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Monday
Jun222009

The Whole Kit and Kugel: The Story of a Sweet Noodle Pudding

Kugel
If you will, picture CakeSpy and a buddy walking by the beach with soft lighting:

CakeSpy: Have you ever tried kugel?
Buddy: Isn't that like, an excercise...for your female parts?
CakeSpy: No! It's a noodle pudding!
Buddy: Is that a euphemism?

Clearly, it's time to set the record straight about kugel.

What is it? Simply put, kugel is noodle pudding. Grossed out? Get over it by giving a long, hard look at its more popular friends and neighbors like bread pudding and rice pudding.


Kugel
Need more information? Literally translated, "Kugel" (or, if you're speaking Yiddish, קוגעל) means "ball", but apparently this translation also sometimes means "pudding" or "casserole"--according to Wikipedia, this may be a reference to "the round, puffed-up shape of the original dishes (compare to German Gugelhupf — a type of ring-shaped cake)". These days, the dish is generally baked in a square or rectangle pan, but apparently the name stuck. But back to the dish. 
How did it come to be? Well. According to Jewishrecipes.org,
Made from bread and flour, the first kugels were plain, and salty rather than sweet. About 800 years ago, their flavor and popularity improved when cooks in Germany replaced bread mixtures with noodles or farfel. Eventually eggs were incorporated. The addition of cottage cheese and milk created a custard-like consistency which is common for today's dishes.
Apparently though it wasn't til the 1600s that its potential as a sweet dish was realized:
In the 17th century, sugar was introduced, giving home cooks the option of serving it as a side dish or dessert. In Poland, Jewish women sprinkled raisins and cinnamon into recipes. Hungarians took the dessert concept further with a hefty helping of sugar and some sour cream.
Why is it popular? Well, aside from being delightfully carbohydratey and delicious, sweet kugel is also rich in tradition. It's long been associated with Rosh Hashanah, a holiday on which sweet foods symbolically represent a sweet new year ahead. Naturally, it was also a cinch for popularity as a traditional dessert to serve straightaway following the Yom Kippur fast
, which is traditionally broken with a dairy meal.

 

Here are some other things that might interest you about kugel:

 

immigrant Jewish women asked if the company could make a specialty pan that could be found only in Europe. The women tried to explain the pan, used to make a pudding called Kugel, by using a word that sounded like "bunt" and meant "a gathering of people," David Dalquist said. And the fluted, cast-aluminum design -- trademarked as a Bundt pan -- was born.
(CakeSpy Note: Of course, it wasn't 'til 1966 when the Tunnel of Fudge cake, a winning entry to the Pillsbury Bake-Off contest, really popularized the pan...but hey, kugel paved the way!)
  • Second, did you know that it also has mystical powers? According Allan Nadlar, a professor of religious studies at Drew University, in a 2005 NY Times article:
According to Hasidic interpretations of Kabbalah mysticism...kugel has special powers.

 

"Clearly the spiritual high point of the meal is the offering of the kugel," Professor Nadler said. At that moment the rabbi has the power to bestow health and food, and even to help couples conceive.

  • In the late 19th century, Jerusalemites combined caramelized sugar and black pepper in a noodle kugel known as Jerusalem kugel, which is a commonly served at Shabbat kiddushes.
  • Finally, if you're "Crazy for Kugel", you can find more tips and trivia on the Manishewitz website.
Want to make Kugel? OK. So there are some delicious sounding recipes out there, like Peach Noodle Kugel and Fruit Noodle Kugel (try and say that five times fast!)...but if you want to start basic, here's a traditional kugel recipe so that you can learn the rules before you break them.
Ingredients:
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1 pint cottage cheese
  • 6 ounces wide noodles, cooked
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • Cinnamon, to taste

Directions:
Butter!Mixing it!
In a 9 x 13 pan melt butter in a 350 degree oven. In a large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, sour cream, cottage cheese, noodles & vanilla (I used some from a local company called Singing Dog, who recently sent me a sample) and cinnamon, if desired. Remove pan of butter from oven & pour in egg & noodle mixture.
Baking the Noodle PuddingFreshly baked Kugel
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve warm.Kugel time

 

Reader Comments (14)

Nice write-up! I wasn't raised with the sweet noodle kugels, but we used to make a savory potato kugel that I loved when I was a kid. Should see if I can dig up that recipe.

I love that last pic!

June 21 | Unregistered CommenterTea

This is too cool and yes it does make sense, there is rice pudding after all :)!

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterSophie

Hilarious intro! And I have never in my life heard of kugel, but it sounds very intriguing and mysteriously delicious :)

Add a little crushed pineapple to your recipe, and you'll have my Grandma Esther's special dish! I grew up on the wonderful stuff and it never occurred to me anyone would think "noodle pudding" would sound strange. Makes me wonder what standbys of other cultures I'M missing. Write on, Spy!

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterRebekah

Oooh I'm a fan of sweet kugel but have never tried making it. Yours looks delish!

Sues

I have never heard of sweet noodle pudding but I bet it's really yummy. I am always a fan of trying new things.

June 22 | Unregistered Commenternutmegnanny

I confess to having an irrational hatred - yes, I said hatred - of Kugel. My sister-in-law made two giant pans of it when visiting over the holidays one year. Nobody liked it but me and my younger daughter, but there's only so much you can eat.

Kugel is a staple at every Jewish holiday or gathering. There are even Passover versions! And a song about it: http://www.rhapsody.com/the-leevees/hanukkah-rocks (click on Kugel).

Of course, I'm a terrible Jew and hate the stuff.

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterHilary

Sweet mac and cheese? :)

June 22 | Unregistered Commenterchou

i was raised on a sweet noodle kugel like your recipe, only my grandma never put the dairy (sour cream and cottage cheese) in her recipe - only egg noodles, margarine, cinnamon, sugar, beaten eggs and raisins. i love both the crunchy top noodles and the solid, sense barely sweet middle. i still make it the same way, but sans raisins, and its one of my favorite comfort foods and goes so well with many savory dishes, like bbq tofu! yum!

June 22 | Unregistered Commenterstefanie

That's funny! I made kugel this weekend because I was craving it! It's a lot easier if you just put the butter into the hot noodles and let it melt. (cheating, but it works)

June 23 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

My boyfriend is Portuguese and his family makes something very similar to this. They use spaghetti noodles though. When I first saw it I thought it looked weird, but I tried it and its awesome. Tastes just like rice pudding but with noodles. I love it!

June 24 | Unregistered CommenterStefanie B

This reminds me of eating cinnamon + sugar rice when I was a kid. I didn't like plain rice so my mom would put cinnamon + sugar on it.

Nothing wrong with noodle pudding - why would you think people will be grossed???? Everyone loves pasta. And if they love custard, they will love this too. BUT finding the *right* recipe is THE key!

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