I found a kugel recipe so delicious and decadent and eggy and sweet that it actually lived up to that perfect version from childhood. I added apples to it, which not only solidified my memory of the dish, but also recalls both the Rosh Hashanah custom of dipping apples in honey (to symbolize a sweet beginning to the new year) and my own family’s tradition of serving baked apples for birthdays and holidays.
Now I make kugel for every Rosh Hashanah I host as well as for breaking the fast at the end of Yom Kippur, which Josh and I celebrate whether we take time to fast and go to temple or not. Every time I make it, I think of my mother and the gift she gave me when she decided to try to hold onto a little bit of our father’s culture for us. I hope to be able to do the same for my own daughter, a sunny, curly-headed eighteen-month-old who will get to eat kugel for the first time this year. I expect it will be one of her favorite dishes too.
- 8 sweet-tart apples like Empire, McIntosh, or Pink Ladies
- 10 T unsalted butter cut into pieces, plus more for greasing the pan
- 10 T granulated sugar, divided
- 1 t salt, plus more as needed
- 8 oz medium flat egg noodles
- 1 C cottage cheese
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 2 C milk
- 1/4 C sour cream
- 3 large eggs
- 2 t vanilla extract
- 5 T light brown sugar
Prep the apples: Slice 5 apples into ¼-inch slices, with the skin on. Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat, and add the apples. Cook them for 5 minutes, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Continue to cook them for another 10 minutes or so, until they are soft and tender and slightly caramelized.
Cook the noodles: Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil, and add 1 teaspoon salt. Cook the noodles until just tender. Drain and mix in 8 tablespoons butter. Set aside.
Prep the custard: Force the cottage cheese through a sieve into large bowl, and beat it with an electric blender until it is light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese bit by bit, beating until it’s fully incorporated. One by one, beat in the milk, sour cream, eggs, remaining 8 tablespoons white sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt, making sure that each new ingredient is fully incorporated before adding the next. Pour the cooked, buttered noodles and the caramelized apple slices into the bowl and stir everything to combine the ingredients.
Butter a 13-inch x 9-inch casserole dish, sprinkle 3 tablespoons of brown sugar in the bottom, and pour the noodle mixture into it. Let sit in the refrigerator, covered, for a few hours to let the noodles absorb the dairy mixture. (It should sit for at least 4 hours; ideally they should be left overnight.)
An hour or so before you’re ready to bake, take the casserole out of the fridge; you want it to be room temperature. Cut the remaining 3 apples into quarters, leaving their skins on, sprinkle them with the remaining brown sugar, and set them aside. Heat the oven to 350⁰ F.
Bake, cool, and serve: Bake the casserole, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and arrange the remaining apple quarters evenly on top, skin-side up. Return the pudding to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes, until the top of the kugel is golden. Allow the casserole to cool for 30 minutes before cutting and serving. Best served warm, either shortly after baking or reheated in the oven.