Come September and it's soon time for the high holidays. Yes, there may (inevitably) be a heat wave in Southern California, but Rosh Hashanah and breaking the fast of Yom Kippur call for traditional Jewish comfort food--and in my family that always includes a sweet noodle kugel--or lokshen kugel if you want to go all the way with the Yiddish.
Noodle kugel (there's also potato kugel for Passover)--basically a noodle pudding--is dish usually made with wide egg noodles, sour cream, cream cheese, eggs, sugar, and butter. Made well, it's a sweet, fluffy, cheesy dish. When I was growing up, my grandparents would often show up at our house for Friday night dinner, almost always bearing three things--her Hawaiian chicken, a Pyrex dish bubbling with a warm kugel, and mandelbread. Because kugel is such a cholesterol nightmare it's no longer something I eat much of, but if I get half the chance I'm all over it. Plus, it holds up well as a leftover or frozen and reheated.
I've had many versions of noodle kugel over the years and tend to avoid it at most Jewish delis because at least our local ones don't do a great job with it. A lousy kugel is kind of flat and dense and unpleasantly chewy. Whether it includes raisins or other dried fruit, pineapple chunks, or peaches (as one friend prepared it), it should be a bite of rich creaminess under a crisp top. In looking at other recipes over the years I've found a key difference between my nana's and these others. Nana always separated the egg yolks from the whites and beat the whites until stiff. You can't miss with that technique--even if you use cottage cheese (yet another ingredient option).
This recipe below is about as traditional as you can get. But you can change it up with extra ingredients you enjoy, like reconstituted dried or fresh or canned fruit, and different toppings. I added a little brown sugar to my most recent kugel and enjoyed the deeper flavor it created.
Nana's Noodle Kugel
Yield: 12 servings, depending on how you slice it
1 pound dried wide egg noodles, cooked and well drained
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional), soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted
1/2 pound cream cheese, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pint sour cream
6 eggs, separated
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Beat egg yolks with sugar and add to cooked noodles.
Beat egg whites until stiff.
Add butter, cream cheese, and sour cream to noodles. Gently fold in egg whites.Yes, it will be loose. Don't worry. It will come together while cooking.
Pour mixture into buttered 13-inch by 9-inch baking pan. If you want you can make a topping with brown sugar, cinnamon, and granulated sugar (and/or breadcrumbs, crumbled graham crackers, streusel, or crushed cornflakes).
Bake for about an hour until the center is set and the noodles are light brown on top.
Let the kugel rest for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing.