Double Ginger-Caramelized Pear Noodle Kugel

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Yield:

    6 to 8

    Servings

Appears in

Many of my Polish grandmother’s recipes date from the time she was sent to Germany to live with an aunt and uncle after her parents died.

The German relatives forced her into a servitude out of the Brothers Grimm. Because of the extraordinary physical demands put on her body, Grandma Rebecca did not reach puberty until she arrived in America in 1911 at age 17, her passage paid for by older sister Anna.

But in Germany, she did learn to cook, and there developed an abiding passion for sweet-and-sour foods, often using gingersnaps as flavoring for dishes like carp, stuffed cabbage, and simple fruit desserts.

In this variation of one of her kugels, I combine tangy crystallized ginger with caramelized pears to mirror the sweet-and-sour gingersnap topping.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 thin strip lemon zest
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup fine dried egg noodles
  • Salt
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons, softened, for topping
  • cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 2 medium-large ripe Bartlett or Bose pears (about 1 pound), peeled and sliced about ¼ inch thick
  • 1 cup sour cream (8 ounces)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened and cut into bits
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 1 cup gingersnaps, crumbled

Method

In a 3- to 4-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the milk, lemon zest, and cinnamon and bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue cooking over lively heat, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat if the milk threatens to bubble over, until the mixture is reduced to a little over 2 cups. Stir in the noodles and a pinch of salt, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and stir until it melts. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Melt the 4 tablespoons butter in an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan in the oven (or on top of the stove if the pan is flameproof), swirling the butter around to cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Sprinkle with the brown sugar and ginger, and arrange the pears evenly on top.

In a large bowl, beat together the sour cream, cream cheese, and ¼ teaspoon salt until smooth. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla. Remove and discard the lemon zest and cinnamon from the noodle mixture, and add the noodles to cream cheese mixture. Combine everything well. Pour the contents of the bowl over the pears. Combine the gingersnap crumbs and 2 tablespoons softened butter, and sprinkle over the top of the kugel.

Bake the kugel for about 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. (The kugel should be slightly firm.) Let cool until set. To serve, run a knife along the edges of the pan, invert the pan onto a serving plate, and unmold. Or cut and serve the kugel from the baking dish.

Best eaten warm (reheat if necessary) or slightly chilled (not icy cold).

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