So, it’s the 7th night of Hanukkah, and I’m finally putting a Hanukkah post up. Why so late? (as if ‘late’ isn’t the norm for me). I’m late because Thursday night was the first Hanukkah dinner we had at home, and I didn’t cook or bake anything prior to that. But Thursday night I made kugel. and not just any kugel; a caramel apple upside-down kugel!
Hanukkah is usually associated with foods fried in oil, such as latkes and sfganiyot (jelly or whatever filling suits your fancy filled doughnuts. My grandmother used to make a savory sufganiyot with whatever she had on hand, like feta, swiss chard etc!) to commemorate the miracle of a one-day supply of oil miraculously burning and giving light for eight days. Obviously we don’t just eat fried foods to celebrate Hanukkah, a misconception a former coworker of mine had for years, culminating in her scolding me for ordering a tuna salad sandwich for lunch several years ago.
“Lisa, give me that sandwich..you’re only supposed to eat fried foods during Hanukkah! Get some fries!”
I’m dead serious.
One treat my family always served during Hanukkah is sweet noodle kugel, also called lokshen kugel or noodle pudding. We enjoyed a good noodle kugel several times a year, but the best noodle kugel always came at Hanukkah, the big one in the 13 x 9 pan, loaded with apples and/or raisins.
I don’t like raisins in my noodle kugel, so I was the one with the pile of raisins on the side of my plate, picking them out one by one, annihilating my perfect, little square of kugel.
I never said I was blessed with grace and perfect etiquette.
BUT, a friend of mine adds saffron pickled raisins, from this recipe, to her noodle kugel, and wow! Talk about ingenuity!
I ran out of blue candles, which are traditional and my favorite.
The kugel was usually served alongside a brisket or roast chicken, the sweet and savory always a treat, like candied yams (I know, I know, sweet potatoes, but we always call them candied sweets or candied yams) with turkey. Those are two holiday dinner pairings I crave every.single.year, and then some.
Don’t forget to spoon any remaining pan goo/apple juices and caramel over each slice of kugel!
With that being said, there are so many variations for sweet noodle kugel, I wouldn’t even know where to start, so I’ll keep it brief. Some only use eggs as a binder, some use eggs plus pot or cottage cheese, some use eggs and cream cheese, some use eggs plus pot or cottage cheese and sour cream, some use eggs plus pot or cottage cheese and cream cheese, and some use eggs plus pot or cottage cheese, sour cream AND cream cheese. Some even add a corn flake, brown sugar and butter crumble or buttered graham cracker crumbs, on top.
Whew! Did I cover ’em all?
I don’t know if there’s an ongoing debate about which version is the most authentic, but I always make mine the way my maternal grandmother did, with eggs, cottage cheese and sour cream. The addition of fruit and/or nuts and/or a corn flake crumble or graham cracker topping, is entirely up to you.
So, I took my grandmother’s kugel recipe and added a pretty amazing twist to it; melted butter, brown sugar and sliced apples on the bottom of the pan and the custard soaked noodles on top; the same method used to make an upside-down cake. The cream in the custard seeps into the butter soaked brown sugar, giving the apples a wonderful caramel/butterscotch flavor. Come to mama, you sweet thang you!
I’m never making it any other way again, unless someone doesn’t like apples, but let’s be real, who doesn’t like apples? I have yet to meet them.
By the way, I know the amount of butter, eggs and sour cream in this noodle kugel may alarm some, but this kugel serves 8 to 12 people, so one or two hunks is fine. Plus, holiday eating cancels out all fat and calories. Am I right?
By the way, you can make this a pineapple upside-down noodle kugel by substituting pineapple rings for the apples! In fact, you can substitute most fruits for the apples, from peaches to plums to pears or berries, or why not cobble together a double or triple fruit noodle kugel?! If you don’t like, or are not in the mood for apples, go for it!
Or you can entirely eliminate any fruit and just make it a caramel noodle kugel, using the same method but minus the fruit.
Make this kugel, even if you’re not a member of the tribe.
Brown Sugar Caramel Apple Upside-Down Noodle Kugel
- 12 oz wide egg noodles
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 cups cottage cheese (I prefer small curd)
- 2 cups sour cream
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- 6 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 Granny Smith or cooking/baking apples of your choice, peeled, cored and sliced
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 1 cup light or dark brown sugar (I use ½ cup of each, mixed together) *
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- Grease the sides of a 13 x 9 baking dish with butter.
- Boil the noodles in salted water for about 4 minutes. Strain noodles and shake until dry. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients before the apples. I use a food processor or blender to make a smooth custard, but mixing it with an electric hand mixer, stand mixer or a spoon or whisk is fine (you'll just see the cottage cheese curd in the baked kugel.)
- Pour the custard over the noodles, mix well, and set aside. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
- Pour the stick of melted butter over the bottom of the baking dish then top with the cup of brown sugar, pressing it down evenly so it covers the bottom and soaks up the butter. Drizzle heavy cream over the brown sugar, then arrange the sliced apples on top of the butter, heavy cream and brown sugar.
- Give the noodles another toss to make sure the custard covers them all, and pour over apples. Distribute the noodles evenly over the apples . Cover top of dish with buttered tin foil. Since it's an upside-down kugel..if you don't cover it the whole hour, the usual crunchy noodle top, which is traditional, would be on the bottom and get soggy, so it's pointless.
- Bake until the custard is set, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- If you have a platter larger than 13 x 9 inches, flip the noodle kugel onto the platter, as you would an upside down cake. If not, let cool, then cut slices and flip them over onto each serving plate. Spoon any caramel at the bottom of the pan over slices. Tastes great warm or cold!
Finally, I’d like to extend my prayers and deepest condolences to the families of the shooting victims at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. I’m completely sickened, shocked and heartbroken over this.