Kugel is the kind of dish that lends itself to endless variations and numerous occasions. A pudding, savory or sweet, it is traditionally served on the Sabbath and for meals during the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays.
But in my family, it’s also a favored dish for weekdays from early fall, right through to the beginning of summer. In fact, my kids used to eat sweet kugel at least once a week and more often if I didn’t groan when they requested it yet again.
The word “kugel” is German and translates literally to sphere, globe or ball. Apparently kugels used to be baked in round pans, but I have never seen one done that way. In my Ashkenazic Jewish family and among my friends, we always serve kugel in a square or rectangular pan. When it’s made with noodles, the more specific name is “lokshen kugel” – but the main ingredient can be potatoes, carrots, or even bread.
There are savory kugels made from vegetables as well as sweet versions, and even kugels that can be eaten during Passover because they are made from matzo. Some kugel lovers are partisans – they will eat only one type or have a favorite recipe and other versions or anyone else’s recipe is just not as good as that one, perfect, kugel-of-their-dreams.
Unlike those folks, I appreciate all kinds of kugel. My tastes do run to sweet kugel over savory, but I love to try new varieties. This sweet kugel with corn flakes is a variation on a time-honored recipe from my friend Gail Wides.
Every Rosh Hashanah we host a pot luck dinner for 10 families who have been celebrating Jewish holidays together for about 15 years. This kugel, based on a recipe from Gail’s mother-in-law, Louise, is a staple of our feast.
Sweet without being cloying, crunchy on top and soft underneath, fragrant without being over powering and incredibly easy to put together, this kugel is a sure-fire crowd pleaser. Plus it freezes well. What’s not to like?
Except as noted, the ingredients provided are Louise’s version via Gail. The directions below vary slightly from Gail’s, but the end result is quite similar.
Sweet Noodle Kugel
Serves 12 Total cost – $8.50/less than $.75 serving
- 1 package (12 or 16 ounces) of wide or extra wide egg noodles. This recipe works for either size package; for 16 ounces, simply add more liquid, and if you want, another egg, as noted.
- 6 tablespoons butter (¾ of 1 bar) cut in 6 pieces, plus butter, oil, or spray for greasing pan
- 6 ounces cream cheese, preferably at room temperature
- ½ cup granulated (white) sugar
- 6 eggs (if 16 oz. noodles, can use 7 eggs)
- 1 cup of milk, preferably whole milk, but 2% will work (1¼ cups if using 16 oz. of noodles)
- 1 cup of apricot or other juice (1¼ cups for 16 oz. of noodles) – I substituted an 8 ounce can of peaches packed in fruit juice.
- 3 cups coarsely crushed cornflakes (measure after crushing) – about 7 ounces
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed (Gail uses white sugar)
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted
- 9” x 13” baking pan, preferably oven-proof glass
- Mixer or immersion blender
- Pot and colander/strainer for making noodles
- 1 medium bowl
- 1 small bowl for microwaving butter or small pan/pot
- Liquid measuring cup
- Measuring cup(s) for solids
- Measuring spoons
- Large spoon and fork for mixing
- Knife (for cutting butter)
- Plastic bag or waxed paper and rolling pin for crushing cornflakes
- Grease the pan generously with butter, oil, or baking spray. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Bring water to a rolling boil and cook the noodles until done, but not soft. (Pasta lovers call this stage al dente. Don’t go by the cooking directions on the package are correct. My package called for boiling 8-10 minutes, but the noodles were done in 6. Decide if they are done by tasting them after 5 minutes.) Drain the noodles immediately, return them to the pot, and add the pieces of butter. Mix the butter and noodles until the butter is almost completely melted, then pour the noodles into the prepared pan, scraping out any excess butter from the pot.
- Mix the cream cheese and sugar. (I used an immersion blender and the same pot in which I cooked the noodles – less to clean up and quite easy to manage, though the cream cheese and sugar don’t get quite as creamy as they would using a mixer.) Then add the eggs, 2 at a time. I have used 6 eggs when I used 12 ounces of noodles and also when I used 16 ounces. For 16 ounces of noodles, 6 eggs makes the kugel a bit dense; if you prefer it lighter add a 7th egg.
- Add the fruit juice and milk to the liquid mixture and pour it over the noodles. followed by the fruit juice. I couldn’t find a small container of juice at the store and substituted canned peaches in fruit juice, which I blended before adding it to the mixture. The liquid should reach about ¾ of the way up the noodles. Move the liquid around gently with a spatula to distribute it evenly over the noodles.
- The easiest and neatest way to crush the cornflakes is in a plastic bag, crunching them with your hands through the plastic. Mix the crushed cornflakes, brown sugar, and cinnamon together. Add the melted butter and mix the ingredients to form a clumpy topping and distribute it over the noodles and liquid with your (clean) hands or a spoon.
- Bake the kugel for approximately 1 hour at 350 degrees F until it bubbles ( a glass pan makes this easier) and the topping browns. Let the kugel cool on a rack or counter for 10 minutes before cutting it.
To freeze the sweet kugel with corn flakes, cool it completely in the refrigerator (topping and all) and then either freeze the entire kugel in the pan or cut it into pieces; in either event wrap it well. Of course, if you’re like me, you’ll need to take a taste “just to be sure.”