Roasted Apple-Walnut Kugel

photo taken by Adam Fagen, on October 25, 2008, CC licensing

From Jewish Holiday Cooking: A Food Lover's Treasury of Classics and Improvisations
by Jayne Cohen (Wiley 2008)

Apples combine with walnuts and prunes to work an alchemy of golden autumn tastes. For a tempting dairy version, see the variation that follows.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

  • Walnut, avocado, canola or your favorite oil, for greasing the pans
  • 6 large or 8 to 10 medium sweet, flavorful apples (such as Royal Gala, Golden Delicious, or Braeburn; about 3 pounds), peeled, cored, and quartered, or cut into sixths if large
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup pitted prunes, quartered
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Salt
  • 4 ounces medium flat egg noodles (not the twisted spiral kind, which won't absorb as much of the liquids and flavoring)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated, or mace
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs (optional)

 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet or very shallow roasting pan with lightly greased foil and on it spread out the apples out in a single layer, rounded sides down (so that most of the sugar will be trapped and melted in the curve, rather than sliding off onto the pan). Sprinkle with the brown sugar and lemon juice and roast in the middle of the oven until lightly browned and just tender, 25 to 35 minutes, depending on the variety of apples. Turn the apples over halfway through the cooking process, and spoon the accumulated syrupy juices over them. Remove the apples from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. When the apples are cool enough to handle, cut into large chunks.
 Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan (or other shallow 8- to 10-cup baking pan) thoroughly.
 In a wide, heavy medium saucepan, combine the apple juice, granulated sugar, prunes, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and continue cooking over high heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about half. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
 Bring 2 quarts cold water and 1 teaspoon salt to a rapid boil in a large saucepan. Add the noodles and cook until tender. Drain well. In a large bowl, combine the noodles, prune mixture, roasted apples, walnuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks well until thick and light, and stir into the mixture. In a clean bowl, beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold about one third of the whites into the batter, then fold in the rest.
 Turn the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. If desired, sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs.
 Bake the kugel for about 45 minutes, or until it feels firm, the sides pull away slightly, and the top is lightly browned. Let cool completely to set. You can eat it at room temperature, but to really savor the toasty apple flavors, warm the kugel until heated through. It may not cut neatly, and perhaps it will appear somewhat messy on the plate, but it will taste divine.

Cook's Note: This is also lovely flavored with a little crystallized ginger.

Dairy Version:
 Follow the above recipe, up through combining noodles, prune mixture, roasted apples, walnuts, and spices. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer on low speed to beat 8 ounces cream cheese (softened and cut into bits) with 1 cup evaporated milk until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the yolks. Combine this with the noodle-prune-apple mixture, then fold in the beaten whites, as above. Pour into a slightly larger pan (at least 9 inches square), that has been well greased. Sprinkle top with 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs mixed with 3 tablespoons melted butter. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees F, following the directions for cooking and serving above.

Sephardic or Askhenazi