Brown Butter Apple Schalet

photo taken by Kelsi Barr, on October 7, 2013, CC licensing

Here I have substituted brown butter for the plain melted butter in this recipe from Robert Sternberg's wonderful classic, Yiddish Cuisine: A Gourmet's Approach to Jewish Cooking. I find this luscious schalet, sweetened only with applesauce, perfect as is, but if you like, serve it with the sauce Sternberg includes in the recipe.

  • 8 cups homemade applesauce (or substitute good quality store-bought applesauce)
  • 1 loaf day-old challah (choose a plain challah or a sweet raisin challah that is made without a topping of sesame or poppy seeds)
  • up to 2 sticks melted brown butter (see recipe on Centropa website), plus additional plain butter for greasing pan
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1 ½ cups apricot preserves and ¼ cup apricot or plain brandy (for optional sauce)

Put the applesauce into a saucepan and simmer it, stirring from time to time, until it cooks down to 6 cups of thickened apple puree. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Remove the ends of the challah and save for another use. Cut the challah into 16 slices. Cut 13 of these slices in half on the diagonal to form bread triangles. Set aside 6 of the triangles. Cut the remaining challah into cubes.
Grease well with butter a 1 1/2-quart round baking dish or a ceramic mold that is 3 ½ inches deep.
If the brown butter is not freshly made and liquid, melt half of it in a skillet over low heat (or pour in half the freshly made brown butter), then remove the pan from the burner. Dip the bread triangles in the melted brown butter and use them to line the bottom and sides of the baking dish. Some of the bread will sit higher than the baking dish but this is not a problem, so do not be concerned about it. If there is any butter left, leave it in the skillet and set it aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.Melt 4 more tablespoons of the brown butter in the skillet. Drop the challah cubes into the butter and sauté on all sides until golden in color. Repeat until all of the cubes are sautéed. Add more butter only if needed.

Mix the sautéed challah cubes and the cinnamon into the apple puree. Beat the egg and add to the challah-apple mixture, then pour into the challah-lined baking dish. Do not be alarmed about how high the filling rises. It cooks down during baking.
If necessary, melt more butter in the skillet. Dip remaining bread triangles into this and cover the top of the baking dish with them.
Bake the schalet on the middle shelf of the oven for 1 hour or until the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.
Put a flat platter on top of the schalet and turn it over to unmold. It should unmold quite easily.
If desired, prepare a sauce just before serving. Put the apricot preserves through a sieve into a saucepan. Stir in 2 tablespoons cold water and heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the brandy and pour the sauce into a sauceboat.

To serve the schalet, bring it to the table to cut. If serving the sauce, spoon some over each portion.

Sephardic or Askhenazi