If a brown betty and a noodle kugel had a baby, it would be this apple noodle kugel with its toasted-in-brown-sugar-and-cinnamon bread crumb topping. Yet, being a proper kugel, it still manages to slip into the meal side of the ledger, as opposed to the less capacious dessert side.
One day we'll have a nice, long conversation about the sugar line that geo-culinarily divides Ashkenazim, but for today, what you need to know is, at least genetically and historically speaking, we in this house lie firmly on the garlic side, not the sugar side. Which is to say, the lots of us were side-eyeing this kugel, like, really, buddy, you're going to hold your own next to that London broil? You know what? This is a stand-and-deliver kugel, a kugel for those who are a little lukewarm to them, and all the more for those who are already fans. It's sweet enough to feel like a sneaky main coarse infiltrator but not so sweet you could add some whipped substance on top and call it dessert.
Noodle kugel can be made as a parve (dairy-free) dish, and you'll often see it that way, but it's properly a dairy affair, stuffed to the hilt with cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, or possibly all of the above. Non-dairy versions generally make use of lots of eggs and usually margarine, sometimes oil, in the place of the cheese. (My version of parve noodle kugel entails the use of two somewhat anomalous, though by no means unheard of, elements instead: crushed pineapple and applesauce. This apple kugel riff on that same general idea, with the neatly traditional addition of grated apple.
The bread crumbs are what make this kugel moreish. Toasted bread crumbs are one of a revolving slate of options for kugel topping, but the combination here of the apples and the crumbs--i.e., the brown betty part-- is not to be missed. Grab two slices of sandwich bread, or some bread heels that no one is going to eat anyway, then pulse them in a food processor until they're definitely crumbs, but hearty ones. Then, you'll toast the crumbs in a frying pan with a little margarine (vegan butter) plus a dash of brown sugar and cinnamon. I use margarine sparingly, but here I think it works well.
This apple noodle kugel is great warm from the oven--just let it rest for 20 minutes or so to firm up a bit--and it's possibly even better cold. Perfect for one of the yomtov (holiday) days we've got coming up or Shabbatot during Elul and Tishrei.
Apple Noodle Kugel with Toasted Fresh Bread Crumbs (parve)
- 6 oz medium egg noodles - 170g (usually half an American package or ¾ an Israeli package)
- 3 eggs
- ¾ cup applesauce - 255g / 180ml
- ¼ cup coconut oil - 50g / 60ml
- 3 Tbsp honey - 20g / 45ml
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar - 12g / 15ml
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 medium apples, unpeeled, cored, and coarsely grated - with their juice
- 2 slices or heels of sandwich bread, to yield about 1 cup crumbs
- 3 Tbsp margarine (vegan butter) - 40g
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Grease an 8" / 20cm square baking pan, or a small rectangular pan.
Cook the noodles:
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil, then add the medium egg noodles and cook them over a medium flame for 7 minutes. Drain the noodles and set aside.
Meanwhile, prepare the breadcrumbs:
- Pulse the breadcrumbs in a food processor, using the steel blade, on and off for several minutes. The smallest crumbs should be fine, like commercial bread crumbs, but you also want to have coarser crumbs, so you're not looking for uniformity here.
- In a wide skillet, melt the margarine over a medium flame. Place the bread crumbs into the skiellet and stir them into the melted margarine. Toast for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until the crumbs are beginning to crisp and brown. Add in the brown sugar and cinnamon. stir to combine, and keep toasting in the skillet for another 1-2 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
Make the kugel:
- In a large mixing bowl, scramble the eggs with a whisk. Add in the applesauce, coconut oil, and honey, and whisk until thoroughly combined. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
- Grate the apple and add it to the mixing bowl, along with an of its juices. Stir to combine.
- Add the cooked noodles to the mixing bowl and gently fold them evenly into the mixture.
Top and bake:
- Using a large spoon, cover the top of the kugel evenly with the toasted bread crumbs.
- Bake for about one hour, until the visible noodles are starting to brown and crisp at the corners of the pan. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold--they are work!