Appetite for Perfection: Dessert kugel reinvented

Since the last time I posted, I have had a mad busy time. I didn't even think I would be able to produce this blog in time, to be honest. The new menu for my restaurant is nearly finished and so am I. 
I've added some new dishes on almost every part of our menu to make it even more delectable, along with some higher end wines and some funky cocktails. Whenever I planned on trying out the new dishes we, Baruch Hashem, always had loads of people suddenly enter the restaurant so our experimenting kept getting delayed. However, we're nearly there. I'm very excited to see how the public and critics respond once it's launched. Pray for me!
Last weekend I was flown to England to do a cooking demonstration for a pro-aliyah event where I made a British-Israeli fusion of flavours. I cooked a roasted rack of lamb with a rosemary and thyme marinade served with a parev mint hollandaise sauce and pears poached in red wine and stuffed with a freekeh, pea and parsley risotto. Everyone enjoyed it, or so they said, however, if you ever decide to do a cooking demonstration with audience participation,  do not take your eyes off of them for a second as that is all it takes for you to have to start all over again!

Luckily, I got to stock up on more Alexander McQueen clothes so the trip as a whole was a huge success even if my wife thought my clothing choices were toooo garish. I brought her back some shoes and snacks, so I wasn't told off too much. It was my first time leaving her since our wedding and absence definitely does make the heart grow fonder, however cliche that sounds. 
This past Wednesday, I was also on Channel 20 as the judge tasting the top gourmet doughnuts in Israel. Well, I was told they were the top. The producers asked me to taste them all before the show so that I could prepare what I wanted to say as my Hebrew is still pretty bad. I really didn't like any of them and had to eat them twice! Luckily my wife was there to help with my leftovers. You can't just throw everything at a dish and forget to make sure all the flavours work together and forget the basics like airy and chewy dough. Was quite disappointing really and this is coming from a guy who takes pride in having won every doughnut eating contest he has ever attended (even though most of them were put on by himself).
Anyway, this brings us to this week's challenge - making a modern lokshen pudding or kugel. I always ate it as a dessert as a kid so I wanted to make a dessert version as well. The dish is eastern European in origin, traditionally baked and made of lokshen, broad egg noodles, with eggs, cinnamon, sugar, margarine and raisins. It is a very heavy dish. If I was eating at a restaurant there is no way I would ever order this over a crème brule or a souffléor a sorbet. Therefore, I wanted to make a new, more attractive take by using a new flavour combination and presenting it in a new way whilst still producing something baked with a custard and fruit inside. This was a great challenge and I had to rack my brains to try and think of what to do whilst keeping the integrity of the kugel.
I decided to go the chocolate route and took inspiration from chocolate gateaux with chocolate, vanilla cream, cherries and kirsch, using port instead. I made chocolate pasta dough from scratch which I rolled out into sheets of lasagne and placed different crème anglaise layers in between.
You can use store bought chocolate pasta or even regular pasta but it's always fun making your own. The bottom had a layer of vanilla creme with ground almonds and toasted crushed walnuts to help give it a sturdier base. Then came a layer of pasta; chocolate, port and cardamom crème; another layer of pasta; vanilla crème with maraschino cherries; another layer of pasta; another layer of chocolate crème; more pasta; and finally more chocolate crème with walnuts in it to give it a crunchy topping - one of my only positive memories of this dish from my childhood I was very scared it would be too gooey once baked and not set properly but luckily my fears were unfounded. Just add while eggs instead of just yolks to the creme anglais and everything's cushti.
I decided to serve this with a white chocolate and cardamom ganache with almonds toasted and caramelised in honey and a cherry and port coulis.
The end result still had a sense of the heaviness of the traditional dessert, but only a bit. It was lighter and I could taste all the flavours throughout but in a different way than I had ever tasted them. All the textures were there in order to stimulate all of the senses. I have always hated kugel so this was my reinvention - my COOLGEL - that you can copy or maybe use as inspiration to come up with your own innovation. Remember, your creativity is only limited by your imagination! 
Next time we're going to try and figure out a recipe for a healthier doughnut using red velvet flavours!!!!

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