Before I dive in to telling you all about this delicious sweet potato and apple kugel, I have some very exciting blog-related news to update you all on. Today – with the help of my wonderful and dedicated husband, Ben – I’m happy to announce the launch of my redesigned blog page! When you have a moment, feel free to look around. Snippets of posts are more easily displayed on the homepage, there’s a new logo, I explain just what the heck Cuisineous means anyway, and for all of you amazing readers who subscribe to my blog, the e-mailed feed matches the look and feel of the new blog design. Ben and I really love it, and we’d love to know what you think!
OK, back to the action. This Wednesday night starts Rosh Hashanah, which is the Jewish New Year. It’s a big deal around these here parts, and I’ve been testing kugels like crazy in order to perfect the side dish for a sweet new year. Traditionally, you eat sweet things for the Jewish New Year. This entails apples, honey, pomegranates, general sweet kugels, and any and all other sweet things. Kugels were dinner staples growing up. They’re Eastern European (Ashkenazi) side dishes that are similar to casseroles or baked puddings. They can be sweet (apple, sweet potato, carrot) or savory (spinach, broccoli, potato). The possibilities are endless, but I’ve always been a fan of the sweet kugels. And, since this is the time of year to indulge in sweet things, I’ve come up with a wonderfully smooth and pillowy sweet potato and apple kugel that combines all the flavors of fall that will soon begin to sprout up.
If these colors don’t say fall, then I don’t know what does. Now, I realize this is Labor Day weekend and a lot of people are lamenting the end of summer, but I couldn’t be happier to transition. I’m a cold-weather kind of girl, and this kugel is cold-weather stick-to-your-ribs Jewish comfort food that screams “holiday” to me.
I’m a woman of my word, and I’d like to give credit where credit is due. Ben really took the lead on this kugel photo session. I was too much of a stressed-out wreck to skillfully work a camera. In short, time was getting away from me and I was running out of daylight. This was a huge problem because I had created a careful timetable of when I’d shoot the kugel (yesterday afternoon), when we’d eat the kugel for dinner (yesterday night), and when I’d want to blog about the kugel and the redesign in time for people to consider making this for the holiday (this morning). Well, yesterday afternoon turned into yesterday evening and I was so upset that I screwed up my timeline, Ben lovingly grabbed the camera from me, put a homemade pomegranate cocktail in my hand, and parked me in a chair while he took over the photo session. Here he is setting up the shot. Ahhh….my hero!
But you see that big dented corner in the bottom left of the kugel? That was my handy work. What happened, exactly? Well, when the kugel was baking in the oven, the baking dish was set on a sheet pan. When I went to reach in the oven and, with one hand, pull the sheet pan out of the oven and set it on top, the kugel decided (yes, decided) to slide across the sheet pan. Thus, I inadvertently smashed the kugel into the top of the oven on its way out and partially dented the kugel’s corner. But, I like to think it adds character, and since kugels frequently have cracked tops, it wasn’t the end of the world. (Though, at the time, it very much felt like the end of my world. Ben assured me that it wasn’t and handed me another homemade pomegranate cocktail.)
Let’s talk about kugel texture for a second and, specifically, a sweet kugel’s texture. I like it smoooooooooooth. Ben used the word “pillowy” and I’ll take it! I used my Vitamix to get the right texture and, man, that was so important. Essentially, I made baby food and added eggs to it. That’s really what this kugel was. It has soufflé qualities to it, since you’re adding eggs and the eggs allow the dish to puff up and rise in the oven. But, there’s no delicate beating of separated egg whites and gentle folding into another mixture. Puree the ingredients in a blender until smooth, add eggs (being careful not to scramble them, since the puree will be hot), put it in a greased baking dish, and wait a good hour and 15 minutes until the edges begin to pull away from the sides and parts begin to get slightly golden brown.
The baking dish is also really important. I went through a Goldilocks moment trying to find the perfect-sized baking dish. Now, the kugel will rise slightly in the oven. So, it’ll also settle a bit once you take it out of the oven. But that’s OK! That allows the kugel to form those little cracks on top, which are symbolic of a good, dense kugel. It’s a stamp of approval. I’ve found that the absolutely perfect-sized baking dish is a 5′x7′x1.5′ baker. Any larger and the kugel will be too thin and puny. And that 1.5′ depth is really important. It holds the exact amount of filling and gives you that iconic shape and size that you see all the kugels take on in the grocery stores.
I have a few more recipes coming in the next few days, all of which are perfect for the upcoming holiday. Stay tuned, and have a very sweet New Year!
A sweet side dish for a sweet New Year, this sweet potato and apple kugel is a perfect accompaniment for any Rosh Hashanah dinner table.
- 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 to 2 lbs.)
- 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup honey
- 4 large eggs
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp ground or freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- Cooking spray
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- Using a fork, poke 16 holes in each sweet potato. Bake in the microwave on high for 4-minute intervals. After each 4 minutes, rotate the sweet potatoes. Total baking time in the microwave should be 12-16 minutes, depending on the size of your sweet potatoes. They're done when they're very soft to the touch and baked all the way through. Cut a single slit in each sweet potato to allow the steam to vent out of it, and set aside.
- In the blender, add the lemon juice and apples. Blitz a few times to finely mince the apples and incorporate them into the lemon juice. This is done so the apples won't turn brown and give the kugel an off color.
- Carefully peel the soft sweet potato flesh out of the skin and add it to the blender. It'll be very hot. Add the honey to the blender. To easily do this, spray a glass measuring cup with cooking spray and add the honey to the measuring cup. Then, pour the honey out into the blender. It should slide out easily, and what doesn't slide out can be coaxed out with a rubber spatula.
- Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to the blender.
- Blend on high, using a tamper, until smooth. The puree should have the consistency of baby food.
- Pour the mixture into a large bowl.
- In a small bowl, add the eggs and whisk until combined. Using the rubber spatula, add one spatula full of the puree mixture into the eggs and whisk until smooth. This is tempering the eggs so that they won't scramble once they touch the hot puree.
- Once the egg mixture is smooth, add it into the large bowl with the puree and fold gently until evenly combined.
- Spray a 5'x7'1.5' baking dish with cooking spray. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and smooth out the top with the spatula.
- Place on a sheet pan and put in the oven, on the center rack, for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the edges begin to slightly pull away from the sides, the top is firm with possible golden spots, and steam can be seen bubbling up from the edges of the kugel.
If you have the time (at least an hour), you can bake the sweet potatoes in the oven using your desired baked potato method.
During cooking, the kugel may rise beyond the edge of the baking pan. That's perfectly OK. When you take it out at the end of cooking, the kugel will sink a little bit, so everything should fit perfectly.
This recipe can be doubled to feed more people. Just use a larger baking dish.