Every Jewish woman should have a noodle kugel, brisket, and matzo ball soup in her arsenal. These dishes go a long way toward filling the table with nostalgic, traditional holiday dishes. My mom and aunts all made the same noodle kugel recipe for the holidays. It was the star of the meal as far as I was concerned. I guess you could say my love affair with noodle kugel goes back to childhood. I like the sweet kugel, which is a dish of egg noodles coated in a luscious, sweet dairy sauce and held together by eggs. Kugel is comfort food at its best and a special holiday treat.
I never knew there were so many versions of noodle kugel until I saw my Aunt Clara’s recipe file. She had over a dozen variations of sweet noodle kugel made with different dairy products (cottage cheese, sour cream, cream cheese, buttermilk, regular milk, cheese) and a range of mix-in’s such as raisins, cinnamon, pineapple, lemon zest, mushrooms, onions, or spinach. Plus some recipes have a corn flake or graham cracker crumb topping, and others do not. My aunt may have had numerous versions, but there have been kugel contests with hundreds of recipe entries, according to Joan Nathan in her cookbook Jewish Cooking in America.Now that’s a lot of variations.
When I was newly married, I sat in my Aunt Clara’s kitchen collecting family recipes so I could carry on the tradition. Staring at so many recipe cards, I asked Clara for her advice about which kugel I should make. She suggested her favorite: Cousin Adele’s kugel which is made with cream cheese and no mix-ins. The sweet cream cheese provides a wonderful, smooth texture and flavor around the noodles. This kugel recipe was my favorite for a long time.
Over the years I have made other kugel recipes, and they each have spent some time as my current favorite. The recipes vary in specific ingredients and in ratios. Nevertheless, all of these recipes are winners. To me the prototype of noddle kugel is my cousin Deanna’s recipe because this is the recipe I grew up with. Deanna, being the oldest female cousin, is the keeper of the treasured family recipes. Deanna’s recipe uses sour cream and cottage cheese as the dairy ingredients.
Each new recipe I fell in love with seemed to build upon the one before. My friend Susie’s recipe is very similar to Deanna’s, but the ratios are different, and her kugel has more liquid and thus, is more moist. Next came my friend Jody’s sweet apple noodle kugel, and this kugel made quite a stir at the nursery school. All the moms asked for the recipe, and Jody’s kugel was requested at every parent event. Jody’s kugel is similar to Susie’s, but there is an addition of chopped apples, which makes the kugel divine.
Then the New York kugel entered my life. My sister Kathy made it for me, and she got the recipe from a friend in New York, hence the moniker. The New York kugel is made with cream cheese and cottage cheese. This kugel combines the best features of all the previous recipes. But I couldn’t just stop there. I have adapted the New York kugel recipe to add in my beloved apples, and I tinkered with the ingredients. Also, I took off the corn flake topping, which probably will horrify my sister and nephew who love the topping. I’m just a purist when it comes to noodle kugel. So without further ado, here is my ultimate sweet apple noodle kugel:
|My Ultimate Sweet Apple Noodle Kugel|| |
- 1 package (12 ounces) wide egg noodles (like Manischewitz or Streit's)
- ¾ stick of butter (= 6 tablespoons), divided
- 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced small.
- 8 ounce block of cream cheese, melted
- 1-3/4 cups milk, 4 or 2% fat, warmed
- 8 ounce small curd cottage cheese (small container), regular or lowfat
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon, divided
- 6 large eggs, beaten
- Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350 degrees F. Use a small amount of the butter to grease a 9 x 13 inch Pyrex glass pan or ceramic casserole dish.
- Cook the noodles in salted boiling water for 5 minutes. Put a few drops of cooking oil in the boiling water to prevent the noodles from sticking together. Noodles should be softened, but still a little firm. Drain and set aside.
- Prep all ingredients: peel and dice the apples; melt the cream cheese and remaining butter in the microwave; warm the milk, and beat the eggs.
- In a large mixing bowl combine the cream cheese, milk, and butter. Add in the cottage cheese, sugar, vanilla, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and beaten eggs. Stir to combine well. Fold in the noodles and apples until evenly distributed.
- Pour the mixture into the baking pan and sprinkle remaining ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon on top. Check at 40 minutes to see if the top is brown enough. If so, cover with foil and continue cooking. Bake for about 1 hour total or until the center is set, and the top is golden brown.
- Cool at least 10 minutes. Cut into squares to serve. Serve warm.
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