting.
This year was a special year for the contest, since Sept. 19 marked the 60th Anniversary of PUC Intramurals, according to the program's director Matt Dudzik.
My congrats to our winner and the finalists, and a Blessed and Happy Thanksgiving to Times readers.
Julie's Spiced Apple Cake with Buttercream Frosting
1 stick unsalted butter, melted (plus a little for pans)
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled (plus a little for pans)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed light-brown sugar, plus more for decorating
2 large eggs
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, two coarsely grated and two diced
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
DIRECTIONS: To make cake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2, 8-inch-round cake pans, lining bottoms with parchment paper if desired. Butter and flour inside of pans, tapping out excess flour. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking flour, spices and salt and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugar and eggs until well combined. Fold in grated and diced apples. Add the dry flour mixture to the batter and combine. Pour batter divided into the prepared pans. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans for 20 minutes and then invert onto racks to cool. Make frosting by using an electric beater to whip butter on high for 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and work in sugar 1 cup at a time. Turn mixer to high and beat until smooth, adding vanilla last. Frost and assemble cake, decorating the edge with brown sugar if desired. Refrigerate 1 hour to chill before serving. Store cake in refrigerator for up to 4 days. Makes 12 serving slices.