How’s everyone holding up? It’s scary out there, but thank you to everyone that’s been protesting, calling, sharing information, and not backing down. Now, more than ever, it seems easiest to just retreat back into ourselves and be quiet. Quiet sounds so peaceful, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, we don’t get to do that anymore, because there are people out there that need our help, from immigrants trying to get to the United States to make a better life for themselves and their families, to legal citizens who are just trying to get back to the lives they’ve already built here. Could you imagine detaining a woman and her young children, without food, at an airport for 20 or 30 hours? What kind of a monster lets that happen? My privilege is more glaring now, more than ever, but I hope that you will join me in using that privilege to do something good. Please continue to call and write to your representatives and voice your opinion on all issues, from immigration to Steve Bannon’s National Security Council appointment to Betsy DeVos. Continue to donate your time and money. If nothing else, if you are fortunate enough to be able to give, the best way to make a difference is still with cold, hard cash so that people can keep working day and night to stop these horrible things from happening. Set up a monthly donation to the ACLU or the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Council on American-Islamic Relations, even if it’s just a small amount. I know I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but honestly, this is what matters right now, and we should all be thinking about it constantly. We don’t get to sleep well at night until everyone gets to do the same, and I don’t foresee that happening any time soon with this administration. If you do want a little comfort, honestly, I suggest listening to President Obama’s last interview in office that he did with Pod Save America. I hadn’t listened to it until yesterday, and it just made me feel like we could do this. Give it a listen on your way into work this morning. It definitely reenergized me.
So, in the spirit of working towards the common good, a group of food bloggers decided to get together and share some stories about immigration from our own friends and families. Obviously, American food has been hugely influenced by immigrants. We really wouldn’t have the various foods we eat on a daily basis here without immigrants. Sadly, we certainly have a history of denying entry to people from a wide swath of places throughout America’s history, but for those that were able to come to the States for a better life, with them, they brought their food. My great-grandfather was Irish (though he went to Canada first before my mom’s parents moved her and her siblings to the US in the 60s/70s) and my great-great-grandmother was Italian. My husband’s family came here from Eastern Europe during the pogroms in the early 1900s. They came here and started a rope-making business, eventually turning it into a robe (yep) business, if you can believe that. Kramer’s grandmother still has a few of them. My own great-grandfather was from Poland, which is why I’m sharing with you this recipe for Szarlotka, or Polish apple pie. It’s sort of a combination of a cake, a pie, and a cobbler, but it’s not-too-sweet and perfect for breakfast or a light dessert. The top has a sort of biscuit quality to it, which I personally find to be irresistible and so did the people I shared it with. We never fully embraced the Polish side of our family as we did the Italian side, but I always loved hearing stories from my grandfather about growing up with a Polish father in America. My favorite story was about his class pet. Remember having a class pet in elementary school? Everyone would have to take turns watching it over the weekends or on long breaks. We had a hamster and I remember my mother absolutely hated it when I brought that thing home for the weekend. I was thrilled then, but now, if someone tried to make me take care of a hamster for the weekend, I’m not sure how stoked I’d be. Either way, my grandfather excitedly brought the class rabbit home for summer break. He put it out back and then left to play with his friends. When he returned, he discovered that his father had taken a liking to the rabbit…so much so that he decided it would make a delicious dinner. He cooked the rabbit before my grandfather could explain that it was a pet, a concept my great-grandfather was not familiar with. Dogs are pets, cats are pets, rabbits are dinner. For the rest of the summer, kids from school would see him on the street and bring him discarded vegetables from their gardens to feed to the rabbit. My grandfather didn’t have the heart to tell them what had happened, so he accepted their vegetables and gave them to his mother to cook. This was during the Depression, after all, so he felt extremely guilty for taking even these discarded bits of lettuce and carrots. He said that, eventually, after a month or so, the kids forgot about the rabbit, as kids are often wont to do, and he kept the secret to himself for years. My grandfather went on to fight in World War II, earn a purple heart, become a mason, and build his own typical American life for himself, but he always remembered that rabbit (and I will, too). I remember him talking about fitting in and feeling a little different than everyone else because his family ate food that others found weird, or that his parents didn’t speak the best English, but that also made him who he is today. Now, I think about who I’d be if my great-grandparents hadn’t been able to come to America in the early 1900s. Where would I be, if at all?
Whisk together the dry ingredients, then cut in the butter until pea-sized crumbs form.
Beat together your eggs and vanilla and mix with a wooden spoon.
Add in enough milk to form a sturdy, yet still slightly sticky, ball.
Press 2/3 of the dough into a buttered springform pan, and wrap the rest in plastic wrap to chill in the freezer until ready to use.
Bake until lightly golden on the sides and puffed up.
Cook your apples with the brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon for about 10 minutes, until slightly softened.
Add the apples to the top of the warm crust, then crumble the chilled dough on top. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until golden and set.
I love the layers here. They’re so pretty.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3-4 tablespoons whole milk
- 4 pounds apples (usually about 4 apples), thinly sliced (you can peel them if you like, but I prefer the texture of the skins)
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.
- In a large bowl, add your flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk together. Cube your butter and add to the flour, then use your hands to cut the butter into the flour until pea-sized crumbs form. Beat your eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl and add them to your flour mixture. Use a wooden spoon to mix until moistened. Add in your milk and use a wooden spoon to mix. Add a little more milk, if needed, until a firm but still sticky ball of dough comes together.
- Divide the dough into two balls, one with about ⅔ of the dough and the other with about ⅓ of the dough. Wrap the smaller ball in plastic wrap, form into a disc, and place in the freezer until ready to use. Add the remaining ⅔ of the dough to the buttered pan, pressing it into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until puffed up and starting to get golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- While the bottom crust bakes, slice your apples and cook them over medium heat with the brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or so, until slightly softened. Remove from the heat pour over the warm bottom crust.
- Remove the remaining dough from the freezer and break it up in uneven pieces all over the top of the cake (it should be rustic looking, so don't worry about it being perfect). Bake for 45-50 minutes, until golden and set.
- Allow the cake to cool for at least an hour before running a knife around the cake and removing it from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature, with or without whipped cream or ice cream. This cake will keep well covered and at room temperature for up to 3 days.