Yes folks, it’s official… I’ve got dairy on the brain! Shavuot is right around the corner, a Jewish holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. On Shavuot we eat dairy foods. There could be a number of reasons for this tradition. There is a verse in the Song of Solomon (4:11) which says that the Torah is like “milk and honey under your tongue,” which might indicate a connection between the Torah-centric holiday and dairy foods. Some believe that on the first Shavuot, because the Israelites had not yet received the kosher laws, their foods did not follow kashrut. When they received the Torah, they read the new laws of kashrut and realized their meat dishes were not kosher, so they opted to eat dairy dishes only. Still others say that Shavuot occurs during the fertile spring period, when animal mothers produce lots of fresh milk.
Whatever the reason, I love dairy foods, so this is my kind of holiday! As I was flipping through my recipe archives, I suddenly realized that I’ve never shared my basic recipe for a Sweet Lokshen Kugel. Gasp! How did that happen??
Kugel is a Jewish dish similar to a casserole or pudding. The dish originated over 800 years ago in southern Germany and became a staple with Jewish families throughout Eastern Europe. Jewish immigrants brought the kugel with them to the United States, where it continues to be a popular holiday dish today. There are many kinds of kugel, all made with three basic ingredients: eggs, fat, and starch. The starch used to make kugel varies; I’ve seen kugels made with matzo, matzo farfel, noodles, bread, or rice. They’re all yummy in their own way, but my favorite is noodle kugel.
The word lokshen is Yiddish for noodle. A lokshen kugel is a kugel made with noodles. There are endless variations on the noodle kugel theme; they can be made savory or sweet, topped or untopped, with dried fruit or nuts or seasonings. Sweet lokshen kugels tend to be the most popular in the U.S., with good reason! They are simple and affordable to throw together with just a few ingredients. They can be easily transported, making kugel a good choice for potlucks or family get-togethers. Most importantly, they are delicious.
This is a great basic dairy kugel recipe– moist and creamy, with a nice crunchy noodle topping. My family likes it exactly as written. You can feel free to adapt it to suit your taste, kugel is very forgiving. Raisins can be substituted with another dried fruit, like cherries or chopped dried apricots. Nuts and spices can be mixed in before baking. Add a topping if you’d like. The kugel will taste best when made with full fat ingredients, but if you’re watching your figure you can use lowfat dairy. It will still taste great.
Enough chit-chatting, time for a slice of kugel. Shabbat Shalom!
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Sweet Lokshen Kugel
- 1 cup raisins (optional) - you may substitute other fruits like craisins, dried chopped apricots, or chopped drained pineapple
- 12 oz wide egg noodles
- 6 large eggs
- 1 lb sour cream (2 cups)
- 8 oz cottage cheese (1 cup)
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened - OR farmer's cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Cinnamon and sugar for dusting
- Nonstick cooking oil spray
Place a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Cover the raisins with hot water and let them soak to plump while you prepare the other ingredients.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles to the pot, bring back to a boil, and let them cook until tender (not overly soft), about 5 minutes. Drain and return the cooked noodles to the pot.
In a food processor or blender, blend together the eggs, sour cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese, sugar, melted butter, and salt.
Pour the egg mixture over the cooked noodles in the pot and stir until well combined.
Drain the raisins. Stir them into the noodles.
Spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking oil. Pour the noodle mixture into the dish.
Top the kugel by sprinkling generously with sugar and lightly with cinnamon. Alternatively, you can use your favorite kugel topping (streusel, crushed graham crackers, cornflakes, etc.).
Bake the kugel for about 60 minutes, turning once halfway through cooking, till the center of the kugel is set and the tips of the noodles turn golden brown. Remove from the oven.
Let the kugel rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing. Kugel can be served warm or cold.