An old-fashioned dessert...

...as American as apple brown Betty: Apple-cinnamon noodle kugel with sour cream.

By FAYE LEVY
November 1, 2012 16:31

Apple pie is associated with mom’s kitchen and happy times, but there are plenty of other tasty choices in the traditional American apple dessert repertoire. Since today’s home cooks often opt for desserts that are easy and quick, it seems to me that many moms prepare other apple desserts more frequently than pie.

“An old fashioned American dessert that’s perfect for the modern mom is the rustic apple brown Betty, an American original dating back to the 19th century,” writes Amy Traverso in The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. “Like many recipes from that period, it’s a testament to economy, turning apples and some stale bread into a sweet, nutty, and coy fruit dessert that takes very little time to put together.”

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To prepare it, Traverso makes bread crumbs in a food processor, adds chopped walnuts and toasts the mixture briefly in melted butter in a skillet.

She then sprinkles the mixture over sliced apples cooked in maple syrup and water, and bakes the dessert until it bubbles.

Traverso makes a richer apple bread pudding from cubes of Italian bread mixed with caramelized apple pieces, then baked in a batter of eggs, sugar and half-and-half (cream and milk) flavored with vanilla, cinnamon and salt. She serves the pudding with a creamy salted caramel sauce.

For my apple bread pudding, I use halla cubes and sometimes I add raisins and walnuts. To make the pudding lighter, I whip the egg whites and fold them into the pudding mixture just before I bake it. When I want a parve bread pudding, I use soy milk or almond milk to moisten the halla.

Another way to make an easy apple pudding is to bake the fruit with cooked noodles, eggs and sugar. In Jewish households such puddings are known as kugels, but noodle puddings are also popular among other Americans whose families originated in Russia, Poland and other eastern European countries. I like to enrich my apple noodle kugel with sour cream and melted butter. (See recipe below.) Apple crisp is a common choice of home bakers. It is a tasty, easy-to-make dessert composed of apple slices baked with a sweet, pastry-like topping. Traverso uses her grandmother’s recipe, in which the apples are covered with a soft, streusel-textured biscuit dough, drizzled with melted butter and sprinkled with cinnamon before being baked. She is also fond of oatmeal-topped apple crisp, which she makes with a crumbly, buttery mixture of rolled oats flavored with brown and white sugar, pecans, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Melissa Costello, author of The Karma Chow Ultimate Cookbook, created a healthier apple crisp. She flavors her apples with fresh ginger and grated orange zest, and enhances her oatmeal topping with toasted sliced almonds and chopped walnuts. To sweeten the apples she uses agave nectar, noting that it is lower on the glycemic index than sugar.

She makes the topping with less fat than usual, substituting grapeseed or walnut oil for the butter. For those who want a richer topping, she suggests coconut oil as an alternative.

WHEN IT’S time for cake, busy home cooks often opt for apple cakes, as many are easy to make and involve simply adding diced or sliced apples to a one-bowl cake batter. Traverso even bakes apple brownies, a favorite among her mother’s friends. There’s no chocolate in them but the cake is very moist and is baked in a brownie pan. (See recipe below.) Traverso groups apples into four categories: firm-tart apples such as Granny Smith, which are best in desserts that need some acidity; firm-sweet apples, such as Golden Delicious, best for delicate cakes and savory baked dishes; tender-tart ones such as Jonathan and McIntosh, for eating fresh and also for sauces because they break down easily; and tender-sweet ones, such as Gala and Fuji, which are eaten fresh or used in quick-cooking dishes such as pancakes.

A bowl of apples on the kitchen counter is attractive, but apples keep best in the refrigerator. Traverso notes that apples should be kept in cold, slightly humid conditions. She recommends putting the fruit in a paper bag rolled up tight or a loosely tied plastic bag with holes punched in the sides, and storing them in the refrigerator’s produce drawer. Although some varieties keep longer than others, most should keep at least two weeks.

Faye Levy is the author of
1,000 Jewish Recipes.

APPLE-CINNAMON NOODLE KUGEL WITH SOUR CREAM

This kugel is delicately sweet, rich in flavor and easy to make. I prefer to make it with sweet, tender apples, but if you have apples that are somewhat tart, you can increase the amount of sugar. When I am using firm apples, I saute them briefly in part of the butter before adding them to the kugel mixture in order to soften them slightly and make sure they will be tender enough when the kugel is baked. If you like, serve the kugel with sour cream.

Makes 8 servings

400 gr. (14 ounces) medium egg noodles pinch of salt
3 Gala, Fuji or Golden Delicious apples (total about 700 gr. or 11⁄2 pounds)
4 Tbsp. (55 gr. or 2 ounces) melted butter
1 cup sour cream
4 large eggs
6 Tbsp. sugar, or to taste
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Grease a 33- x 22- x 5-cm (13- x 9- x 2-inch) baking dish. Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until barely tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again well.

Transfer noodles to a large bowl. Separate noodles with your fingers. Add 3 Tbsp. melted butter and a pinch of salt and mix well. Stir in sour cream, eggs, 2 Tbsp. sugar and vanilla.

Mix remaining sugar with 1 tsp. cinnamon.

Peel apples, halve, core and cut in thin slices. Mix half the apples with the noodle mixture.

Add half of noodle mixture to greased baking dish. Top with remaining apples in an even layer and sprinkle them with the cinnamon mixture. Top with remaining noodle mixture and spread gently to cover apples. Sprinkle with 1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon, then with remaining 1 Tbsp. melted butter.

Cover dish and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until set. Serve hot or warm.

APPLE BROWNIES This recipe is from The Apple Lover’s Cookbook. Author Amy Traverso writes, “This is such an easy recipe to make: a great standby for those days when you want a sweet treat without a lot of fuss, or when you remember at 9 p.m. that you volunteered to make dessert for tomorrow’s bake sale.” Any firm-sweet apple variety, such as Golden Delicious, works well.

Makes 12 bars

1 cup (145 gr. or 5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp. baking powder
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄4 tsp. baking soda
110 gr. (4 ounces) salted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1⁄2 cup (60 gr. or 2 ounces) chopped walnuts
2 large (about 454 gr. or 1 pound) firm-sweet apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1.25-cm (1⁄2-inch) cubes

Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and set a rack to the middle position. Generously butter a 28- x 18-cm (11- by 7-inch) baking dish.

In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and baking soda. In the bowl of a standing mixer at high speed or using a hand-held mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and egg until pale, about 2 minutes. Add the walnuts and apples and stir by hand until evenly combined. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined, another 30 seconds.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until golden brown and slightly firm to the touch, 40 to 50 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 30 minutes, then cut into 12 bars and transfer to a serving platter.


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